The holiday season is once again upon us, and we begin gathering with family members celebrating old traditions. Although the holiday season has since become associated with mass commercialism, this post is not about that because that sentiment is hackneyed at this point. In fact, this post is not about being grateful for family and how the holidays are a time of year where people put aside their differences and get along for as long as tolerable. This post is about the one thing anyone in a civilized society should be thankful for and never take for granted: the right to voice well-reasoned dissent.
The way a democracy is supposed to work is that when people have differing opinions they can debate issues publicly and privately in the hopes of gaining a new understanding and hopefully persuade people to consider another point of view. This concept was given life in the first amendment with the freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of petition, freedom of assembly, and the freedom of religion. Oftentimes, rights have restrictions placed on them if they are deemed to fit the public good, but what these rights mean and how best to exercise them is a battle that has been waged since the founding of this republic.
It is important to remember that these fundamental rights were not guaranteed to every citizen, and many had to fight to obtain these rights without reprisal from authoritarian forces; a battle which is still being waged to this day. The desire to be seen as an equal and enjoy the same standard of living that the majority of people take for granted is what animates marginalized groups to protest and make their voices heard. This battle starts with burning passions and rage that cannot be quelled by anything short of equal rights and dignity. Advocates for positions that dissent from the mainstream view experience pushback from those who do not like change, but that is to be expected when a comfortable situation is disrupted.
In order to achieve a desired goal – especially in this type of situation – it is important that a well-reasoned argument be put forth for why a proposed change needs to be made. What the beautifully constructed argument will do is convince people why changes made to society will benefit the majority of people. Appeals to reason may not penetrate the thickest of skulls, but it can get the ball rolling toward progress that will make life more rewarding for everyone. Like the Battle of the Bulge, there will be a lot of back and forth in terms of victories, but it is a fight that needs to be fought.
This post is about giving thanks to those who waged a tireless battle for the rights of marginalized groups who wanted nothing more than social and legal equality. There are too many names to mention, whether they have been lost to the pages of history or just never had their story told, their anonymity is an historical crime. For the notions of equality that was invoked at the founding of this country, but was limited to those who already had power, the warriors for the marginalized should be thanked and honored for their contributions to help make this country great.