Last week, a Racine high-school teacher turned his back on Paul Ryan as the Congressman tried to present him with a Martin Luther King Jr. humanitarian award. The snub was caught on video and has since gone viral on YouTube. Al Levie, the teacher in question, said Ryan had no business attending a Martin Luther King Jr. event since "Ryan is a lackey for the 1%" and "has absolutely no affinity for the working class."
It was Martin Luther King Jr. that once said the purpose of life was not to be happy, was not to achieve pleasure, and was not to avoid pain, but to do the will of God. As an educated Baptist minister with a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology, King would have known the Apostle Paul's pronouncement that governments were established by divine rule and that "the one in authority is God's servant for your good."
So our question to Mr. Levie is, would Martin Luther King Jr. turn his back on a servant of God?
For more than a decade, Congressman Paul Ryan has attended the Gateway Technical College ceremony to celebrate the life, legacy, and accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. If event organizers believed that Ryan's record on civil rights was a failure, it's unlikely they would continue to invite him back fourteen times to present their awards.
It's important to note that Al Levie is an executive board member of Voces de la Frontera, an active immigrant rights group based out of Milwaukee. He also counsels Youth Empowered in a Struggle (YES), a student arm of Voces de la Frontera that has fifteen chapters throughout the Racine Unified School District. As we're finding out, Levie's political participation moves well beyond transforming Horlick high-school students into agents of social change.
Last June, during a Senate Finance Committee Hearing, Mr. Levie was physically carried out by state troopers as he attempted to obstruct the expansion of the School Choice program. In 2009, Levie participated in an immigration rights protest outside of Congressman Ryan's Racine office - in coordination with YES - to oppose Ryan's efforts to strengthen the border. And in 2008, Levie was fined $200 for obstructing Racine police as they tried to walk a student out of his classroom for questioning.
We think it's remarkable that with Levie's history of unlawful obstruction and civil disobedience, he was chosen to receive a humanitarian award to be presented by the very Congressman he had previously protested. That be as it may, Mr. Levie had sufficient time to make his objections known about Ran before the ceremony had begun, but instead waited until he had shared the stage with the Congressman before publicly airing his grievance.
Levie told TMJ4 that he knew in advance that he didn't want to accept the award from Ryan. Additionally, Voces de la Frontera released a statement in support of Levie's actions at the ceremony. Given Voces' history of civil disobedience and Levie's position on their executive board, it's not entirely surprising the event transpired the way it did.
It is the position of El Conquistador Latino Newspaper that Voces de la Frontera needs to avoid schemes that further divide our community. A plot to embarrass a sitting U.S. Representative for political points doesn't change immigration policy, and it certainly doesn't heal a partisan divide. It would be difficult to believe that if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would mock the Congressional guests of events meant to honor humanitarians.
We recognize that Voces has worked hard on behalf of Latinos in our community, but we must draw the line to oppose political radicalism where we see it. Martin Luther King Jr. once believed that the best way to destroy your enemy was to make him your friend. Mr. Levie and Voces de la Frontera would do good to use this sage advice in a manner consistent with the leadership of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Being a true humanitarian is more than being a political activist. It means having the compassion and kindness in your heart to do the right thing for everyone, not just those who share your political ideology.