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Dennis Santiago Headshot

Why the Supreme Court's Ruling Was a Long Overdue Victory for Civil Rights

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This weekend we celebrate our Declaration of Independence, the birthday of a Nation still struggling to explore the meaning of equality and liberty for a plural people so disparate in origin that an entire planet is awestruck that it can hang together at all. Yet on Sunday one of the world's youngest cultures adds another candle to being the oldest contiguous government on Earth.

As the weekend begins I find myself compelled enough to speak out to my fellow Americans to take time to read the Supreme Court Decision 08-1521, MCDONALD ET AL. v. CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, ET AL. I'm troubled because I believe a deeper meaning is being usurped by the rhetoric of the day and something we should all be celebrating is passing us by.

Depending on accounts, on Easter Sunday April 13th of 1873 in the town of Colfax, Louisiana somewhere between 62 and 150 Americans died defending the thought that all of us were created equal. The victors called it a riot. Historical records describe a massacre. But it's what followed that brings us to this week in our history. The murderers got away with it you see. In a convoluted series of legalities designed ultimately to enable the interests of the elites of the day to prevail, the case United States v. Cruikshank held that the United States could not enforce the 14th Amendment to avenge the dead or protect others in the future. It carved away the protections of the Bill of Rights from Americans deemed unworthy. Historians note that this incident short circuited Reconstruction and enabled the perpetuation of state and local segregation for almost another century. As it turns out, it is also one of the pillars of legal theory upon which gun control is based in this Nation. That for the convenience of state and local governance, due process and fundamental rights can be set aside.

This week the U.S. Supreme Court basically said that's bunk. It took one more step in repairing a damage done to our Nation by saying that - convenient or not - the totality of our Bill of Rights and what they represent is of interest to us all beyond the myopia of our conveniences. Whether you like guns or not, on this Independence Day our dead from Colfax shall rest better in their graves in a Nation whose protections are again closer to the dream they died for.

Long live the United States of America!