Over the years, this is the motto that I’ve associated with the American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU. Their activities are occasionally misrepresented or misunderstood, as when recently Ms. Christina Morris of Douglas wrote about her dissatisfaction with the ACLU becoming involved in the issue of property rights for some of the homeless population in Anchorage. Her advice was for them to keep their ineffectual hands out of the way and let the goodhearted people press forward to help those in need.
If I interpreted her writing correctly, she didn’t like the ACLU getting their noses into business she thought wasn’t within their purview. As I have mulled over her comments these past weeks, I can’t help but think she is way off base — or perhaps not even in the right ballpark on this one.
If the ACLU fights for what’s right, it is for all of us. It simply is unfair, unkind and maybe even illegal to just take away someone’s property and discard it preemptively. I don’t care if the situation was a nuisance, because if a precedent is set we’d all better watch out. To simply deem someone or something unworthy of our consideration and concern opens the door to further violations up the food chain.
Just imagine the scenario:
It’s the neighborhood police and we are offended by your yard signs, or your old car, or your raggedy bushes, or even your eclectic collection of old flowerpots, and we’re taking them away to dispose of them. Too bad, so sad, bye-bye. Oh, by the way, you didn’t complain when this happened before to those “other” people, so you don’t have the right to protest now. It’s too late.
My thought is that as we do to, for, or against the least of us, so can the same be done to any of us. That is what the lesson is here.
It is important to remember that civil rights must extend to the least of us in order to be useful and applicable to all of us. The ACLU is one of the linchpins of our democratic society and every time they speak up about an issue, I try to think through what the premise and topic truly represent. And I am grateful for their continued presence in our democratic society as they fight for what’s right.