Our nation recently celebrated Veterans Day, including myself, as a veteran of the Marine Corps. This Veterans Day I reflected on what my service meant to me, and the course of our country since the recent general election.
As much civil rights progress as our country has made, we have so much work still to do to gain and preserve civil rights and liberties. I enlisted in the military as a high school graduate, very idealistic about what freedom means, what our rights are as citizens, and what I would have been willing to fight, and possibly die, for. I opted to join the infantry against the recommendations of my recruiter, as he told me I scored high enough on the ASFAB for any job in the military. I felt like the infantry would have the greatest impact, and I didn’t quite care how difficult it was. My platoon was a melting pot of races, backgrounds, and religions, and I had experiences with these people that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Many times in the infantry, I was made to ask, What are our rights? What is freedom? What does it mean to be an American citizen? All Americans, including all people within our borders, have rights and freedoms observed by the state. The rights of others may not limited by race, religion, gender, political affiliations, or any other method we might use to categorize groups of people. A threat to anyone’s rights is a threat to everyone’s rights.
My fight for freedom to protect the liberties of Americans now continues as a civilian in the ACLU where we exercise our rights to peacefully assemble to fight on behalf of citizens that have had their rights violated. Our mission is clear, and the agenda is to preserve everyone’s right to express their opinions and beliefs, practice their religion or lack thereof, preserve our right to due process, and protect our citizens against unlawful search and seizure, and so much more.
For example, threats against specific religious groups entering the country have been made by the incoming administration, specifically Muslims. We do not and have never had a religious test for those entering our borders. Even the Statue of Liberty, one of our greatest symbols for freedom and liberty, was originally created in the image of a Muslim woman. Ethnic, religious, and racial profiling are forbidden under the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments, which cover the right to due process and equal protection under the law.
The Constitution is here for all of us, not just some of us. The ACLU is here to protect your rights as a citizen, and as a guest in our borders. We stand for the rights of everyone, to protect them from discrimination and government alienation or intrusion. This is what I fought for and will continue to fight for in the ACLU.