rights, regardless of race, was not truly protected in this country for almost 200 years. Despite the fact that the Bill of Rights itself should have had it covered, it had to be spelled out and made clear by passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 and was not fully protected until nearly 100 years after that with the passage of Twenty-fourth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
Those who have taken a US History class in elementary school should know this, of course. But, the larger takeaway here is that sometimes, our Bill of Rights is not clear enough. The framers knew this would be the case. Thus, a process was put into place so that we, as a nation, may further add, clarify and refine these rights through amendments.
Yet, the movement to take such measures has never been motivated by the people in power — especially those concerning our most basic of rights (Freedom, Voting, Ownership, etc.). It was the power of people — millions of people — that forced the people in power to act. This is, after all, the spirit of the “American Experiment”. That those in power act and serve according to the will of the people1.
It was not Abraham Lincoln alone who motivated the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was not the thousands of abolitionists who spoke out against slavery. It was not the tens of thousands who actively supported the abolitionist’s cause or the hundreds of thousands who did so silently. It was the millions of those trapped in Southern bondage and the millions more affected by the War Between The States, that tore at the very idea of our nation, who did. Only through the struggle, bloodshed, toil, and service of millions did our government then see fit to act.
And, when it came time to clarify and ensure the rights granted by that amendment through passage of other laws, it was not Lyndon B. Johnson alone who drove the cause. It was not hundreds sitting-in at lunch counters or the thousands filling the jails. It was not the tens of thousands boycotting busses or the hundreds of thousands marching in the streets and to government’s front door. It was the millions actively supporting the movements of all of these actors. Those recognizing that all freedom is threatened when even one freedom is denied. Demanding from their President and Representatives that a change be made.
I feel that we have reached another such a defining time with other freedoms granted by our Bill of Rights. As previously stated, a process was left in place by which we as a nation can and should further clarify, adjust, and refine these original and basic rights for a modern age. The judicial system alone has shown to be not enough. The people in power have never, historically, motivated such change. It is time for we the people to act once again.
Several of the original amendments are currently in question by those in power. The First Amendment might need such clarification2. As well, the Fourth3, Fifth4, and Sixth5 are all in question by those we have elected to serve us. And, I would even go so far to argue that the Second is ripe for clarification as it is the one that gives the power to the people to ensure that the others shall not be peaceably taken 6.
But such change will never come by hundreds getting out the truth. It will not come from the thousands calling for change on the Internet. It will not come from the tens of thousands actively in support of such change. Or from the hundreds of thousands who silently believe such change is needed but feel powerless to act. Revolutions are counted in the millions. And it will take millions of us to actively demand that those in positions of power act or be removed through our action. It will take marching by the hundreds of thousands in every street or taking millions to the doorsteps of power once again.
Until such time, expect no change. If we want such change that clarifies, protects, and ensures our rights, we must as a nation demand them. For, as history has repeatedly shown us, the people in power will only respond to the overwhelming power of the people.
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