To the editor:
I love bumper stickers proclaiming, “If you love your freedom, thank a veteran.” We dare not forget those who’ve offered their lives for our country and its values.
However, not all struggles for freedom are on the battlefield. Many happen elsewhere, like courtrooms. Perhaps we need a bumper sticker proclaiming, “If you love your freedom, thank the ACLU.”
In its almost 100 years, the American Civil Liberties Union has fought many battles for freedom, freedoms we take for granted.
• The ACLU brought the first free speech cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, making the First Amendment truly meaningful for all Americans.
• The ACLU (1930s) was the first “white” organization to issue a report on lynching, calling for legislation condemning it.
• The ACLU (1960s) often represented Martin Luther King, establishing the right to assemble and speak throughout the South regardless of race.
• The ACLU (1960s) was the first “mainstream” group to support decriminalization because of sexual orientation.
• The ACLU was one of the first advocates for reproductive health.
In addition to the ACLU, there are others to be thanked in the endless struggle for freedoms:
• Blue collar workers can thank union workers who, in earlier times, struck for living wages and humane working conditions.
• African Americans can thank Martin Luther King (jailed for his efforts) and Rep. John Lewis (severely beaten during a protest) for racial progress they enjoy.
• Gays can thank those who spoke out for their greater recognition today.
Such efforts by the ACLU (and others) is often unpopular. It’s our nature to resist change. We’re concerned mostly for our own needs and interests. We’re less interested in fighting for the marginalized “thems” of society.
We love freedom and ultimately do celebrate it for others. But let’s be honest. Freedom’s historic struggles have been won, not only by battlefield warriors, but also by people in the courtroom, on the picket line, in the streets, and wherever human values are honored.
William A. McCartney