Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Takin' it to the streets!

I admire the folks in North Carolina who take to the streets every week for "Moral Monday."  They are demonstrating for - and against - a number of things.  The last time I checked, over 700 had been arrested.  Looking back through the news stories, I found that those 700 included pastors, retired people, college students, college professors, lawyers, teachers, doctors, homemakers ... those were the ones identified and quoted in some of the news stories.  I also remember reading about an electrician and a hair stylist and a short order cook.  They felt so strongly about voicing their opinions, that they risked arrest and possible fines and/or jail time.  I applaud their conviction.

During a discussion about "Moral Monday" a former colleague of mine said instead of taking to the streets, they should simply win an election.  Here's his direct quote:

"Fact: Their side lost the last two election cycles. So, if your side loses elections, the recourse is to take to the streets? What is this, 'Walk Like an Egyptian'?"

Basically, what he's saying is this ... if your side loses an election, you can just sit down, shut the hell up up, keep your views to yourself and try to win the next election because ... YOUR SIDE LOST SO YOU DON'T HAVE A RIGHT TO VOICE AN OPINION!  

Sounds like my former colleague believes the First Amendment is put on a shelf in between election cycles and it's only good for those who win, anyway.

So let me give you a fact of my own:  the First Amendment isn't there to protect the majority - or the popular speech.  It's there to protect the minority and the unpopular speech!  Come on, that's common sense; by virtue of what they are, the majority and popular speech don't need to be protected!

"It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed to power on the ladder of free speech.  Immediately on attaining power, each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own."  ~Herbert Hoover.

Let's be clear ... good 'ole Hoover is not my favorite president, but he's right!  And this is what's happening around the country right now.  The elected leaders (at least at the state level) are refusing to listen to the minority view even though they represent those people!  They are paid to represent ALL people in their districts or state!  And when the so-called leaders ignored the minority presence, those people took to the streets.  Should we expect them to sit quietly on their hands and watch until the next election cycle?

"You must stand for free speech in the streets."  ~Mary Harris Jones

Using my former colleague's rationale, Mother Jones should have stayed in her kitchen in 1903.  Hey, Mother Jones ... just keep your mouth shut because it's not election time!  Instead, she organized the Children's March in 1903 ... she was upset about the lax enforcement of child labor laws in the Pennsylvania mines and marched from Philadelphia to the home of then President Teddy Roosevelt in New York.  Mary Harris Jones saw an injustice and brought attention to it through the First Amendment.  Right on, Mother Jones!

Just a word to the wise (or, at this particular moment, the not-so-wise Republican leaders around the country):  If you would just listen to the minority viewpoints represented by the people in your state, they might not take to the streets.  You could at least pretend to listen, but you're not even doing that.  Leadership is more than saying ... Hey, I won and anyone who disagrees with me can go suck eggs.

You might also want to pay a bit of attention to these words ...

"To suppress free speech is a double wrong.  It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker."  ~Frederick Douglass