“Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won.
Many stones can form an arch; singly none, singly none.
And by union what we will can be accomplished still:
Drops of water turn a mill; singly none singly none.”
In “Where Have All the Flowers Gone? A Singer’s Stories Songs Seeds & Robberies” Pete Seeger reports that the words to this iconic union anthem were printed in the preamble to the constitution of an early coal miner’s union. In 1948, Pete set the words to an Irish tune from the 1840s, “The Praties they grow small.” Looking back over the past 50 years to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (“The Great March on Washington”) while progress seems to have been made, for 245 years (716 if we start with Magna Carta in 1297) the struggle for human rights – meaning equality under the law, and access to food, clothing, shelter, and education for all – has been raging, and shows no signs of abating any time soon.
★ The earliest recorded labor strike in the Americas occurred in 1768 when New York journeymen tailors protested a wage reduction.
★ The formation of the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers (shoemakers) in Philadelphia in 1794 marks the beginning of sustained trade union organization among American workers.
★ President Andrew Johnson formally declared the end of the U.S. Civil War on August 20, 1866.
★ The 14th Amendment was adopted July 9, 1868. The Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction, and was the grounds for the Supreme Court 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
★ The 15th Amendment, ratified on February 3, 1870, prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
★ The 19th Amendment, ratified August 18, 1920, prohibits any United States citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex.
★ The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly December 10, 1948 (never ratified by the United States Congress).
★ The Civil Rights Act of 1964, enacted July 2, 1964, outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women; ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace, and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”).
★ Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law by President Johnson August 6, 1965.
★ In Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), decided simultaneously with a companion case, Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but that right must be balanced against the state’s two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting prenatal life and protecting women’s health. Arguing that these state interests became stronger over the course of a pregnancy, the Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the trimester of pregnancy. The Court later rejected Roe’s trimester framework, while affirming Roe’s central holding that a person has a right to abortion until viability. The Roe decision defined “viable” as being “potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb, albeit with artificial aid,” adding that viability “is usually placed at about 7 months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.”
States’ rights vs. federal power has been the struggle in the United States since the debate over the Constitution in 1775. Today instead of marching to Washington for federal redress of grievances, the battle must be joined state-by-state because all possible versions of what constitutes the public good are under siege by state legislatures: women’s reproductive justice; the right of all people to vote in free and fair elections without jerrymandering; fair wages; safe working conditions; affordable housing; affordable health care; sustainable energy policy; distributive economics; restorative justice (distributive justice-compassion); access to public education; public safety (including international political issues as well as global climate change).
The list is eye-glazingly long. Nevertheless, your careful attention to the specific items on the list that you want to impact is needed now. So pick one. And above all, get your ID, Register, and Vote in 2014.
State by State the longest list can be done, can be done.
The hardest cases can be won, can be won.
With coalition what we will can be accomplished still.
The Arc toward justice in concert builds – singly none, singly none. — SR