American Individualism And The Civil Rights Movement

908 Words4 Pages
America’s founding documents form the bedrock of the United States. Their truths are self-evident, but they are also revolutionary and innovative—they remain as important to affirming freedom, protecting liberty, and promoting equality as ever. Although the word was never directly stated beyond the Bill of Rights, the abstract concept of ‘freedom’ underscores all of the documents, most eloquently in the Declaration of Independence. The idea “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights” extends far beyond pragmatic polity; it defines the American spirit. Its lyrical rejection of “absolute tyranny” courses through our veins, precipitating American individualism: a culture of independence…show more content…
Yet as revolutionaries themselves, they recognized the imperative of organizing and its centrality to a liberal democracy. Without the visibility afforded by protest, challenge to the cultural and political norms is impossible. Organization and protest have shaped America from abolitionism to temperance, unionization to gay liberation and continue to shape it today. More recently, Black Lives Matter activists have demonstrated the sheer power of grassroots protest, effectively using their freedom of assembly to challenge structural racism. On a personal note, my liberty to assemble has allowed me to protest at my school as well as to participate in various election efforts. I relish to challenge the status quo and express informed dissent. The Bill of Rights ensures Americans’ ability to do so, thereby ensuring the vitality of…show more content…
At first, I expected non-federalist (that is, unitary) governments to be more ‘progressive’ on civil rights, earlier to adapt on such issues. Interestingly, I came to the opposite conclusion: Constitutional federalism is a brilliant mode of attaining equality through social progress and policy innovation. For example, while entire nations were deliberating whether to fully embrace same-sex marriage, in the the United States, early adapters like Vermont quelled critics’ concerns and provided their constituencies civil rights years before a national majority could have been reached. Federalism’s efficacy is also evident beyond the realm of civil rights. Some states act as policy ‘guinea pigs’, trying out experimental policy that will later be adopted on the national level (akin to Massachusetts’ role in developing the Affordable Care Act). In this way, the Constitution encourages policy innovation and provides civil rights earlier than would be achieved nationally. Yes, the march toward equality is a march. But it’s also a matter of pragmatic policy—the Constitution’s federalism provides key ingredients for
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