Another in an ongoing series where we ask ACLU friends and volunteers: there are many reasons to support the ACLU--what's your reason? This week we hear from one of our excellent summer interns, Ilan Acherman.
But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. -- John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775
I have always been a proud civil libertarian. Whether I was born with such a mindset or whether it was my parent’s insistence on reason rather than impulse, my civil libertarian roots are deeply grounded. I also know how easily those liberties we now hold can be lost and how easily freedoms are eroded—not by evil men, but by those too weak or too lazy to think before acting on emotion. It is easy to react, easy to be angry, easy to say it is ‘them’ against ‘us.’ But it takes strength to stop and think, just for a moment, to see past the smoke of current events and take the long view.
What happens when ‘them’ becomes ‘us,’ as has happened so many times in the past? What happens when fear has led people to sign away their freedom to the detriment of entire continents? Every generation must face these questions, and in light of history as it has unfolded this past decade, it hinges on this generation to make the choices others have handled so clumsily.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been a pillar, a constant reminder of the meaning of Independence. The quote above is from John Adams, one of our country’s founders and one of the first true believers in the cause for liberty. Although Adams was one of the leading voices of opposition against the British, he was also willing to defend British soldiers in a court of law when nobody else would. Even before the Bill of Rights was created, Adams recognized the importance of a fair and consistent government that can rise above popular passions. It is this moral consistency, the will to do what is right even when it may offend personal sensibilities, that lives on today in the ACLU.
But the founders were wrong about one thing: our freedoms and our rights, self evident as they may be, are most definitely alienable. Infringements on individual liberties occur today as they have in the past. It is up to all of us, and perhaps especially those of us working in the law, to ensure that these infringements do not stand. The ACLU, from its inception, has worked to make sure that the fears of the majority do not curtail the liberties we all cherish. I have always been drawn to the work done by the ACLU, and as an intern I am able to see firsthand the consistent effort needed to ensure that our freedoms stand strong. I hope to continue this work well into the future, and by interning with the ACLU, I believe I am getting good start on that future.
Ilan Acherman is a 2010 summer legal intern at the ACLU of Nevada's Reno office and a student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' Boyd School of Law.