Monday, August 21, 2006

The "Dent Nine:" Earnest Anti-war Advocates or Aging Publicity Hounds?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingOn January 19, 2006, nine aging farts like me were arrested by Bethlehem police and charged with defiant trespass after refusing to leave Congressman Charlie Dent's office. It didn't matter they had no appointment or that it was closing time. It made no difference that Dent, who in all fairness never voted for the war they wanted to discuss, wasn't even at his office. They wanted to see him, and wanted to see him NOW.

They call themselves the "Dent Nine" and are claiming a legal victory simply because the assistant DA assigned to prosecute them reduced their charges from misdemeanor to summary to conserve judicial resources. Incidentally, the DA had previously offered to let them plead to a summary offense and they shot her down. They want a show! And they're going to get one tomorrow, when their case will be heard in Lehigh County along with littering and illegal left turn offenses.

Now I know some of these folks, and like most of them. Like them, I opposed the Iraq war, wrote letters to the editor and participated in peaceful and legal vigils. But I can't understand why nine geriatrics would intrude on any office without an appointment and then refuse to leave at quitting time. I'll bet they wouldn't try that with their podiatrist! It's childish and selfish behavior. And just who the hell do they think they're going to persuade with that kind of rude behavior? Their grandchildren? Did any of them stop to consider that their self-serving antics might actually alienate the public they are trying to sway?

What amazes even more is that some of them had already had met with Dent, and a second appointment had also been scheduled. Maybe they forgot. That happens to me as I age. That, and a lot of nosehair.

They might have also forgotten that this wasn't really their idea. They let themselves be used by the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance Against the War in Iraq. This was no grassroots effort. Seven events were planned throughout the U.S. that day, but the Dent Nine were the only ones stupid enough to get themselves arrested.

I received a letter inviting me to watch the circus tomorrow. "Your presence in the courtroom to show public support against the war is important." Blah. Blah. Blah.

I can't help feeling this publicity stunt is not about the war at all. It's about the "Dent 9." And that's the real shame.

30 comments:

Doctor Rick said...

Bernie,...sometimes I get confused as to wether or not you really are a liberal?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Oh I'm a liberal, Dr. Rick. I opposed our military misadventure in Iraq, but refuse to believe those who thought it was necessary are monsters. We're all in this boat together, left and rtight, rich and poor. People of good will can have different views.

As someone who opposed the war and much of what has happened in this country, I think the "Dent Geritatrics" did the antiwar movement a real disservice. The main reason for a protest, demonstration or act of civil disobedience is to sway people. But I think this group just managed to get people angry. It marginalizes the real problems with Iraq and this country. That's why I resent what they did. It associates opposition to Iraq with wingnuts.

Forget the issue for a moment. A group storms into a Congressman's office. Although he's not there, they demand to see him. They refuse to leave at quitting time. They already had one meeting with him, and another meeting was either scheduled or was in the process of being scheduled. Now whatever the issue, don't you think that kind of behavior is just a bit out of line? Those are storm trooper tactics, if truth be told. If I resent that kind of behavior when it's manifested by the right, shouldn't I be equally offended when it comes from the left?

A few years ago, some members of that same group were arrested for passing out leaflets on a public sidewalk outside a post office. I was enraged. But there, First Amendment rights were being trampled. Here, the only right being advocated is the right to be rude.

Thanks for your comments.

SPIKE_ROGAN said...

Bernie,

The problem is Dent is riding the sinking ship called "SS Stay the course".

He buys into all this Neo-Clown/con bull.

It dosn't matter the majority of his district now wants an Exit, he still gives the line of staying the course.

These Rude old folks are pressing the issue since he is IGNORING his district!

Maybe Mr. Dent could use a audio book version of "All Politics, is Local" by Tip O'Neil.... oh wait its not by a Pat Robertson approved member of the GOP, well then I guess that answers that!

I hope those nine old critters win in court, since Dent has us bogged down in a LOSING WAR!

Yeah he didn't vote for it himself, but he sure as hell defends that war like its his wife or something!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Although Dent certainly disagrees w/ Murtha's proposal that we pull out, he's no longer a "stay the course" guy, at least not in some of his recent media statements. So rather than engage him in a reasoned discussion, they slam the poor guy even though he already met with them once and was willing to do so again. I'll tell 'ya Spike, the majority odf the people in this district does oppose the war, but a majority also doesn't like that rude type of behavior. Now ovviously, I don't want anything bad to happen to these folks, but in this instance they were the buillies,

Anonymous said...

Four gudnis sayks Bernie, duzn't ur blog edditor offher a spel cheker? I heydt two sea ur phine prose littered up withe erroars!

Bernie O'Hare said...

On my posts I'm very careful. In my comments, I'm very sloppy. I'll try to do better. Thanks.

Dem Fly on the wall said...

now you are pissing off the old people. If they had computers, maybe they would care.

FtHillDem said...

I wondered what you were going to say about this Bernie. I must say, I am disappointed.

To say that Dent gets a free ride because he never voted for the war is crap. Had Dent been in the House when it happened, you know very well he would have been with all the other R's. And everything he has said, done and supported has been pro-war.

I admire greatly the people (including your supposed buddy Bernie Berg) who had and have the courage to raise their voices against the most disastrous use of military power ever by our country. We have guaranteed a legacy of hatred by the people who live in the Middle East. The only thing I regret is that I don't have the courage to go against the grain the way they have. At least I can voice my heartfelt support for them here and now.

I wonder what Kurt Vonnegut would think about this, and your attempt to ridicule these people?

Bernie O'Hare said...

DemFly, I know 5 of the 9 arrestees. One of them, Bernie Berg, was the subject of a favorable post not long ago. Of the 5 people I do know, I like 4 of them. And I sympathize with the frustration over the Iraq war. But I don't sympathize with the childish and rude behavior.

I checked through my emails and realize they had actually already met twice w/ Dent, and a third appointment was in the works. But that wasn't good enough. "I want my baba and I want it now." They may be old farts but acted like little babies.

I'll point something else out. These folks didn't go to Dent's DC office. They were at a Bethlehem office, one that's set up for constituent service. While these folks were insisting "Me first," I wonder how many Dent constituents with other problems were deterred from stepping into the office. I wonder how many calls got screwed up. I wonder if the staff, who had to deal with 9 people who had no appointment, was able to do anything else.

A person who's on the fence would definitely not be convinced by that type of behavior.

I do think I'll get slammed today. Maybe I deserve it. But that's how I feel.

Bernie O'Hare said...

FtnHillDEm,

Maybe you're right and I'm wrong. I admire Bernie Berg, Suzie Ravits, Nancy Tate and Reggie Regrut. But I don't admire what they did.

Let's assume, for the moment, that these were pro-lifers who insisted on meeting with Dent about stem cell research. Let's assume further that Dent met with them twice before and that a third appointment was scheduled. Let's also assume they came to the office without an appointment and that Dent was not there, but they insisted on seeing him anyway. And let's assume they refused to leave at quitting time, and started showing pictures of aborted fetuses.

Wouldn't you agree that behavior is both childish and rude? Wouldn't you be concerned that this type of behavior prevented a federal Congressman's staff from dealing with other constituents who have problems of their own and who may even have had appointments with staff members?

You can't justify this type of behavior simply because the Iraq war is a tragedy. And all this group succeeded in doing is marginalizing those of us who oppose the war for very legitimate reasons.

As far as Vonnegut is concerned, I don't think he likes bullies. And don't kid yourself, that's what was going on. I would expect that kind of behavior from a brown shirt, not LEPOCO.

It was a poor move. And I suspect it was ego driven by one of the nine members.

Bernie O'Hare said...

One other point. Dent does not get a free ride. He has to account for the votes he did make. But he does that in an election.

What LEPOCO managed to do is make those who oppose the war appear unreasonable. Why would I be happy about that?

Because the cause being advocated is percveived as "liberal," does that justify all kinds of outrageous behavior? Does that justify interfering with other constituents who may have had appointments to see staffers? Does that justify preventing a congressional staff from doing its job?

Now I don't care whether what happened is or is not criminal. It was still an arrogant display by a group that historically has been much more respectful to everyone. There are many legitimate arguments against the Iraqi misadventure. I resent a group playing the PR game, and playing it badly, about an issue that is so important.

PA progressive said...

I agree Bernie. The method these folks used was completely counter productive. You don't get results by being disrespectful and disruptive. You do that only as a last resort. This was a staged event to gain media attention. Did they even think to get media there? If not they're really incompetent.

If they want to protest the war they can do that anytime Bush or Santorum are in the area. After all the GOP fences off some small "free speech zones" that are quite effective in limiting your free speech rights and attracting media attention.

The media loves these small concentrations of protesters. One of these days some intrepid reporter might actually begin asking why these free speech practitioners are being limited to "zones."

Bernie O'Hare said...

To Pa Progressive, I'm glad a fellow liberal agrees on this point.

If Dent had turned these folks away before and was refusing to set up an appointment with them, I would respect what happened. There are times when civil disobedience is warranted. I would also respect civil disobedience in one of those absurd "free spech" zones.

Media was there, but the coverage has been scant because they seem to know they're being played, and tend to resent that kind of thing.

I suspect I'll catch hell over this. But I think these liberals did a lot more damage than good.

Dem Fly on the wall said...

The Free Speech Zone at my house is in the bathroom. Just ask my kids!

Bernie O'Hare said...

You should hear the free speech coming from my bathroom. Sometimes it slips out at other places, too.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

You are right on the mark here. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about making a point and the "Dent Nine" stepped over the line. Can one realistically expect to show up at a Congressional District Office and expect your Congresman to be readily available? No.

I am disappointed that this small group of people have chosen to act as they have because it does make the anti-war movement in general, look like, to use your word, "wingnuts." Such actions make it harder for the people who can be persuaded - the 70-90% who are not on the far left or the far right - to listen to reasonable arguments for our country to take a different course of action. Actions like this allow the pro-war advocates to make a case without the need for facts and rational discussion.

My hope is that the Dent Nine can learn from their gross miscalculation and begin an effective campaign to get their point across in a manner where people are more likely to listen to their arguments.

Jon Soden
Organizer - Lehigh/Northampton Progressive Alliance

SPIKE_ROGAN said...

I like Dr. Hunmter S. Thompson style politics.

Maybe the 9 need to brush up on the good Dr.'s style more.

Next time crash the place with cocktails in both hands, and joints burining.

lol

Dent's folks would be atleast hungry for salty food, and in a comical mood. lol

Bernie O'Hare said...

Spike, Now there's a great suggestion! Come in w/ a few cocktails and other stuff a la Gonzo, and be ready to share. Had that happened, the war might be over by now.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To Anon (Jon), Thanks for speaking out. I think it's important that the LEPOCO people know that, in this instance, their antics were quite divisive. I wouldn't mind them pulling off a publicity stunt to generate opposition to Iraq, but they should at least be effective. They weren't. In fact, I think they hurt the cause.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bernie, I read where the county is looking to buy some cars. Do you think they will take my 74 gremlin? Runs good!

LSTresidentPIA said...

I am 33 years old and consider myself an independent. I have been registered to vote since I was 18 and have.

I try very hard to be repectful and do things the proper way. But in my dealings with Lower Saucon Township, it hasn't always helped especailly becuase they are not respectful to me. I emailed them this afternoon about an issue and here I still sit waiting for an answer. But at the same time, when I yelled and screamed one day at the township zoning officer, I didn't get arrested, but I did get a trip to St.Luke's Hospital for 5 days and a $7000.00 hospital bill. I am still very angry about that.

I do bilieve it is time to pull out of Iraq. There are lots of arguments as to why we went there in the first place. It has been almsot 5 years since 9/11, and things are relatively quiet in the US probablyy because instead of coming here to kill us, the terrorits and those who want to harm us can do in directly in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, the US did put Sadam in power, and we lost control of him thus over happenings in the region, so we had to go in under some guise and help put those in power who will do things to keep us safe. All the while putting our own in harms way while trying to set up a democracy in a region where people have alwyas fought and killed over their religious beliefs and always will. But with the problems with Iran, we still need an excuse to be in that part of the world, therefore the war on terror.

LSTresidentPIA said...

When I put up a sign on my property to portest the damages to my property by Toll, I was told by the tonwhip that I had to obtan a $50.00 permit and put the sign 3 feet off the ground and 29 feet from the property line. I refused and my father was sent a letter saying he would be fined if the sign was not removed. Boy did that cause problems. The sign still sits on my property but so that no one can see it. Where are my rights? AT least I don't live in a development with one of those stupid homeowners associations...

Roberta said...

I have to agree with your overall premise, although the tone was a tad caustic. My problem with the local anti-war community -- okay, with Lepoco -- is that they don't seem to understand the difference between taking a stand and taking action. Sit-ins, and vigils for that matter, aren't going to end the war, but sit-ins and vigils seem to be all Lepoco is interested in doing. The anti-war cause would be better served by people who can talk to people outside their purist pacifist clique. Tactics like sit-ins just piss off the regular Joes, and we *need* the support of regular Joes to make any kind of impact.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Roberta,

I acknowledge being more than a tad caustic. I think highly of 4 of the 5 members I know who were arrested. But Lepoco reminds me of one of those old records that is stuck and keeps playing the same phrase over and over. Part of the reason for this, of course, is that it really is something of a clique. It has some wonderful members, but as they age, no one is stepping in their shoes. Now one could say that's a reflection on today's youth but I think it's a more of an indictment of Lepoco.

The incident with Dent will alienate far more people than it attracts. That's what really bothers me, especially since, as Spike noted in one of his comments, a majority of this District now opposes the war. The best weay to work for change is at the ballot box and the dirty world of politics. It may nopt have the appeal of a sit-in, but is far more effective.

RadCenter said...

Bernie, I received the same letter you did from Lepoco--the one containing the full-color postcard of the nine arrestees looking, if I must say, rather chipper, considering the supposed seriousness of their mission.

My first reaction was to snicker at the ridiculousness of the name "Dent 9." Can they seriously be comparing themselves to the Catonsville 9? Please. This trivializes the concept of civil disobedience.

I used to pledge to Lepoco in the futile hope that, considering their origins and name, they might actually be instruments of progressive change in the Lehigh Valley or the Poconos. Instead they seem to be "concerned" about every region of the world except the Lehigh Valley and the Poconos, from East Timor to South Africa. What about East Texas and South Bethlehem? I explained this to the last Lepoco volunteer who called me during their annual pledge drive, and was met with total confusion.

Lepoco has been silent on the two issues arguably having the most impact on its immediate neighbors--rampant "upscale" development and the social parasite that is casino gambling. How does it expect to be heard on matters involving the larger community?

I take the adage "Think globally, act locally" to mean that if we want peace in the world, we must create peace in our communities. They take it to mean that if we want peace in the world, we must try to solve all of the world's problems using our own limited local tools. I think they are sincere; I also think they are wasting their time. They could, if they put their minds to it, really make a positive difference in their own community. And if many such small groups in each community around the world would do the same, we *would* have world peace.

It is no longer 1968; it is 2006. New tactics are needed for a new generation of foot soldiers. But we have to be ready to lace up our boots.

Speaking of soldiers: For what it cost to print and mail the postcard that Lepoco sent to me and you, Lepoco could have purchased one or more helmet upgrade kits, the purpose of which is to keep a Marine's brains from getting scrambled when he's hit with a blast. Go to www.operation-helmet.org to contribute. Remember, they're dying while we're debating.

Bernie O'Hare said...

What an excellent suggestion! I think I'll do a separate post about it.

Anonymous said...

Bernie O.: I could take up your blog for the next 10 years, but I refuse to be sucked in by your jealousy over Joe DeRaymond's smarts, courage and macho (can't think of the right word here). I have admired your smarts and your nuts and bolts knowledge of the graft that metastasizes Northampton County, but you have obviously never been in Exxon Charlie's office where everyone is tuned in to Fox News to keep them "informed". I'm talking about Dent's mentally challenged staff. We did not "storm into" his sorry assed excuse for an office. We knew he was in town. He had failed to make any relevant response to our concerns expressed via phone calls, letters, petitions (signed) etc. so we decided that in an extremis situation the Nuremberg Principle demanded some action. Iraqis were dying by the thousands, G.I.s by the hundreds for President Cheney"s buddies at Halliburton etc. Christ, for a lawyer you"re more obtuse than Judge Platt. What the intercourse do you think Nuremberg, Article VI, Sec. 2 of the U. S. Constitution, the U.N. Charter, the Kellog-Briand Pact, the Hague Conventions, the Geneva Conventions etc. etc. are about if not war crimes? But let me just wrap this up with a quote from Phil Berrigan: Movement people fail to see that fear of jail neutralizes them far more than jail itself would, and political prisoners organize as little or as much in jail as on the streets...one rests content in the belly of the beast and is there digested... We must demythologize jail in spite of the reactions its very mention provokes. For the same attributes that threaten a man with jail are those that can build a movement- historical sense, reasonable risk, communal action, ... These are the only qualities that are capable of educating others and that can break the slavish manipulation imposed upon the thousands of decent people who must be brought to the struggle.

More concretely, how can the poor be freed (a Movement objective) without sharing the legal jeopardy under which the poor must live (police overkill, repressive courts, indescribable jails)? How can military politics be changed if one does not counterbalance the risk of young GIs who go to possible injury or death for overage death merchants? Above all, how can the bloodshed in Southeast Asia (now Iraq) kpossibly be stopped if one refuses to accept, in some small way, the danger and death faced by the Vietnamese (now Iraqis, Afghans, Lebonese). In every instance breaking the law, with the possible consequence of jail, does not begin to match the danger lived by those chewed up by domestic and foreign politics."

And Bernie, some of the Dent Nine are young enough to be your kids. I wasn't wild about the "Dent" part of the group name. I would have preferred something like the "Tad Walter Nine" or the HUAC Nine. Charlie Dent is a political hack who doesn"t deserve to have his name associated with a valid protest of this godda;mned war. And Bernie, I love you but I have only two words for you and they ain"t "Merry Christmas." Subcommandante Bernardo.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Must be Happy Easter!

Kathy said...

Thank you, Anonymous at 9:11 pm, for your comment and for being part of the sit-in. Until someone comes up with a tactic more effective...voting doesn't do the trick any more (witness elections of 2000 and 2004)...the sit-in certainly surpasses sitting at home saying and doing nothing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Yeah, Coming off like a bully and actually helping the prowar movement is just great.