Sufferage

On this day of the year, 100 years ago, the U.S. Congress ratified the 19th constitutional amendment. That’s the one that essentially says women are allowed to vote.

I remember as a little kid being amazed that it had taken so long — 130 years — from the time the U.S. Constitution was ratified to the time women got the vote. It seemed like an awfully long time.

As I got older, I came to understand it was even worse than I had thought. Even after the 19th amendment was ratified, millions of women were effectively barred from voting for a long time.

For example, it wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that black women in many parts of the U.S. really got the right to vote, along with black men. Until then, if they tried to register, officials could — and often did — just beat them up before turning them away.

For the first time in 1965, the Voting Rights Act made it a federal crime for state officials to physically beat up citizens or otherwise deter them from exercising their right to vote. It is tragic that we needed that to be stated in a law.

But hey, we live in a tragic world. After all, also on this day of the year, just 30 years ago, the government of another very large nation half way around the world used extreme violence against its own citizens for somewhat similar reasons.

When governments begin to think of their own citizens as “the enemy”, something has clearly gone very wrong.

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