Written by Christopher Fontana
Liberals and conservatives can agree on this: aside from the remarkable democratic movements in the Middle East, the billionaire Koch brothers and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have been the most galvanizing force in creating a resurgence of a global democratic movement.
We U.S. Americans, awake to the fact that Wall Street brought us the economic crisis, are working and middle class taxpayers who are once again are asked to pay for it. This time, the damages we are asked to pay go too far. We are asked to sacrifice our inalienable democratic right to speak our mind, to organize as a group of people, to ask for fair treatment from our employers. We are asked to relinquish our right to collective bargaining. In short, we are asked to give up our 1st Amendment rights.
This is perhaps the straw that will break the camel’s back in a decade long assault on our U.S. Constitution and basic human rights.
Following the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999, our government began to create “protest zones” to keep voices of dissent away from critical locations further restricting our 1st Amendment rights.
Following the 2000 election, we learned that African American voters in the state of Florida were denied equal access to voting booths, i.e. their 15th Amendment rights.
Following 9/11, in the name of fighting a war on terrorism, we were asked to give up our right of free speech 1st Amendment rights as the Pentagon perfected the art of “embedded journalism” and our mainstream media became the mouthpiece of illegal war and unjustified policy of state-sponsored torture. Like the Japanese Americans who lost their rights and much worse during WWII, American Muslims and anyone “looking” Muslim have been subjected to unwarranted searches and arrests in their homes, businesses and at airports.
Again, in the name of national security, we were asked to give up our 4th Amendment rights (Search and Seizure) as our government needed to see the books we checked out of the library and who we called on the phone. Telecommunications companies were required to give the government our private information. In Guantanamo and in Abu Ghraib, our government justified surrendering our 5th through 8th Amendments rights (Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings, Right to Speedy Trial, Trial by Jury in Civil Cases, and Cruel and Unusual Punishment).
Last year, in Arizona, U.S.-born Latinos were asked to give up their 14th Amendment rights in racist legislation that targeted citizens based on what they looked like.
Now, in Wisconsin, we are asked to give up more of our 1st Amendment rights. Collective bargaining is a vehicle to redress grievances whether the employer is a private or public institution.
As that great liberal thinker Jefferson said, “Every new generation needs a revolution.” What we are seeing on the streets in Cairo, Egypt and Madison, Wisconsin and now in every city in the United States, is a new generation hungry for the promise of mutual respect, human rights and dignity that can be found in the writing of the U.S. Constitution. We recognize a common theme and pattern in these assaults on our Constitution—on our human dignity; as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We U.S. Americans who cherish our Constitution will work to reinstate that which that has been lost. The young people at the heart of this movement will work hard until we extend protection under the Constitution to all people and places which sustain life: that we all may earn a fair wage, breath clean air, drink clean water, provide health care to our children and elderly, protect our natural environment, speak our minds, vote and know that our vote counts.
Indeed, we shall unite until all people are afforded equal protection under the law and we move closer to building a just and sustainable future for all. The battle in Wisconsin is just the beginning.
Christopher Fontana, Executive Director, Global Visionaries
Global Visionaries’ mission is to empower young people to become global leaders in creating a just and sustainable future.