Nel's New Day

October 1, 2011

Amendments Should Expand Rights

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:12 PM

“You had demonization of immigrants, smear campaigns in presidential elections, unfunded congressional mandates, government where the means justified the ends, a whole group of people who felt they lost control of their country and wanted to take it back.” Sounds like today, right? With the conservatives trying to pass constitutional amendments to limit people’s rights, such as the so-called “Defense of Marriage” that would prevent same-sex marriage. Or the movement for an amendment that would require a “balanced budget” at the cost of people in poverty and other distress.

This quote actually came from Ken Burns when he was discussing his new documentary about the 18th Amendment which went into effect over 90 years ago—and lasted only 13 years. The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was the only one that has ever limited the rights of people in the United States; all the others expanded their rights. Even the 17th Amendment, hated by the conservatives, allowed people to elect U.S. Senators rather then letting the political machinery of each state legislation make these choices.

The limiting 18th Amendment brought prohibition of alcohol to this nation. It resulted in organized crime, women’s alcoholism, government corruption, and heightened racial and religious prejudice. The cause of this amendment was–as in the current attempts to limit people’s rights–religious fervor and the conservatives’ desire to  control people.

Reminiscent of today’s Tea Party, a small but passionate religious minority, led by a relentlessly driven visionary, cobbled together a legislative majority by scaring politicians into believing that if they’re not for you, they’re against you and will get voted out of office come next election. Although Burns says that he isn’t trying to make a direct comparison to today’s trials, we see forward by looking back need. “What we begin to understand is that the study of history provides us insight, and (we hope) helps us apply compassion and tolerance to the political circumstances we find ourselves in today.”

“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits,” Mark Twain once wrote. “Fanatics will never learn that, though it be written in letters of gold across the sky:  It is the prohibition that makes anything precious.” The ultra-conservatives will never understand how important the rights of all people are. It is up to the rest of us to make sure that they don’t take control. In the meantime, enjoy watching the documentary about the lawless violence of the amendment that was intended to save our country.

Ken Burns’ three-part series, Prohibition, airs tomorrow through Tuesday on public television—something that the current conservatives want to eliminate because of its “liberal” bias.

1 Comment »

  1. Wow-revelatory.


    Comment by Lee Lynch — October 2, 2011 @ 8:19 PM | Reply

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