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Saturday, December 3, 2011

“You don’t get to win…

Movement for human rights
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Eleanor Roosevelt
You just get to keep fighting” — Ira Glasser

Movements cannot work as trains with scheduled times of arrival. Movements for social justice work off the energy, and passion, and intelligence, and commitment of activists. They work off “what you do every day in small ways where you cannot measure the impact.” Former ACLU executive director Ira Glasser was speaking in November at the Drug Reform Conference. The transcript and audio are at Drug Truth Network.

Glasser brings important historical context and critical insight to how we think about Movements for Human Progress.
American Indian Movement
Wounded Knee, S.D.,  1973 
Excerpt, editing by Carolyn Bennett

“You don’t get to win… You just get to keep fighting,” Glasser says repeatedly throughout his speech.

“You not only have to keep fighting because the forces of oppression are relentlessly clever at finding new forms of oppression. You have to keep fighting the same victories that you won before — because they get unwon.

Four little girls killed in
Alabama bombing
remembered by
Congress of Racial Equality
“… [T]hese victories, these social justice movements of which we are one, but not unique, never stay won; we just get to keep fighting and progressing … and progressing. …

“It’s often said that the fight for social justice is not a sprint — it’s a marathon [but] It’s more than a marathon; it’s a marathon relay race and the length of the relay race, as Reverend Theodore Parker said about the ‘arc of justice,’ you can’t see where the track ends.”

Abolitionist/Civil Rights Movement

“The movement for racial justice began the first day that the first slave was brought [to America]… [Then] it took one hundred and fifty years more before there was an actual Abolitionist movement in the middle of the 19th century. A white Unitarian minister named Theodore Parker, an abolitionist in 1853, gave a sermon … in which he talked about ending slavery which seemed remote in1853 and he said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.…

Women's Rights Convention
Declaration of Sentiments
“‘My eyes are not good enough to see the end of that arc [Parker said] but I know that it’s there.’”

Women’s Rights Movement

“Women weren’t slaves but they were legally property in the 18th century,” Glasser recalls. “They couldn’t vote. They couldn’t enter into contracts. They didn’t have the same educational or economic opportunities….

Woman Suffrage 1913

“In 1873, a woman named Myra Bradwell — you might call her the Dred Scott of the women’s movement — actually gets into and graduates law school; she edits a respected legal newsletter in Chicago and she wants to practice law so she applies to the Illinois bar and is denied. She can go to law school, she can get a law degree, she can edit a newsletter but she cannot practice law. The reason they denied her admission to the bar is that she was a woman.…
Civil Rights March 1963

“The U.S. Supreme Court in 1873 (only 16 years after the Dred Scott decision) does to her what it did to Dred Scott: It rules that — women are too timid and delicate … to practice law and that they were intended to nurture and serve their children and their husbands and they were so intended by the Creator (capitol C).…”

Free Speech/Free Press Movement

Tiananmen Square
Rights demonstration crushed
Beijing 1989 
“This movement started the day the first printing press was invented in the 15th century — two minutes later the government passed censorship laws [requiring people] to have a license in order to use a printing press; the license had to be predicated on your getting permission from the government or the church to print what you wanted to print. …
Movement against 
death penalty
AI- Paris

Environmental movement
“The government didn’t want [people to have press freedom] and the church didn’t want it, so their first instinct was to repress it and people who resisted were killed, were tortured, were convicted, were sent for long prison sentences. That lasted a couple hundred years.
Antiwar movement-London 2009
“By the 18th century, 300 years later, freedom of speech and freedom of the press didn’t exist in this country. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution [‘Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or of the press’] was designed to remedy that and it looked like it had; [but] seven years later, Congress passed the Sedition Act making it a crime to criticize the President.

Members of Congress were sent to jail; Benjamin Franklin’s grandson who edited a newspaper that was critical of [President John] Adam’s administration was sent to jail and died in prison.

Antiwar movement
Cindy Sheehan questions U.S. war on Iraq
Under the sedition act of 1917, Eugene Victor Debs was sent to prison for opposing World War I. He was convicted for saying things [many later said and say about U.S. wars in] Iraq or Vietnam or Afghanistan.

The American Civil Liberties Union formed in 1920 but the Supreme Court tried no First Amendment cases until the 1930s when labor unions began to be prosecuted for distributing leaflets and holding meetings and organizing.

McCarthyism came in the 1950s and people were fired for not signing loyalty oaths and for having the wrong opinions.

In the 1960s came arrests of Civil Rights movement activists.

Gay Pride, Rio de Janeiro, 2007
At this point [15th to 20th century], the Free Speech movement was “a 500-year struggle. What if at any point in that struggle somebody had asked, ‘When are we going to win?’

“You can just take the baton and run as hard as you can and as fast as you can and as far as you can and as strategically smart as you can for as long as you can and then you give the baton to the next one.…

“[T]hat’s how you build a movement. … [T]he thing about our game is that time doesn't run out. Time never runs out. We just get to keep fighting, and keep running and there’s no time clock. There’s only our own suffering and our commitment to overcome that suffering and that injustice.

“…In Selma [Alabama] in 1965, on the eve of the March, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of his memorable speeches, the speech where he used Reverend Parker’s line about the ‘arc of a moral universe.’ Dr. King said, ‘I get asked all the time,’ just as we are asked today … ‘How long is this going to take?’ This is 1965. ‘How long will justice crucified — how long?’ 
“… He said, ‘Not long.’ … ‘How long will it take? Not long because truth crushed to earth will rise again. 
 “‘How long will it take? Not long because no lie can live forever.

“‘How long will it take? Not long because the “arc of the moral universe” is long but it bends towards justice.’”
Movement against nuclear weapons
Test-Ban Treaty 1963

Glasser then adds, “It doesn’t bend by itself. It bends because of you and everybody in this movement. …

Movements are never over. They have no end points. They have victories and they have defeats and they go on longer than your lifetimes. 

You don’t want to ever make the mistake of being frustrated because you haven’t won yet. You’ll never get to win — you just get to fight.

Campaign against torture
Sources and notes

Ira Glasser, former head of ACLU, speaks at drug reform conference, Transcript submitted by dtnadmin, Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org, Monday November 21, 2011, http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/audio/by/date/11_20_11; http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/audio/by/guest/ira_glasser

11/20/11 Ira Glasser, Published on Drug Truth Network (http://www.drugtruth.net/cms); DEAN BECKER introduced audio on Century of Lies: Ira Glasser’s speech as the ending coverage from the Drug Policy Reform conference in Los Angeles.… http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3638#comments
Movement against war on drugs

Ira Saul Glasser

war on drugs
Ira Glasser is a recipient of numerous awards including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, the Silver Gavel Award, the Allard K. Lowenstein Award, the Malcolm, Martin, Mandela Award, the Justice in Action Award, the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Lifetime Achievement Award. A Racial Justice Fellows Program established by the American Civil Liberties Union bears his name.

New York-native Ira Glasser was national Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union from the late 70s until 2001 after being the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)’s Associate Director. He is author of Visions of Liberty: the Bill of Rights for All Americans (1991) and coauthor of Doing Good: the Limits of Benevolence (1978).

In 2003, Glasser joined the Board of Advisors of the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics (CCLE), “is a network of scholars elaborating the law, policy and ethics of freedom of thought. Our mission is to develop social policies that will preserve and enhance freedom of thought into the 21st century.”  He is a current and founding member of the Board of Directors of the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and President of the Board of Directors of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Glasser was credentialed in mathematics and for a time taught at Queens (CUNY) and Sarah Lawrence colleges; at the University of Illinois, he helped develop new teaching methods in mathematics for elementary school children; also for a time he was editor of New York-based Current magazine, http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/pressroom/ira_glasser.htm

Myra Colby Bradwell

Myra Colby Bradwell was an American lawyer and editor involved in several landmark cases concerning the legal rights of women.

In October 1868, she launched her distinguished career with the establishment of the first weekly edition of the Chicago Legal News, of which she was both editorial and business manager. It soon became the most important legal publication in the western United States. In 1869, she helped organize Chicago’s first woman suffrage convention and was active in the founding of the Cleveland-based American Woman Suffrage Association.

In the same year, Myra Colby Bradwell passed the qualifying examination and applied to the Illinois Supreme Court for admission (and was denied) to the state bar. The U.S. Supreme Court (May 1873) upheld the state court’s refusal on the ground that Bradwell was a woman [Bradwell v. Illinois]. The Illinois legislature in 1872 had opened all professions to women; Bradwell did not renew her application for the bar but was made honorary member of the state bar association.

Myra Colby was born February 12, 1831, in Manchester, Vermont; and grew up in Portage, New York. From 1843, she lived in Schaumburg Township near Elgin, Illinois; she was educated in schools in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Elgin; and for a time was a schoolteacher. Myra Colby Bradwell died February 14, 1894, in Chicago, Illinois. [Britannica notes]

Theodore Parker

American Unitarian theologian, pastor, scholar, and social reformer active in the Antislavery Movement, Theodore Parker repudiated much traditional Christian dogma.

He worked for prison reform, temperance, women’s education. He made impassioned speeches against slavery, helped fugitive slaves to escape, and wrote an abolitionist tract, A Letter to the People of the United States Touching the Matter of Slavery (1848). He also served on the secret committee that aided the abolitionist John Brown.

Parker attended Harvard Divinity School and graduated in 1836. The next year he was ordained pastor of the Unitarian Church in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was born August 24, 1810 in Lexington, Massachusetts, and died May 10, 1860, in Florence, Italy. [Britannica notes]

Dred Scott

Dred Scott was a slave whose master in 1834 had taken him from Missouri (a slave state) to Illinois (a free state), then into the Wisconsin Territory (a free territory under the provisions of the Missouri Compromise), and finally back to Missouri. In 1846, with the help of antislavery lawyers, Scott sued for his freedom in the Missouri state courts on the grounds that his residence in a free state and a free territory had made him a free man.

The Missouri Supreme Court had overturned an initial ruling by a lower court, which had declared Dred Scott free.

The Dred Scott decision (March 6, 1857) was a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court that made slavery legal in all the territories. For the second time in American history, the Supreme Court declared an act of Congress unconstitutional. Southerners had argued that both Congress and the territorial legislature were powerless to exclude slavery from a territory. They maintained that only a state could exclude slavery.

In the U.S. Supreme Court opinion, justices wrote separate opinions but Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s opinion had far-reaching consequences. Taney declared that —

A Negro could not be entitled to rights as a U.S. citizen, such as the right to sue in federal courts. Negroes, he wrote had ‘no rights which any white man was bound to respect.’

Taney and the other justices in the majority went further in declaring that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (which had forbidden slavery in that part of the Louisiana Purchase north of the latitude 36°30′, except for Missouri) was unconstitutional because Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the territories.

John Adams

John Adams was the second president (1797–1801) of the United States (b. October 30, 1735, Braintree [now in Quincy], Massachusetts; d. July 4, 1826, Quincy

John Adams was an early advocate of American independence from Great Britain, major figure in the John Adams Continental Congress (1774–77), author of the Massachusetts constitution (1780), signer of the Treaty of Paris (1783), first American ambassador to the Court of St. James (1785–88), first U.S. vice president (1789–97)

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States (1825–1829); (b. July 11, 1767, Braintree, Massachusetts; d. February 23, 1848, Washington, D.C.). He was the eldest son of President John Adams.

John Quincy was considered before his presidency one of America’s greatest diplomats; in his   post-presidential years — as a member of the U.S. Congress (1831–1848), he is credited with conducting a consistent, often dramatic fight against the expansion of slavery.

Eugene Victor Debs

Eugene V. Debs was a labor organizer and Socialist Party candidate for U.S. presidency five times between 1900 and 1920, who successfully united railway workers from different crafts into the first industrial union in the United States.

From his earliest days (b. November 5, 1855, Terre Haute, Indiana; d. October 20, 1926, Elmhurst, Illinois), Debs advocated the organization of labor by industry rather than by craft. After trying unsuccessfully to unite the various railroad brotherhoods of his day, Debs became president (1893) of the newly established American Railway Union.

Considered an extremely effective public speaker, he made his living primarily as a lecturer and contributor to various periodicals. Among his best-known writings were a pamphlet Unionism and Socialism (1904) and a book Walls and Bars (1927).


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