There Must be Protection to Ensure an Individual's Right to Happiness

By Karlito Almeda
On October 26, 2016

Photo courtesy of Fibonacci Blue, Wikipedia

In recent years, several contentious social issues have become highlighted in American media coverage and have succeeded in gaining parity for the attention of politicians with the American economy and foreign policy. Of the issues raised, the most salient appear to be the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, xenophobia, Islamophobia, LGBTQIA+ rights, women’s rights and the reproductive rights. It is also important to call into attention that many members and politicians from the Democratic and Republican parties support constructive efforts to ameliorate the greater diaspora of social issues, but the divisiveness of presidential campaign politics has taken precedence and unfortunately contributes to increasing polarization in society.

It is imperative that politicians, the media and voters take note of demands made by these social movements as society is placing more importance on social and moral issues. This contemporary period is regarded by scholars as post-modernism or post-consumerism, which regards economic issues and class based issues as taking a diminished place in American politics.

To list examples: the BLM movement aims to “end the war on black people,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations aims to amend political rhetoric that encourages anti-Islamic fervor and encourages protection of civil rights for Muslim Americans amongst a highly xenophobic environment, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “works to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy and freedom of expression and association,” the Center For Reproductive Rights “uses the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect and fulfill,” and the ACLU works to end gender-based barriers.

Demands made by the numerous civil liberties or special interest groups saturate newspapers and airtime, but do they warrant action? The answer in the context of the American political system is this: the competition between the interests of minority groups and the general polity is constructive for American democracy and more conducive for equality. Often the voices of minorities are silenced by the electoral power of the majority so it is important to analyze each situation in historical and legal contexts to provide answers to each claim.

To provide a case study, it is useful to look at the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982. Conservatives had argued against the adoption of this amendment because the equal protection clause of the Constitution's 14th Amendment was applied and considered applicable to prevent sex discrimination. The progressive argument was that the equal protection clause had never been interpreted to grant equal rights on the basis of sex in the uniform and inclusive way that the equal rights amendment would. It is argued that the amendment would provide a more concise judicial standard for mitigating cases of sex discrimination and provide more uniformity among state and federal courts.

In conclusion, it is important to recognize that as societal values evolves, new threats are identified and the migrations of peoples change, there needs to be a consistent update of laws that safeguard the individual liberties of every single person in the United States. There needs to be protections that ensure an individual’s right to happiness and that any acts or practices of discrimination are abrogated regardless of the situation. The protection of civil liberties is a characteristic that makes America already great, but there is still more progress to be made and it is imperative that politicians use rhetoric that is constructive and not divisive, not alienating or discriminating against any one group of people regardless of their personal dispositions.

kalmeda@ramapo.edu

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