There is a reason that the US Constitution is the oldest and most widely admired in the world. I had taught US history and political science at community colleges in the 1990s, so I understood the ideal version of civil rights in the United States. It was not until I served as a NATO military government officer in the Balkans in 1996-97 that I was confronted with the difference between civil rights and civil liberties. Ethnic cleansing demonstrated the contradiction of rights “guaranteed” in a paper constitution and civil liberties exercised only at the convenience of the powerful.
I became a card-carrying member of the ACLU after the passage of the Patriot Act in 2002. A government that operates in secret is a much greater threat to our freedom than any “enemy” group. I had sworn an oath as a military officer to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” I believe that my involvement with the ACLU continues to fulfill that patriotic oath.