On Friday, September 14, 2001, as the fires still burned, and the smoke still lined the landscape of lower Manhattan, Congress was in session. They were deciding whether to grant the Bush Administration the authority to use military force on those who murdered our fellow citizens in the worst terrorist attack to ever occur on American soil. It was a forgone conclusion. The country was enraged. And we would get those responsible.
But on that Friday morning, just 3 days removed from the horrors of September 11, Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California's 9th District, chose to postpone her rage and instead focus on mourning.
Rep. Lee could easily have stepped in line with her colleagues and not submitted the lone “Nay” vote to the proposed authorization. She knew it would pass. She knew the president didn't even need Congress's approval. She could have forgone risking her entire political career by setting aside her moral convictions. But Rep. Lee urged Congress to, in her words, “step back for a moment...just for a moment.”
What if? What if Congress had not authorized the president to use military force? What if we'd demanded answers before taking such a drastic and irreversible step?
Whether you agree with our government's reaction to the horrors of that tragic day or not, let's just “step back for a moment” and admire the courage it must have taken Rep. Barbara Lee to be the odd woman out, and hear her pained and eloquent words just 3 days after 9/11.