An ACLU Tale
The ACLU usually raises $4 million a year in online donations. Over the weekend, thanks to their going to court fighting the Trump Executive Order on immigration, their online donations were...$24 million. To be very clear, that $24 million wasn't for the past year, it was just over the past weekend. Yes, they raised in one weekend six times what they normally raise in an entire year.
My immediate thought was not what you might probably expect. It was, "I am really glad that I donated to the ACLU last month." That's because when I made my donation in December there had been a little bureaucratic screw-up, and when I called about fixing things, instead of getting a real-live person there was instead a recorded message saying that they had a bit of a backlog since the election, so please be patient and leave a message, and someone would eventually get back to you in a few days. So, it took longer than usual to resolve thins.
Given that they still had a bit of a backup a couple of months after the election from merely a basic increase in donations, I can't imagine how backed-up they'd be now, after this last weekend. If I had waited to donate the money -- not just this week, but anytime for probably the next half-year -- there would likely be an interminable delay fixing things.
(The odd issue was that, because my father had taken out a membership in the ACLU, when they got my application it turned out that our two memberships the organization -- for some reason even they couldn't quite figure out -- got merged. Considering that my father had passed away last May, and I had written them a half-year ago that they didn't have to keep mailing him material, it seemed like something that should be cleared up...
And, yes, now, it is cleared up. and I received the new, correct membership card a couple weeks ago. I can't imagine how long it would have taken if I'd waited!
As an aside -- and it will probably be a long aside -- I was glad to know that my dad had donated to the ACLU. For a long while, he'd had a sort of love-hate relationship with them, which I understood and sort of felt, as well. That's because back in 1977 there was the whole controversy about the American Nazi Party wanting to march in the very Jewish community of Skokie, which was a Chicago suburb fairly close to where my folks lived. They were at first blocked by the city, but the ACLU fought to allow them to march. While my parents completely understood the concept of fighting for free speech even for hateful people, it was still very tough on them to deal with that on behalf of Nazis, whose goal only 30 years earlier, had been the total extermination of the Jewish people. Making it tougher still was that because of the controversy, people with Jewish-sounding last names in the Chicago suburbs were being harassed by anti-Semitic, hate phone calls in the middle of the night, which my folks also got. It was a very visceral time. So, I completely understood the mixed feelings -- and even had them, too. As much as people understood the ACLU's stance, though, they still lost a lot of donations. And it took a while for many people to come back to the fold. So, I was glad to know that my father did.
That dichotomy was difficult for me because I not only had always supported the ACLU, but I'd had a professor at Northwestern I liked who was the Illinois director of the organization. So, I felt a particular closeness to them. Years later, I even got into an argument (albeit a polite one) on a movie set defending the ACLU against three of the producers (one of whom was also the film's director) who were quite right-wing and had been ridiculing the group. Usually publicists don't tell off their bosses, especially when one is the director..., but I fortunately had a good relationship with them all, having worked together over the course of several movies. And as I said the argument was all very polite. And in the end, even if they didn't agree with me, they sort of came across to not thinking the ACLU was worth ridiculing. (I suspect though that that lasted as long as I was around in ear-shot to disagree with them..)
All that aside, as amazing as the numbers are with how much the ACLU raised online over the weekend, it's important knowing that they'd also started having an increase in donations since back in November. So, my guess is that their annual fiscal report this July is going to be quite impressive.
It's needed. An my guess to is that they'll continue raising more more money than usual. And it will be put to good use.
It's not uncommon that we see a news story about some intolerant business that has discriminated against people, and when they're blocked from violating civil rights a follow-up story reports how the store received donations of $100,000 or so to show their support. It's so nice to see the other side of the coin, and not just that the outpouring was for an amazing $24 million (thus far), but for an organization that didn't just refuse to sell wedding cakes or pizzas, but defended those in serious need around the entire country, wherever they were from in world.
You can find them here.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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