Over the last week, millions of Americans have been inspired to, in their own way, celebrate and defend what they believe makes our country so…American. I declared that I’d give a dollar to the ACLU for every dollar spent at ricksteves.com on Inauguration Day. A thousand of you responded. And today, I wrote a check to the ACLU for $50,000. Thanks!
On Inauguration Day, we had eight times the normal traffic on our website, as our travelers purchased 305 bags, 901 accessories, 573 books, and 161 DVDs, spending a total of $42,962. (Many more wrote that they were donating directly to the ACLU in response to my challenge.) As promised, I’m matching your collective shopping spree. And, further inspired by the last three days of presidential news, I’m upping it to an even $50,000. Thinking about how the ACLU will use this money to help good people in important ways brings me — and should bring all of us — real joy.
Those of us with passports and who are wealthy enough to travel a lot — especially white, straight, Christian males like me — don’t often think a lot about civil liberties…at least, not in an immediate or personal way. Civil liberties just aren’t an issue for most of us. If a wealthy person is in trouble with the law, he can hire a good lawyer. It’s the poor who are filling our prisons. If I want to smoke pot, no one’s going to arrest me. It’s poor and black people who get arrested, and then disenfranchised. I have a voice because I fit societal norms and I have money. In these greed-is-good days, it’s the poor who have to struggle most for their civil liberties.
Watching our new president declare, “only America first!” — and then thinking about all my friends in Europe who were also watching — perplexed me. (Dutch comedians are joking that they’d be happy to be “The Netherlands second.”) But the next day, seeing the streets of America filled with people in solidarity, all exercising their right to free expression, inspired me.
Thanks again to all who joined us in making this collective statement. And let’s remember that for those who believe in civil liberties, the ACLU is not a charity…it’s a service. It’s doing our work, and it deserves our support.