On June 21, 1788 ratification of the Constitution was complete. On June 21, 1964 Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were murdered in Mississippi one day after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. 186 years apart, these two seminal events in American history are forever connected. The Constitution established the rights of citizens and the formation and powers of the government of our nascent republic. Over the course of those 186 years, the Constitution was amended to correct a series of omissions most notably the 15th, 19th, 24th Amendments as they addressed the voting rights of all citizens and the elimination of the poll tax. On that faithful date in 1964, these three young men were working for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) attempting to get African Americans registered to vote. The promise of the Constitution and the hope of these young men to establish justice and eradicate subjugation are what American Exceptionalism is all about.
The vision of the founding fathers remains an unfulfilled promise as we face voter suppression activities in Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states seeking to deny that precious constitutionally protected right. And worse, the lives of three young men were violently ended as a result of their peaceful attempts to ensure those rights to all. It saddens me and angers me to witness in this country, this shining light on the hill, cannot conduct free and fair elections, cannot guarantee basic civil rights, and cannot establish justice and promote the general welfare.
So while June 21st typically recognized as the 1st day of summer, it should also be recognized as a day that true liberty loving freedom fighting Americans revere with sobering earnest of an unfulfilled promise. That the desires of many Republican leaders and their corporate backers to arrest necessary social progress is met with such indifference by so many. So I ask that while Americans embark on their summer vacations, barbecues, graduation parties, and beach party bingos, the names of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman stay in your hearts.
“That [Humanism] was the key word for us. And it’s a positive word – not the negative that conservatives have tried to make it. To me, a good Jew is someone who believes in the equality of human beings and reaches out to those in need. That’s what Andy believed-and that’s why he went to Mississippi. Not because God told him to do it but because he believed in human beings helping other human beings.” ---Carolyn Goodman, mother of Andrew Goodman murdered on June 21, 1964 in Mississippi the day after the U.S. Senate passed the Civil Rights Act.