Bobby Rush: 'Lynched' on the House Floor by Mississippi Republican?

April 2nd, 2012 8:02 AM

When Rep. Bobby Rush donned a hoodie and sunglasses on the House floor as a stunt to publicize his opposition to the handling of Trayvon Martin's death in Florida, McClatchy News Service cooed, "For the 65-year-old former 1960s Black Panther Party activist, an act of civil disobedience never felt so good."

But Washington Post columnist Lisa Miller inflated the stunt way beyond its significance --- comparing it to lynching -- with a white Republican congressman from Mississippi, Rep. Gregg Harper, as the alleged metaphorical hangman for pounding the gavel and calling Rep. Rush out of order:

Rush read from the Bible as the presiding officer, Gregg Harper, a two-term Republican from Mississippi, tried to silence him.

For those who haven’t seen it, the exchange went something like this.

“Just because a person wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum,” Rush pronounced. And then he started to read from the book of Micah — “to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” — as Harper sharply banged his gavel.

“The member will suspend. The member will suspend,” Harper commanded.

And so it continued, for three or so minutes: the black man reading from Scripture, the white man insisting on decorum.

The scene will be rehashed in the media as grandstanding on Rush’s part (and surely that is partially true), but the image that lingers is that of one man trying to silence another whose grief and principles led him to protest.

In his new book, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree,” the theologian James Cone wrestles with the question of how, during the early years of the 20th century, American blacks could continue to believe in the hope of Jesus while American whites continued to kill their black neighbors and go praise Jesus on Sunday. Rush enacted all that tragic history and more in one moment, with Harper as his unwitting accomplice.

Cone, let us recall, is the "black liberation theology" architect that inspired Rev. Jeremiah Wright in his "God Damn America" sermons. Lisa Miller apparently finds Cone a very convenient foil for conservative-bashing.