Opinions, Writing

The ACLU, Why Aren’t You A Member?

Author’s note:  The mere mention of the “ACLU” evokes strong emotions in many.  Writing this article is akin to a doctor’s physical; not pleasant but necessary.  I ask you to open your mind for just a minute and then let me know what you think.

Before you throw your phone or computer across the room, please allow me, a Republican, an opportunity  to explain my position.

I’ll start with a partial quote from the movie “The American President”. “Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights”

The fictional President does ask a valid question. Why are we all not members?Both Liberals and Conservatives will fight “tooth and nail” to protect our Bill of Rights, especially the sections that apply to their particular interest. It’s probably the only thing they have in common.  The ACLU, for their part, provides legal and to a lesser extent, political aide to either “side” in defending perceived violations of the United States Constitution.

So what is the problem with the American Civil Liberties Union and a large percentage of the American population?  Here are my thoughts.

  1.  The ACLU will consider fighting for anyone who feels that their rights have been infringed upon based, I’m certain, on the facts and/or visibility of each case.
  2. Many, or at least a majority of, Americans don’t approve of changes to “traditional” values, either religious or historical, such as gun owners rights etc.
  3. As the American society continues to “evolve”, for lack of a better word, many who feel disenfranchised are forced to seek legal remedy to either enforce a perceived denial of an existing right or privilege or effect a legislative change in which new laws and protections are created that  more accurately reflect, in their view, the needs of a “modern” society.
  4. Many of these legal challenges strike at the historical and religious core of the American value system and are often met by an entrenched and well funded legal/political opposition.
  5. Because of this “entrenchment”, many who have sought remedy have found and received effective legal assistance from the ACLU.
  6. The ACLU, because of its defense of many unpopular positions has developed a reputation of being a “liberal” organization.
  7. This is an unfortunate but understandable casting of their position as most “conservative” causes have many more “avenues” to find support in both legal, political and financial terms and therefore rarely seek their assistance.
  8. Bottom line, the ACLU has been successful at bringing unwelcome change to conservative traditional Americans.

So where do I fit into this? I would describe myself as fiscally conservative and socially, somewhat, liberal; an odd combination. In Abraham Lincoln’s time, this would have made me a candidate for the Whig Party, of which he was a member.

I have been a member of the ACLU for about 10 years. I rarely agree with their position on current issues, but I’m eternally thankful they exist. The ACLU represents “Checks and Balances”.  Could you imagine if one of our political parties had ALL of the power without opposition, without the ability to question? History has shown us the effects of this before. Think Germany, 1939.

I voted for Trump and I haven’t changed my position, but could you imagine if  there were no opposing voices to any President’s political ambitions? Balance is essential.  Balance allows me to sleep at night.  I draw comfort in the fact that whatever the issue, there is an opposing position. In a perfect world this should bring compromise, even though today it seems to bring only gridlock.

Society is growing and evolving rapidly  and though we may not like where the pendulum is currently, the ACLU’s caseload generally reflects the issues of the day. In the 1950’s it was race, today it’s different.  We all benefit from a spirited debate and a thorough examination of all the facts, whether we agree with the issue or not.

I support the ACLU because they give a voice to those who may have gone unheard and they remind one side of the equation that an different or alternate opinion may exist and that it’s supporters are ready and willing to defend it.

I’ve Included a few examples of the cases in which we’ve all enjoyed the benefits of the ACLU’s efforts.

  1.  Brown v. Board of Education
    One of the century’s most significant Court decisions declared racially segregated schools unconstitutional, wiping out the “”separate but equal”” doctrine announced in the infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision
  2.  Gideon v. Wainwright:  An indigent drifter from Florida made history when, in a handwritten petition, he persuaded the Court that poor people charged with a felony had the right to a state-appointed lawyer.
  3. Miranda v. Arizona: The Court held that a suspect in police custody has a Sixth Amendment right to counsel and a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and established the “”Miranda warnings”” requirement that police inform suspects of their rights before interrogating them.
  4. Reed v. Reed:  Struck down a state law that gave automatic preference to men over women as administrators of decedents’ estates. This was the Court’s first ruling that sex-based classifications violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

 

 

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