“The times they are a-changing”

Ever since Donald Trump was elected President, I noticed an increase in activism. A day has not gone by in which I am not engaged in conversation about a Trump Policy. I realize that I was not concerned about the position I took or the position of the person I was talking with, but rather I was excited that a discussion was on going. This activism continues in my family when my wife attended a rally in Boston, and my daughter attended a different one. I have taken to writing letters to our elected official, about once a week.

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights addresses five rights. The limits on government interference with religion, speech and the press were the result of the uniquely American experience. The right to peaceable assembly was a needed protection to exercise the first three. The First Amendment’s fifth right will come as a surprise to many. Only 1% of Americans even know that it exists. The Right to Petition was central to constitutional law and politics in the early United States. It is the First Amendment’s capstone: “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people …to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Right to Petition is unknown to most Americans, or, if known, considered to be an extension of the first four rights, and not a right that stands on its own. This ignores Chief Justice John Marshall’s declaration: “[N]o provision of the Constitution was meant to be without effect…” Marbury v. Madison, (1803).

Today, in this electronic world, everyone is aware of how the President can get his message out by a Tweet. However, we, as citizens, have the electronic power as well to get any message we want out there. There is a website which give you instruction on “How to Petition the Government in Under 5 Minutes” (http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/rightsandfreedoms/a/How-To-Petition-Government-Online.htm). If you want to get even more narrow, you can petition directly to the White House (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov). This is a website developed by We the People which “expands the options for contacting the White House and does not displace current official methods of communication, such as mailing or emailing the White House.” On this website are several petitions already and you can just simply join one of them; or alternatively start your own. Even further, you can contact the White House directly through the White House Office of Correspondence, which maintains a contact form and information about communicating with the White House at (www.whitehouse.gov/contact)

How prophetic the words from the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, Bob Dylan: “Come senators, congressmen; Please heed the call; Don’t stand in the doorway; Don’t block up the hall; For he that gets hurt; Will be he who has stalled; There’s the battle outside raging; It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls; For the times they are a-changing.

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