Portney’s Complaint

Portneys Complaint

Portney’s Complaint

Devon Portney

One of the major problems in today’s world is that people don’t feel their voices are heard. Each of us often feels that one vote, our vote, won’t matter. The government is so powerful, how can the people ever make a difference?

It was only about one hundred and forty years ago that the uprising of regular people brought about change in this country. The abolitionist movement out of the North eventually brought about the end of slavery and the only civil war this country has ever had. However improperly the freeing of slaves was handled (once the Union left the south it was a racism free for all), it was a monumental event.

Women’s suffrage was born out of the abolitionist movement. Activist women who had been involved in the movement began to talk together and discuss the issue of equal rights with men. Not only did women gain the right to vote, they also stood up to the restrictions on marriage, which made women the property of their husbands.

In the early 1900s laborers worked in the poorest of conditions. Limbs and lives were lost in unsafe machinery, money owed to workers was squandered by their bosses, and people both young and old worked obscene hours for very little money. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants, mostly Eastern European, were arriving daily, and many young women had to go to work to help support the family. The work conditions for these young women were especially poor, and eventually they started a union to fight for their rights.

Unions continued to form throughout the early part of the century, and then exploded during the Great Depression. Those that were fortunate enough to have jobs risked their physical safety on a daily basis, and had to deal with extremely long hours and very little food or sleep (or pay). During the early 1900s and throughout the Depression, labor strikes set new precedents for the work force in this country. Not only did workers strike, they marched, organized, and gained rights that are still in effect today. The labor unions (both men and women’s) were able to gain fairer wages, safer working conditions, and a forty-hour workweek. Eventually, a minimum wage was set, and companies even implemented health benefits.

In the 1960s the country was fighting two wars. The black community was fighting for civil rights, and the military was in Vietnam fighting communism (that’s a loose explanation). In actuality, there was really a third war going on in America. The anti-war movement was a war between the citizens of this country (mostly the youth) and the government that was lying to them.

Initially, the civil rights movement was a group of people rising up to defend their basic human (or civil) rights. This courage and tenacity gave the anti-war movement much of its motivation. The black community (especially in the south) brought their fight all the way to the Supreme Court, and to Congress, eventually integrating schools and passing the Civil Rights Bill in 1964.

Meanwhile, the government was claiming to fight the threat of communism in the Vietnam. They also told the country that we were winning this war. Once the media began to report from the battlefields, the country realized they were being lied to. The public rose up, and although an extremely tumultuous time in our history, it was this public uprising that brought about the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.

The media played an important role in both the Civil Rights and the anti-war movements of the 60s. Unfortunately, their place in society has evolved into something that does not, and cannot serve the public in the same fashion as it once did. I will discuss this in greater detail next week.

But do not ever think that just one vote, one person, cannot make a difference. They, we, you, can. Resulting in momentous change, every generation has had its public outcry. Where is ours?