WHAT IS AMERICA? To me, America is a place where we, the people have the right to get together with our sisters and brothers and speak up when we sense wrongdoing — in our homes, our workplaces, our schools, in the streets, in the banks, recruitment offices, stock and commodity exchanges, the courts and the halls of Congress. We have the right to do that without the fear of being detained indefinitely without charge or trial, deported or harassed and assaulted due to our race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age or different abilities.
We have the right to food, shelter, clothing, a job or income, transportation, medical care, a good education through university and, oh, yes, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Who are those who actually have those rights now? People with money, that’s who.
Who should have those rights? Everyone in the world, for starters. What has to happen is that people everywhere have to organize, launch determined efforts and win those rights. We must organize in political parties, trade unions, neighborhood associations, community groups and organizations to promote and defend what makes us special.
As Americans, it is said that we have “liberty and justice for all.” We know that is an ideal, not a reality. Our job as Americans is to make that a reality. We don’t have liberty while some of us face spousal or child abuse at home. We don’t have justice when we are thrown out of our homes for falling behind on mortgage payments or out of the country for not having the right papers.
The enemies of liberty and justice have been winning most battles in our country over the last three decades. We have to reverse this trend before we have tanks rolling down our streets and revived debtors’ prisons, among many other iniquities. We have to talk with our sisters and brothers, coworkers, neighbors and friends, even our enemies, if there’s any hope of appealing to reason and justice. But, as Frederick Douglass said, approximately, “Power concedes nothing without a fight. It never has and it never will.” We have to talk with all those folks mentioned. We have to combine with them, come up with strategies and tactics together and fight till we win. We can have “life, liberty” and a realistic “pursuit of happiness” if we start out with a fighting chance in life. We will if we have social rights and not just “natural” rights.
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