I am embarrassed to admit that I only joined the ACLU after the presidential election. That does not mean, however, that I am a newly minted fan of the ACLU's work. I cheered from the sidelines as the RI ACLU stood up for the separation of church and state in Ahlquist v. Cranston. I have applauded the organization's work in documenting the scourge of racial profiling by the state's law enforcement agencies. I have rooted for the ACLU as it stood against the criminalization of poverty. And that is a just a very short list of the many, many ways the ACLU has protected civil liberties, held our elected officials accountable and improved the lives of all Rhode Islanders.
The election of Donald Trump however, spurred me to take action. Our democracy is literally at stake. His campaign promises read like a laundry list of ways to roll back civil rights. Unlike many who dismissed them as campaign rhetoric, I took Trump at his word, and I knew that I could no longer be a bystander. The ACLU has a long and successful record of protecting our most cherished freedoms – the right to free speech, to peaceful assembly and to bring our grievances to the government. Right now, our civil rights are under an assault -- the likes of which I have not experienced in my life time -- and it will take all of us participating to be an effective bulwark against the authoritarian dreams of this administration.
To anyone considering joining the ACLU – just do it. Consider it a patriotic duty, and it’s a small investment in what’s best about America that pays big dividends.
I am old enough to remember when then-Vice President George Bush used "card-carrying member of the ACLU" as an epithet against his Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis in in the 1988 campaign. Bush's signature insult lingered a long time in the public discourse, even as many at the time responded by signing up to become a part of the organization. I am way late to the party, but I couldn't be prouder of joining their ranks. I am thrilled to be a card-carrying member of the ACLU!