In 1993, Stevie Wonder said how unfortunate it was that Bob Dylan’s 1963 song “Blowin’ in the Wind” remained relevant 30 years after it was written. Now it’s been 55 years since the song was written, and it still matters today; many people are still being denied their basic human rights, including the right to be who they are.

“How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free?”

Today, we could ask, how many years must an immigrant contribute to this country before they are allowed to be free? When will the LGBT community be allowed to be themselves? How long can some people pretend this isn’t happening to our fellow Americans?

Simon and Garfunkel had a version of “Silent Night” in 1966 that included a news broadcast in the background. Bruce Eder described the song as “a grim comment on the state of the United States in 1966.” It still applies today.

At the time, President Lyndon Johnson had proposed equal access for everyone for every type of housing, but it had no chance in Congress, and everyone knew it. Today still, legislation that promotes equality for everyone has virtually no chance in Congress, and everyone knows it.

In 1966, Nixon urged an increase in the Vietnam War effort and called opposition to the war the “greatest single weapon working against the United States.” Today President Donald Trump claims that any opposition to his whims is the greatest single weapon working against the United States.

In 1971 the Washington Post published the Pentagon Papers, which concluded we could not win in Vietnam. Nixon took the Post to court to prevent the paper from publishing any more of the Pentagon Papers because, in his opinion, a free press that didn’t support his administration was not good for the country.

In 1972 the Post broke the story on Watergate, but since the Supreme Court had already ruled a free press is guaranteed by the Constitution and is essential for a free and fair democracy in the Pentagon Papers case, Nixon tried to use the FBI, CIA and the IRS as political weapons to silence the newspaper and other opponents, claiming that what the Post was reporting about his administration was fake news. Today we have a president who is attempting to silence the press by claiming any unfavorable report on his administration is also “fake news.”

Now in 2018 we have Trump appointing an activist justice who like Scalia who will make decisions based on his personally held religious beliefs.

If Judge Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, we can expect an outright assault on human rights and the separation of church and state. Increased restrictions on abortion. More restrictions on voting rights. Business owners allowed to deny contraception benefits to female employees in the company health plan, and to deny some customers service because of the owner’s religious beliefs. Public schools allowed to hold Christian prayer and teach Christianity in school at taxpayers’ expense. Increased corporate power to influence elections. Reduced environmental regulations.

All of these are ideological and religious agendas designed to favor some groups over others. A truly neutral justice would allow a woman to choose, and every citizen to vote. They’d prevent businesses from discriminating against women and some customers. They’d require medical professionals to provide medical services to everyone, and they wouldn’t allow religion in government-sponsored public schools. They’d let elections be decided by voters, and protect the environment in which we all live.

If you care about your freedom of and freedom from religion, guaranteed to you by the First Amendment, remember in November to vote for candidates who respect the Constitution.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Bayard Rustin, the man who organized the 1963 March on Washington, added, “The proof that one truly believes is in action.”

In other words, as Dylan sang, “How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?”

Tom Waddell is president of the Maine Chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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