Only In America

On Civil Rights...

"Show Your Rights!"

As an Arizonan, for reasons anyone can look up in a Wikipedia article on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I have an aversion to discussing the merits of whether or not there should be a Federal national holiday bearing his name. Nor will I make any comment related to the recent tragedy in Tucson, plenty of others will do that. The point to me has always been, if anyone deserved a day of commemoration for acts that brought about a huge permanent shift in civil rights, it is Dr. King. He is a human symbol of a historical development well worth observing. What I believe many people still don't comprehend is that not only did he fight discrimination and win desegregation and equal rights for black people in the United States, he permanently affirmed in American and international culture the idea that civil rights are for all people. He enduringly affixed the concept that civil rights are an "inalienable right" for everyone, through his leadership, by using the nonviolent and legal system methods he chose to achieve his goals.

Much can be written about how activists have taken his work into social and political science, turning what he accomplished on its head, misusing it for their grinding agendas. In the United States I am referring primarily to the use of the legislative or administrative process of government to reach the objective of affirmative action, rather than the US Constitution to demand equality through the legal system. The former involves the political and bureaucratic classes constructing artificial contrivances that always seem to end up removing barriers for some and creating them for others, that can also be re-legislated in a more harmful direction. The latter assures permanent resolution through definitive court decisions which are difficult to reverse and applies equitably to everyman.

Far better in my mind to argue your case through the US Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the US Constitution, to attain your rights.

US Bill of Rights

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. [5]
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
  • Ninth Amendment – Protection of rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


  1. I confess that I have been a pretty half-witted student of Dr. King; I always respected what I knew of the man and have for quite a while been aware of why he was in Memphis but never have taken the time to try to understand what he was about. Which is probably OK and probably gives credence to his work, in a weird way. But still...

    I searched the internet for Arizona as re: Martin Luther King and what came up was fascinating. States' rights, things pushed through by the soon to be impeached, all kinds of stuff...what sticks with me is this (and it's late and I'd be better off tackling this some more lucid hour but oh well): the National Football League moved the Super Bowl from Arizona to California? Seriously, that happened?

    I'm not a football fan; most people I know love it and I watch it sometimes but I really don't care. I have nothing much to say except that it made me laugh that they the governing bodies of the NFL took Arizona's opinions to heart.

    I totally can't figure out why a group of people whose entire primary income is based on bashing into each other and inflicting pain could possibly be offended at a state which questioned a holiday in honor of a man who was about peace and one-ness. Not that King was only about that, but the irony is too much.

    Just goes to show you that, dead 40 years, even the basest understanding of King makes the NFL (and McCain, and etc.) laughable.

    It doesn't answer a tenth of your blog, but thanks for making me think about it all, JR!

  2. For a myriad of reasons Arizona is a state that generates a lot of national controversy. There was a collective groan among many people here when the S1070 bill became a national controversy, not because we may have agreed or disagreed with it, more out of "here we go again." To say that often we're misunderstood is as true as we often don't present ourselves well. Yes, they really did move the Super Bowl and we have lost many other events, as well as sports franchises and a lot of musical acts (Springsteen for one) won't appear here, over the decades due to that and other controversies. The current one of course is S1070. Our convention business has dried up except for the NRA and Tea Party affiliations.

    I only remember back to Goldwater, a figure I think was misunderstood and didn't present himself well, for my first taste of what the rest of America conceptualizes Arizona as a state full of extremists and nutcases. Which I think could also apply to NY but...we're not NY and in the rarefied air of the Northeastern Boston to DC Corridor (I don't consider upstate NY in that). I get the sense many people in that region think Dayton is the hinterland.

    The Tucson tragedy (btw, I shopped at that Safeway plaza for the seven years I lived there and know the area well) has been traumatic in many ways also but in a sad, ironic sense brought us some sympathy back.

    Sympathy which will be destroyed as the news switches to our legislature pushing the "birth-right" bill rather than attending to our current insolvency and being on the verge of literal bankruptcy. This state is unusual because almost all funds are distributed from the State Treasurer down to the counties, cities and towns for them to budget. Local entities don't collect their revenue, the state does and then disperses it. Can you imagine NYC allowing Albany to do that?

    Anyway...I ramble and digress. King was a man with faults but few figures in American history, have moved the American people in a direction they didn't think they wanted to go, as he did.