Hellen Keller As Founder Of American Civil Liberties Union

Helen Keller was a blind and deaf American educator who despite her disabilities emerged as a significant anti-war activist in the U.S. at the time the first world war was to be fought. Her desire to serve her people led her to be among those who founded the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920. She also helped in supporting groups for other people who suffered from the same disabilities that she did. She worked hard to help raise money and public awareness about these groups. Keller later joined the Socialist Party after which she began to write various works about socialism through which she expressed her strong support for this system and ideology. As expected, Keller, just like anyone else with disabilities, suffered hostility from the public which was also fueled by her political views. As an anti-war activist, her Strike Against War speech at Carnegie Hall that was directed to the working class of America was a way to protest war and a means to convince the American people that there was not a need for the U.S. to join the war.

“The future of America rests on the backs of 80,000,000 working men and women and their children” (Keller 1). Keller believed that the power that America was so confident about lied in the hands of the workers in the farms, factories and basically everyone who was not at the top of the chain. At this time, the government had been making efforts to mobilize civilians with no prior military training to join the war thereby endangering their lives, when they could have avoided the war all together. This was a problem for her because she believed that the only people who were going to benefit from the war were those at the top of the food chain and had investments abroad, while those who put in so much work and effort into fighting the war were at great loss. She called for a revolution and tried her possible best to show the American people that regardless of the government’s tactics and propaganda to get them to join the war, the choice was theirs, and they had the power to refuse and fight against it.

She made claims that opposed everything that the government had made the American people believe about the war. Her claim was that America was barely at risk of being invaded by other countries and America needed to focus on more important matters. From her words, one could tell that Keller believed that the U.S. entering the war was pointless and that they had much more pressing issues to deal with locally than getting involved in foreign affairs. Her opinion was that the war more economic than anything. This was America’s effort to keep its former territories and to gain even more for the purpose of trade and had no intention to protect its people. According to her, it would have been preferable for the government to “drop those islands right now and forget about them than go to war to keep them” (Keller 2). To support her point, she gave examples of wars and the aims of those wars. Some of these wars like the Spanish-American war and the South African war with the common aim of gaining territories to exploit their natural resources. This was the U.S.’ reason for joining the war: to protect its local and international markets.

The propaganda the U.S. used were all tactics and was going to cost the lives of thousands of Americans who agreed to help the war effort on the war front and the capitalists as well as the government knew this and that was why they went for laborers since America, at that time, never really valued workers. Keller believed that workers, being the selfless people that they were, were willing to serve regardless of the unfair treatment that they got because they were told they were fighting for their country. Their focus was to make a living for themselves and were easily stirred in any direction their masters directed. She felt that it was time for the government to put the affairs of its people before anyone else. The real war, to her, was not with other countries but should have been against capitalism and monopolies that were causing people to be exploited. Americans had become foolish all in the name of war, and she needed them to see how unnecessary foreign involvement was.

The solution proposed to ensure the intended safety was for the government to improve the standard of living of its people. Germany was a given example. It did more to ensure that its people were living comfortably, and this encouraged the Germans to do more to protect their country. According to Keller what the American people needed and wanted at that time of their life was “reorganization and reconstruction of their whole life, such as has never been attempted by statesmen or governments.” (Keller 5). This means that in order for the people to be willing and able to protect their country and its borders, the government had to make efforts to get them out of situations that were of great concern to them like feeding, living and working extra hard to make a living for themselves. The only way this was going to be possible was if they demanded for it. It was the duty of the workers to demand better and fairer treatment from the government rather than yielding to their scheme to get them into the war. They owed it to themselves and to everyone who was not being treated fairly, to speak up and advocate for reforms to change the living and working conditions of working-class men. The future of America was going to be determined by whatever decision they chose to make.

Despite Keller’s attempt to keep America out of the war, only a year later the U.S. joined the war that redefined the U.S. in history. Although she had foreseen possible outcomes like the loss of American lives, the war helped the American economy greatly as wartime production and war debts on the parts of U.S. opposition helped to stabilize the U.S. economy thereby leading to the roaring twenties, a period in American history when there was prosperity in every aspect and women finally began to showcase the freedoms and equality that they had spent so much time fighting for. The American people also began to afford a decent standard of living for themselves and their families.

Seeing how passionate Helen Keller was about workers, one would wonder the role labor unions with the sole purpose of fighting for workers’ rights played at this time while one woman took it upon herself to challenge the government and point out its defaults. Although things had not turned out the way she had expected, Keller is still highly recognized today for her amazing work in fighting for women’s suffrage, civil liberties and labor reforms that are evident even to this day.

07 July 2022
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