What began as a small group of idealists taking a stand against the government in 1920 has become our nation’s official guardian of liberty. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has evolved over the years and today wields a budget of $100 million dollars with more than 1.2 million members, nearly 300 staff attorneys, thousands of volunteer attorneys, and a network of offices in every state, including the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The ACLU of today continues to fight government abuse and to vigorously defend individual freedoms. They stand up for these rights even when the cause is unpopular, and sometimes when nobody else will. While not always in agreement on every issue, Americans have come to count on the ACLU for its unyielding dedication to principle.
Is it in poor taste to push the button of the defender of civil liberties or even question their motives? As a citizen that believes in freedom and democracy, I believe it is our duty to question political motives. “What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.” ― Albert Einstein
In a neighborhood in small town America, if a family feels the need to express their views to travelers on their street with signs, messaging or art, do town officials have the right to restrict the content or type of art?
Some say “yes, of course,” some say “Hell no, this is America!” But what if it is your neighbor and you are faced with that shrine of ideology everyday? Do you applaud freedom or do you look the other way? What if you oppose their view or dislike their choice in art?
A popular quote sets the stage for thought. “Art is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone will have their own interpretation.”― E.A. Bucchianeri
The quote makes me wonder what differentiates a sign from art? Should a community or government regulate its signage/art? When has the line been crossed? Is it ever crossed? Should there be a line?
What happens if we are allowed, or even encouraged (maybe even paid), to dot the landscape with signage, messaging and/or art because it is our right?
The “Lady Bird Johnson” Highway Beautification Act (HBA) of 1965 had the best of intentions.
In the 1950’s and early 60’s, as our interstate highway system became a junkyard for old cars and unregulated billboards filled our open spaces, President Johnson and the first lady pushed congress to pass a bill to clean up America’s highways. Johnson said, “We have placed a wall of civilization between us and the beauty of our countryside. In our eagerness to expand and improve, we have relegated nature to a weekend role, banishing it from our daily lives. I think we are a poorer nation as a result. Beauty belongs to all the people.” He signed the bill and gave the pen to Lady Bird who helped him push the bill forward. HBA helped clean up the highways across America, but the bill was mired in contradictions and loopholes. The language has been a legal battle ground for decades.
The ACLU is taking aim at Fraser, Colorado, for infringing on the rights of its citizens. I think we should ask ourselves; does it make sense because it is right or righteous?
I grew up in a small southern town and we counted on our neighbors in times of need and they did the same. It made our community stronger. We talked about our issues and tried to resolve our differences through compromise, compassion and understanding. We also took care of our yards, picked up trash on the roads and tried to respect each and everyone’s opinion, whether we agreed or not.
Although the First Amendment refers specifically to the freedoms of speech and press, it in fact encompasses a wide range of expression beyond publications and the spoken word. All art forms — including plays, music, dance, film, literature, poetry and the visual arts — enjoy considerable First Amendment protection.
When the Fraser Creative Arts District was formed, I believe Funky Lil’ Fraser wanted to foster a reputation for having a hip, open minded approach to life, love and art. Whether you agree or not, I think it is important to always be good neighbors. It will make us stronger and less divisive. Just because we have the right, it doesn’t always make it right.