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Pet Dragon


The Meaning of It All

or, There and Back Again

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Death Maiden

In Which I Finally Become A Card-Carrying Member of the ACLU

All I can say is, they've got a good spokesperson there.

The president of the ACLU was the next speaker at TAM4, and that was the title of her talk. And I have to say, she really blew me away.

The ACLU is always in there, you know? Every once in a while, you have these kind of "do they really have to defend *that*???" kind of moments with them, like when they represent neo-Nazi groups having the right to march or sue the MTA in New York for kicking homeless people off the subways when they're taking the cars out of service. And then you hear someone like this lady talk, and you realize.

Yes. They do.

Every single thing Ms. Strossen brought up had such resonation with me. She talked about the fights over ID vs. Evolution (good on you again, Judge Jones), the Oregon Death With Dignity law, the Terry Schiavo case, the current administration's abstinence only sex "education" policy, medical marijuana laws, the rulings on partial-birth abortions (with a bullet for topicality, this week), indecency and the obscenity exception for the FCC, surveillance measures since 9/11 (again, right up there in the news) and just generally made this little med student race to the nearest computer to sign on.

I'll tell you, everything I know about the law I learned on "Law & Order" (and maybe Perry Mason), but she really made me want to investigate law school. *g* Well, one thing at a time.

The thing about these fights is, they do matter. They matter to all of us. Since the JREF is all about critical thinking, one of the biggest things I took away from this talk is how important it is that more people actually *think* about these issues. I don't want, when I'm treating patients, for the government to be telling me what I can and can't tell them. I don't understand why people have such trouble with the concept that you can't mandate religion or morality by passing laws. I'm sick and tired of hearing that the words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the Constitution.

These people are the ones who jump into the fight, and I'm humbled and awed by their dedication. Ms. Strossen was a great speaker. "We never actually lose a case," she observed at one point. "It's just that sometimes judges make mistakes." And later on, "We always have truth and justice and science on our side."

That made me laugh, but it was a melancholy laughter. It reminded me of a quotation from one of my favorite novels: "Hain't we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?"

True as the day it was written.

And then the more I thought about that great book, the more I realized it was even more apropos than that. Because in that book, there is a great decision made. It isn't made in a court, it didn't have any national relevance, and it didn't happen in the venue of political discussion or even in public. It's a decision made by an individual who has no education, no money, no power, and to whom the decision represents giving up everything he's ever been taught is 'right' and 'good' and 'proper'. He makes the decision against the popular vote, against others' judgment, and against the advice of religion. There are other places in history or literature that put it more gracefully--"Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders" comes to mind--but it works, it works.

"All right then, I'll go to hell."

Thank you again, Mr. Clemens.

That's what it's all about, call it what you will. And I so admire those who put themselves on the front lines. Maybe one day I'll have the ability to move just one mind a little further in that direction; maybe as I continue on this path, I'll have some influence in the fight. I don't know. But I can put in my name and stand with the rest. We don't care if you have all the fools in town on your side. We'll still take our chances with truth and justice and science.

This piece made me very sad to write, for reasons not at all connected with the subject matter. I wish it didn't.

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Every once in a while, you have these kind of "do they really have to defend *that*???" kind of moments with them, like when they represent neo-Nazi groups having the right to march

That right there is always why I admired the ACLU and support them in general, but never really considered joining.

But I've been thinking about it more and more in the past few months, and what you talked about here is why. That, and I'm fucking terrified of our government right now, and then I'd at least feel like I was doing *something*.

Yeah, it does give me pause occasionally. At a certain level, you start thinking, is this just a bunch of people with terminal legal-student disease, where you have to argue about absolutely *everything*??

But the more you listen to them, the more you realize, No, they're really upholding that great old ideal: I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. (Protesters of cartoons, take note.)

It really is scary out there. At least some people are still in there fighting the good fight.

Well said. Are you still carrying that card?


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