Thursday, July 4, 2013

Silencing Speech

"Ma'am, excuse me, would you mind telling everyone why you're here today?" a young man, probably no older than 16, asked me. It was a question I had already answered two times earlier in the day as bright lights from local Austin news cameras were shoved in my face. This boy was not with a T.V. station though. He was wearing a blue shirt with a swatch of red tape stuck to it. I recognized him from a group called "Bound 4 Life" out of Austin. They're the ones who wear the tape over their mouths emblazoned with the word "LIFE," symbolizing how they stand in solidarity with the unborn, whose voices are silenced everyday. While normally, I love their peaceful, prayerful message, today I came to Austin to be heard. I came to Austin so that Wendy Davis, who just one week prior stood for over eleven hours filibustering the Senate, would know that while I admired her greatly, she does not speak for me. So even though the last thing I wanted to do was hop up on a flimsy, plastic step stool in the middle of a courtyard rotunda, I agreed and was quickly shuffled over to the microphone. 
As I carefully hopped up onto the rudimentary 12x10 inch stage, and rose above the small crowd of blue, my eyes met two young women, dressed in all orange to represent their opposition of House Bill 2 (formerly HB5). They were draping a black sheet over the balcony with the words, "You Oppress We Resist" scrawled across it in silver spray paint. I began to speak about how my mother, at the age of 19, became pregnant with me just down the street at the University of Texas, and they started shouting pro-choice slogans. Out of necessity I found my voice growing louder and bolder while recalling how years later, now married and in her 20's, she had her IUD taken out, a fairly common procedure done in most clinics and doctor's offices. I told of how the doctor slipped and punctured her uterus, an injury that could've sterilized her had her physician not had access to the proper medical facilities, and still they heckled. By the time I finished giving my testimony, which I’d originally written just in case I was one of the lucky few chosen from the 2,200 people who had signed up to address the State Affairs Committee, my throat was aching and dry. What was originally intended to be a somber and powerful explanation for why I supported the more rigorous women's healthcare regulations proposed in HB2, had somehow morphed into an impassioned battle cry, and left me cleaving to my water bottle as my heart pounded within my chest. 

As the day wore on I watched more and more orange shirts show up in the courtyard. At first they congregated around the perimeter, then they began packing in on the second floor balcony with signs reading, "F*** Rick Perry" & "If the child you save is gay, then what?" Suddenly this rather meager pro-life rally being held solely for the benefit of an at-home audience, who was live streaming it, became a highly volatile form of agitation to those opposing the bill. What had started as a few catch-phases being blurted from the balcony was now a low steady hum of civil unrest. People in blue continued to crawl up on the step stool, however their voices were becoming harder and harder to hear.
By the time night fell on the courtyard, the rotunda was an even mix of both blue and orange. The pro-lifers were huddled tightly together in the center, as pro-choicers marched around them in a swift moving circle. I stood back against a pillar, just watching, very curious how this social experiment would play out, all the while silently praying it wouldn't escalate beyond the chanting that now rang through the night. 
By 11pm, emotions were running high. The rotunda had become a proverbial furnace within our state's capitol building, its heat and energy now spreading into the halls. All the while testimonies from those chosen few (in the end less than 100 constituents) were taking place in a orderly chamber room.
As I stood amidst the chaos, barely able to hear my own thoughts, I realized where the true power laid in my first amendment right. My freedom to speak hinges on others willingness to listen.
There will always be someone trying to shut me up, or shout over my thoughts. There will always be red tape, whether it’s meant for good or ill, literally or bureaucratically, there to silence me. It’s no longer enough to merely vote, and call or write your elected officials. Pandemonium is breaking out in the heart of our state, and sadly our elected officials are struggling to represent the majority that put them in office.
We are at a pivotal time in Texas right now. The minority is being presented to the world as the oppressed, frustrated revolutionaries our country was founded upon. Elected officials are encouraging civil unrest because by votes alone, they know they will lose. I encourage everyone in the state of Texas to take heed to what is happening in Austin right now. I saw it with my own two eyes. And whether you would be donning a blue shirt or an orange, I really do not care, I just beg you to get down there during this Special Session, to represent your side with honor. The unborn are no longer the only ones being silenced in our great state. A mob has moved in and they will be determining how our government is run from now on if we do not stand up and make our voices heard. 


Post by Destiny


  1. Thank you for posting this. Firsthand accounts are so important to document what really happened and to give those of us who weren't there an idea of what it was like. We stand for life and we pray for Texas and the rest of our country!

  2. Thanks so much for posting. And I'm so sorry your were drowned out. Wish we had that option, but we're too civil and decent.

  3. I had to leave around 8 to get home to my husband and daughter, so I greatly appreciate your account of what happened later that evening. I'll be there as much as I can over the next few weeks! Hope to see you there too!

    (BTW, the word for putting a shirt on would be "donning" as in "Don we now our gay apparel." Its opposite is "doff" or "doffing.")

  4. Haha! THanks Kelsey! I woke up at 3 am and wrote this, so I guess I had "dawn" on the mind. :)