Last Wednesday, Nov. 7, members of the Northeast Ohio community who could not get enough of the campaign advertisements, debates, and anticipation for the 2012 United States presidential race convened in the Moot Court Room of the Case Western Reserve University School of Law with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio for a public, non-partisan discussion of how the election outcome will affect national security, economic justice, civil liberties, LGBT rights, and drug policy in the country over the course of the next four years.
The ACLU of Ohio’s “Election Dissection” featured a panel of five experts and activists that included Mike Uth, Compliance and Ethics Officer at Progressive Insurance, Erika Anthony, Director of Business Development at Oriana House Inc., John Farina, Director of Development and External Affairs at AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University School of Law professor Bob Strassfeld, and Director of the Social Justice Institute and undergraduate associate professor of history Dr. Rhonda Williams, to lead the open discussion.
“The purpose of the event was to have a discussion on how civil liberties were impacted from the outcome of the election,” said Melissa Bilancini, Policy Coordinator of ACLU of Ohio.
“We tried to get a mix of folks who are advocates but also intellectuals as well to bring different perspectives together on the issues,” she said.
One audience member asked the panel how they think that religion and politics translates to public policy regarding issues like the drug reform and racial inequality.
“There are many different strands of religion, and I think some of them are very helpful in the drug policy,” Uth said.
“Most religions teach us compassion, and I have to say that is one of the number one things that guide us in drug policy,” he said.
“On the other hand, there is also a strain in religion that can be judgmental and confuse people as ‘sinners,’ and we see that operating in the drug policy sphere… I like to emphasize the compassion piece and I think that is what needs to guide us in drug policy.”
Another audience member expressed his disappointment at the CWRU graduate students’ hesitation to openly discuss oppression and social injustice without fear of personal judgment, and the audience member asked the panel how they suggest people “break the wall of silence” for students to feel more comfortable engaging in discussion.
“The only way that I’ve grown and learned about differences, diversity, other conversations, [and] the only way that I’ve gotten any education is when I’ve said something stupid…and I have to trust that it’s a teaching moment,” Farina said.
“I think we’re afraid to offend and we don’t feel like we can trust each other to have a conversation… It’s important to say, ‘I’m willing to learn.’”
Another audience member asked “who is the middle class now?” and how that concept will shape future policies after both sides of the election have been ruthlessly chasing this ambiguous sector of the population, but the panel was reluctant to answer.
The Election Dissection was sponsored by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy at CWRU School of Law, the Lambda Law Students Association, the National Lawyers Guild at the law school, and the ACLU of Ohio.
Founded in 1920, the ACLU is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization with affiliates in all 50 states dedicated to defending and expanding Americans’ civil liberties.