On Thursday, many of us will gather around the table for Thanksgiving dinner. If your family is anything like mine, people will gossip, they'll talk sports and, sooner or later, current events will crop up.
So, what do you do when Uncle Harry blurts out that he's been watching 24 on television and thinks torture and indefinite detention might be necessary every now and then . . . or when your Aunt Lola says the government can spy on her all they want, she has nothing to hide . . .or when someone remembers you're the card-carrying ACLU member in the family and asks you why the ACLU hates Christmas so much.
You could demur and say "I don't think we should get into politics over the holidays." But in my experience, ACLU supporters like you and me really aren't the demurring types.
So, chances are, sooner or later, you'll take the bait and, when you do, you need to be ready with the best arguments. So, here you go. Your Turkey Day Talking Points:
* Tell them torture is flat out wrong, everywhere, and all the time. Tell them waterboarding, which Dick Cheney seems to have no problem with, has been considered torture since the Spanish Inquisition.
* Point out that by justifying and using torture, the United States is turning its back on a long tradition of humane detention and interrogation practices. Our nation was once a shining example for the rest of world, helping to draft the international treaties and laws that banned torture after WWII and offering refuge to victims of atrocities perpetrated by other governments.
* And tell them that, on top of all that, torture doesn't work. It makes people tell their tormentor anything he wants to hear. And tell them that by justifying torture we increase the likelihood that people all across the world -- including American soldiers -- will be tortured.
* Tell them that ending warrantless spying isn't about whether you have anything to hide, it's about whether we should let the government listen to our phone calls, read our emails and invade our privacy without a court warrant. It's about checks and balances. Thanksgiving is about the joy of getting together, but one of our most fundamental rights as Americans is the right to be left alone.
* Remind them that America is a nation of laws and that no one, not even the president, is above the law.
* If the subject turns to the "war on Christmas" that Bill O'Reilly and his cronies claim the ACLU is waging, tell them that the real threat to religious freedom in America is a government that uses taxpayer dollars to promote one religion over another. Religion is the business of families and churches, not government bureaucrats and politicians.
* And tell them that though folks like Mr. O'Reilly and his ilk make hay every December by claiming that the ACLU is against Christmas, we work year-round to ensure that everyone in America has the freedom to practice their own religion (or no religion at all) and to keep the government out of religion.
* And should you get the one question I find the most exasperating of all -- "What can I do about any of it anyway?" -- I'm sure you'll know what to do.
* Then tell them to pass the cranberry sauce and stop hogging the stuffing.
If you want more information and more things to talk about don't forget that our website is always there to help with information and talking points on everything from religious liberty to habeas corpus.