September 11, 2008
I have written before about the sacrifices that people in our past have made being the reason for me going to vote, even if I do not particularly like either candidate. Alice Paul is a fine example of this American spirit.
I say American spirit, but it's really the human spirit that I'm talking about. The "right" and literal responsibility that exists within each human to rise up against those that would seek to oppress either them or others. If someone attempts to keep your freedoms from you for any reason other than your provable commission of a crime, then you, as a human, have the right to commit insurrection. There is a reason that the framers of the constitution and founding documents of this nation made it very difficult to meet all the conditions to convict an individual of treason, because they themselves were guilty of that crime.
" We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
These phrases are possibly the most powerful words ever written by man. They lay down the basic framework for free humans to govern themselves, placing law above power, and individual freedom above collective thought. Think about that...
The phrases "For the good of the body politic" or "The needs of the many outweigh those of the few" have a place in certain situations and laws are meant to define these situations. Above the "many" rests the "one". That is a truth that tends to get lost, as long as the "one" acts within the boundaries of the law they are to remain untouched. That is why the founding fathers sought to stay away from a true democracy and went forward with a constitutional republic. Some people get confused by this thought process because it seems that we live in a majority rule scenario, when in fact, there is a system in place that protects us from this very thing. The best way to explain this is by simply asking the question, "What if the majority of people in this country voted and decided overwhelmingly that you should die for no good reason?" Laws dictate whether or not that could happen, if they simply didn't like you, then in a true democracy, you would die. Get the point? That would be a wee bit unfair.
It was questions and thoughts of this nature that drove Alice Paul in her quest for women to have the right to vote. She and her friend Lucy Burns met with the leaders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, created by Susan B. Anthony in 1890, and worked them to the point that Alice was placed in the role of heading the Washington, D.C. wing of the organization. They were pushing for a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, while the existing powers that be of the group were working toward a state by state method.
Alice's outspoken methodology drew attention and wrath from the power brokers that ran the inside networks in Washington, and indeed from the heads of her own organization, leading her to form the National Woman's Party. They decided to picket the White House and were arrested for "obstructing traffic". Since they weren't in any traffic they refused to pay the fine and were sentenced to prison in Virginia for sixty days. While in prison they were beaten by guards, tortured, and brutalized in many ways. Alice began a hunger strike when she was placed in solitary confinement for breaking a window to get fresh air. She was bound in a straitjacket, denied access to a lawyer and forced to undergo psychiatric observation... She was found to be completely sane.
She pressed the other women that were arrested with her to join in the hunger strike. Eventually they were tied down and forced fed through tubes shoved down their throats. Alice managed to get her story out and it broke across the press quickly. When the public outcry became too loud to ignore, they were released from prison...
That was in 1917, in 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified and became law granting women the right to vote...
Alice Paul is one of many people who fought for this right, the right to be involved in self government. The list of people who have fought and even died fighting for this right grows constantly. I've said it before and I am sure I will say it many more times... Freedom, where humans are concerned, is an inevitability, a bloody, nasty business - but it will happen.
So, come election day, what mundane excuse will you use to keep from taking the time to stand in line and press a few buttons on a screen so that you can participate in the "useless choice between the lesser of two evils"? Sure.. all politicians are liars and power mongers... but... I just can not stay away from the voting booth on that day, just because of what people like Alice Paul went through.