Know Your Rights, Pick Your Fights

November 28, 2004

Well, to start with, I realized just now that I never read the actual text of the U.S. Constitution in school, only its substance and implications; I suspect a lot of citizens and non-citizens can say the same thing. To remedy that, here's the text of the United States Constitution, including the Amendments. Pay particular attention to the Bill of Rights, contained in Amendments I - X. It's an oldie, but goodie, shockingly readable after 230-odd years, and, surprisingly enough, inspiring in a way that organizational documents usually aren't. As some blogs have been pointing out recently, second amendment citers tend only to read the first half of the sentence, since the second half is all about restrictions.

To get at how the PATRIOT ACT has altered these rights, the ever-helpful American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has compiled resources to answer questions about what your rights are in a number of increasingly common situations, including when government agents contact you and when you are being questioned in airports. You can download a pdf "Know Your Rights" pamphlet in a variety of languages. They also have an online interactive feature detailing the PATRIOT ACT's impact on your rights, broken down amendment by amendment. You can also sign up for updates and action alerts on the ACLU's website, or just check in periodically and inform yourself.

For a more Muslim-specific take on your rights, you can check out the Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) "Know Your Rights Pocket Guide". This also includes some suggestions as to how to become active in your Muslim community.

When you're ready to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them, the ACLU's training resources page has a number of suggestions for simple ways you can affect change at your own desk, or in your own community. Their suggestions are of course heavily slanted towards helping out the ACLU, but there's some common sense in here. If you'd rather work within an existing organization try Volunteer Match, a website where you can search thousands of non-profit organizations all over the country for groups that address your interests in your area. All groups list mission, specific volunteer opportunities and contact info.

For youth and young adults, volunteer opportunities in your area can be found on Youth Noise' website. The League of Pissed Off Voters, a young voters organization, has a number of great resources on its resources and links page.

If you're already writing those letters to your representative and signing petitions, and want to jump your activism to a higher level, you might benefit from some training. You can find a sea of training resources on ActionPA's activism training, materials and resources page. If you're involved in an organization and need further training, you might check out the Midwest Academy a liberal training center for activists. And many, many organizations have youth activist and leadership training programs, so go directly to the source to see if there's something there for you.

It's your world, I'm only blogging in it.




don't forget they have lots of volunteer opportunities listed (along w/job listings, of course!).