Social movements are created by groups of people who are connected through their shared interest of affecting social change. The United States of America was founded a social movement. Colonists used rallies, boycotting goods, violence, and protest to break away from England’s monarchy and create their democracy. It could be said that US democratic agency is a product of protest. As Donna Lieberman would agree, that democratic agency thrives when the people have the right to voice their opinions. A significant amount of social movements go on in the United States. I feel that our right to exercise freedom of speech is what creates social change.
The United States was founded by revolution and continued to have social movements to bring fourth much needed change. This is demonstrated through events like Shay’s rebellion, the civil war, the civil rights movements, suffrage and feminist movements, prohibition, Vietnam war backlash and LBGTQ movement. The United States democracy is for the people, by the people which is translated as the people hold the power of the country. The people have the right of speech, press, religion and petition according to the first ten amendments. This is significant because when the constitution was being created there were individual who spoke up in favor of giving freedom to the citizens. The founders of the country knew that making the laws of land flexible was in the only way to keep the citizens from revolting like the colonists did to English rule.
It was this dissent that created changes in the drafting of the Constitution. The first amendment is the right of speech, press, religion and petition. By being the first amendment it stresses the importance of opinion and gives the right of expressing difference. Democracy is then fueled by the first amendment because freedom of protest, speech, press and religion is how the government creates changes of policy. For example, Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in favor segregated public facilities under the doctrine of “separate but equal.” Fifty Eight years later, the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Educated overturned “separate but equal” and paved the way for desegregation of schools and other institutions. This is only one example but there are hundreds in through history. Events like Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat or individuals representing the 99% occupying Zuccotti Park are catalysts of social change and strengthens the democratic process.
Donna Lieberman says that, ” what is vital for democracy is the freedom to protest. Only when everyone has the right to speak out can a democracy thrive.” This point seems to be evident because if the people of a democracy cannot voice the opinion how could the officials know how to represent and govern in accordance with the values and needs of the people. It was the voice of Harvey Milk that gave attention to the rights of the gay community and changed a tiny portion of San Francisco legislation. Sadly, even the assassination of Milk represents opposition to the change but, also strengthens the LBGTQ community goal of political involvement and rights as citizens.
Voices of the people move the government hand on creating policies that affect the country. When women rallied together for the right to vote, it caused the government to give it to them. Albeit, the government does not always listen to the people. For instance, President Bush met opposition when he decided to invaded Iraq. Some Americans believed that because of the 911 tragedy war was necessary and others believed it was unnecessary loss of lives. Regrettably war was the outcome but this gave way for the upcoming politicians to use the anti-war sentiments to get votes.
Dissent why democracy works because it creates change of laws or change of political party. Donna Lieberman argues that, “And the test of our democracy is the protection we offer not to the protests we like, but how we treat those we find offensive – be they the Nazis in Skokie or the Klan.” This is a valid point because the first amendment gives every individual the right to speech, press, religion, and petition. Any violation of the first amendment is unjust. By letting both sides express their opinion it allows people to come to their own conclusion about what it good for change.
It would not be fair for only one side to be heard. Case in point, the south was allowed to voice their opinion about the rights of blacks via de-jure segregation but, it was the voice of African Americans could not be muted and this created equal rights legislation. “All First Amendment exercises – those that “work” and those that don’t – have shaped our history, made it better, and are crucial to how we come to understand ourselves as a people.”
The hateful voices of West Boro Baptist church are needed to understand and gauge the importance of LBGTQ rights. Offensive protests are useful in gaining numbers in support of the defensive. Offensive protests allow people to pick a side and start pushing for changes.
Offensive protests should be allowed because it is a first amendment right. I do believe that protests whether offensive or not are the reason there are social movements. If there was not dissent how then could society move forward. Society would not be able to change. It would be stuck, it would not be the advanced society we know today. We will still have slavery, women would have no rights, children would be working in sweatshops, and homosexuals would be mass murdered. By seeing opposition, it gives rise to stronger social activism and changes for the country. It allows the government to be run for the people by the people which is the true meaning of democracy. In retrospection, it makes the country know where it comes from and maybe not to where it is heading but, it shows us that our voices can determine where we go from here.
Courtney from Study Moose
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