Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A card that matters

The video above features Macklemore promoting membership in the ACLU. It’s light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek and fun. It’s also needed.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been fighting for people’s civil liberties for the better part of century, and that work has seen them fight on behalf of people we don’t like very much: It doesn’t matter if someone is left or right, we all can point at some case the ACLU has taken on that we disapprove of. Conservatives forget (or ignore…) just how often the ACLU has fought for their rights, too.

Nevertheless, popular perception is that the ACLU is part of “the left” or that it’s a “liberal organisation”. This led George Bush the First to redbait his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, in their 1988 presidential contest. Dukakis, Bush I constantly thundered, was a "card carrying member of the ACLU.”

I remember ads in “alternative” newspapers at the time touting that line as a tool to recruit new members for the ACLU. When I was able to do so, even I joined the ACLU because of Bush I’s sleazy pandering (and I voted for Dukakis, of course). Bush’s cynical—and successful—campaign was masterminded by Lee Atwater. Bush I’s son had his own Machiavelli, Karl Rove, who was in most respects just like Atwater, but without any of the charm. If anything, Rove was even more sleazy and negative.

The video above is a modern day, less-urgent version of those long ago newspaper ads. Some curmudgeons have sniffed that an ACLU membership card don’t literally give one any of the things that Macklemore mentions, but that’s just being silly because it’s irrelevant. The point is obviously that the ACLU fights for everyone’s civil liberties—especially the marginalised—and always has. The other point is the ACLU needs money to do its work. Duh.

So, I like this video, and not just because I like Macklemore. It highlights a couple issues that the ACLU is active in, ones that resonate with younger American voters (clearly the target of the video). As far as I’m concerned, anything that helps the ACLU helps everyone, including those who grizzle that the text isn’t literally true, as well as those who think the ACLU is the spawn of satan or something. Funny how that works.
If politics makes strange bedfellows, then the fight for basic civil liberties must make ones that are stranger still. But some things transcend mere politics or partisan identity or ideology, and the defence of civil liberties ought to be near the top of that list.

Like I said, anything that helps the ACLU helps everyone.

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