“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home–so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: The neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
On October 16th, 2013, bloggers throughout the world will be post their thoughts on the Blog Action Day topic of Human Rights. I’ve been thinking about what I could possibly say since I signed up to take part. Human Rights. The rights of all humans. The rights you have because you’re human. It seems overwhelming. There are organizations set up to deal with Human Rights even one that’s part of the United Nations, if I’m not mistaken.
Those large organizations deal with modern day slavery of several varieties, indentured servitude, torture, genocides, repressive regimes, starving children, abuses of power of many sorts, bigotry, and hatred. Mankind has not yet left behind its hatred and fear of the different, the non-conforming, the ‘other’.
What can any one human being do to better the world, their country, their community regarding the recognition that everyone has certain inalienable rights that can not be abridged or denied? How can any one person do anything that matters?
This is where we have to read the above quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. We, as individuals, begin with where we live — in our homes, our jobs, our communities. Everyone of us must strive to live as if everyone we meet is a human worthy of respect and courtesy, irregardless of income, skin color, religion, educational level, employment status, gender, or sexual orientation.
I looked up the definitions of Human Rights and found the following:
Dictionary Definition: human rights (noun) fundamental rights, especially those believed to belong to an individual and in whose exercise a government may not interfere, as the rights to speak, associate, work, etc. Also, the rights of individuals to liberty, justice, etc.
Cultural Definition: Freedom from arbitrary interference or restriction by governments. The term encompasses largely the same rights called civil liberties or civil rights but often suggests rights that have not been recognized.
You see the problem with ‘rights’ of any sort is that if they can be taken away, they are not rights. Some people see ‘rights’ as being only for certain people not everyone. But the rights to speak, associate, work, etc. and to liberty, justice, and safety are for everyone. If only one group has a right then it’s not a right — it’s a privilege that only a few possess.
The problem is that many people, who probably should know better, believe that some people are better than others and deserve these rights, and that other people, because of income, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, are somehow lesser beings and should not have the rights and privileges that they have. Your rights are not belittled just because everyone else has the same rights as you do.
I saw a YouTube video last week where actors played the part of an angry bigot and a worker who appeared to be of middle eastern descent in a quickie mart type store. When the store had a few customers the young man playing the ‘bigot’ would approach the counter and demand to be waited on by a ‘real’ American and then berate the young man behind the counter for terrorism, taking American jobs, and not being fit to wait on him. It was pretty ugly. The thing that struck me was that of the six or more times they ran this scenario, only 2 people came up to the ranting young man and asked him to leave because he was disrupting the place and being unAmerican in his behavior. They stood up to him and forced him to back down by saying what he was doing and saying wasn’t right and it belittled the country and him. When questioned about their standing up for the young man behind the counter after they left the store by the director each of them said, “It was the right thing to do and someone had to stand up for him.”
The above is one way that an individual can stand up for Human Rights in their small way in their communities.
When a homeless person stops you in the street, actually look them in the eye and reply in kindness if you can’t afford to offer any assistance. Mostly they want recognition that they exist beyond the help in getting a meal or a place to sleep for the night.
When you see someone being bullied, don’t just turn away, do something. Report it to an authority if you don’t feel comfortable stepping into the situation.
Don’t walk away when someone is being injured, insulted, hurt, abused, or exploited. Try to find a way to help even if that is only reporting the incident.
Make an effort to recognize your own prejudices and biases. I do my best, but I know I have them, and it’s often a constant battle to overcome some of the habits of thought that I’ve fallen into. All humans are equal no matter what they look like. If we were all the same, life and the world would be one heck of a boring place.
Every day, try to treat all those you meet throughout the day as equals who deserve respect and courtesy even if they don’t look or think as you do. (That also includes your family members. And this can be the hardest part of doing your best to support Human Rights.)
Pay attention to politics. Educate yourself on the issues and vote. Recently, the equal pay for equal work bill (Lilly Ledbetter Bill) was voted down in the United States. Also, voted down was the Violence Against Women act. Shouldn’t women as well as men be protected from violence?
Act locally and in your community to make it a safer, fairer, and more egalitarian part of the world. Every act and every action adds up and eventually we will have a world where all humans have equality with every other citizen of the world.
This bill, which is on the fast track to passing in Congress, is so bad for free speech, the freedom of the internet, and the people who use it, that I’m baffled that Congress would even consider passage. But then I remember that Congress thinks pulling Americans off the streets and imprisoning then indefinitely, without knowing what they are accused of or by who was a wonderful enough idea to pass. Does this sound like America to you — well we’re swiftly becoming one of those countries who violate human rights and repress their people.
I’ve already signed petitions and written to my representatives begging them not to pass this legislation. Please join the fight for freedom in America and ask your representatives to vote NO on these two pieces of legislation.
The script that marked this post as censored on Nov. 22 has expired. I’d put up the script to direct readers to sign a petition that would be delivered to congress to express dismay (use stronger language if you wish) that they intended to pass a law that would have taken websites off-line if any one page on the site had a link or info that was considered in violation of copyright no matter whether that link or info was in comments or written by the site owner. To make it even more appalling is would be similar to the take downs currently in place for music and video — no real checks to make sure it was a valid request for removal and very little info on how to get the site restored if the take down was deemed in error. It’s a bad law all around that only works for corporations not for the 99%.
The petition got a lot of attention and now the supporters of the bill are calling it a jobs bill rather than what it is — a censorship bill.
Today, I happened upon a post that had a link to Alexis Madrigal’s story in The Atlantic about The Unknown Blogger Who Changed WikiLeaks Coverage. The article was very interesting and the blogger in question had posted an analysis of some essays of Julian Assange (essays located here in a PDF document). The blogger’s analysis is located in a November 29, 2010 post entitled Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government”.
The blog post was, in my mind, well thought out and expressed very well many of the thoughts that I’d had since this whole thing came to a head and the US government began to act like a petulant child of 2 who was forced to admit he’d eaten all the cookies in the cookie jar. From reading these articles, I can see why the petulant child analogy, while apt, didn’t go far enough. The blogger ends his article with a quote Assage used in his essay. The quote is from Theodore Roosevelt and seems very apt in describing how Congress and our government seems to be REacting to events worldwide.
In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress you may recall the description of the Man with the Muck-rake, the man who could look no way but downward, with the muckrake in his hand; who was offered a celestial crown for his muck-rake, but who would neither look up nor regard the crown he was offered, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor…the Man with the Muck-rake is set forth as the example of him whose vision is fixed on carnal instead of on spiritual things. Yet he also typifies the man who in this life consistently refuses to see aught that is lofty, and fixes his eyes with solemn intentness only on that which is vile and debasing. Now, it is very necessary that we should not flinch from seeing what is vile and debasing. There is filth on the floor, and it must be scraped up with the muck-rake; and there are times and places where this service is the most needed of all the services that can be performed. But the man who never does anything else, who never thinks or speaks or writes save of his feats with the muck-rake, speedily becomes, not a help to society, not an incitement to good, but one of the most potent forces for evil. There are, in the body politic, economic, and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man, whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful… Quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s words from his 1912 Progressive party presidential platform
Occasionally my liberal politics causes me to get very impatient with my government. I used to be so proud of being American, back when the entire country stood erect with joy and pride in our Constitution, or Bill of Rights, and our position of defending the rights of those who had no voice throughout the world. When I was growing up America stood for something. That shining beacon analogy actually had some substance to it.
Over the years, this country — my country — has been slowly becoming greedy, mean, and callous. If it was a person rather than a government, many of us would say its personality has changed and maybe we should test for physical causes. Well it’s not a person but some of the causes are that we’re afraid. We no longer stand tall, we cower in fear that someone might hurt us. We no longer stand up for the rights of others, we don’t even stand up for those who live within our borders. Throughout the land people say, “if they’re not US Citizen’s they don’t deserve the protection of our laws”. In fact, maybe we shouldn’t even let them become citizens if they’re not already because they’re not like us.
People don’t vote as they should. I’m not talking about not voting the way I’d like them to, but not voting at all. Many people pride themselves on not paying any attention to politics because, and this is hard to believe, “their Senators, Representatives, or TV/Radio talk show hosts will tell them what’s important”. Our government is corrupt, if not legally, then morally, when one party holds the welfare of the unemployed hostage while they negotiate getting the richest 2% of Americans a tax break; while contemplating a tax increase on the lower incomes (excuse me it isn’t a tax increase, because it’s only an increase on the tax on gas — the gas everyone must use to get to work and back), raising the retirement age, and cutting medicare spending — we’ve lost our moral center.
Maybe instead of wasting so much time on persecuting Julian Assange and Wikileaks, we should be spending more time worrying about why our country has become so secretive. I’ve seen the reports and looked at some of the documents that were leaked as they were posted. For heaven sakes, the barn door is open, the horses are out, and you’re complaining and playing the National Security card because documents that weren’t exactly flattering to the sender or the subject got published; lists that, if looked at with brain engaged, make the reader wonder what black ops we’re getting into to make that particular site of such importance, got into the ‘wild’.
Every American owes it to their country to read the three articles mentioned at the top of this post, think about them, and then take a good hard look at what’s happening in this country. Then think back over what this country was like in its dealings with its citizens, its neighbors, and the world at large just 10 years ago, 20, 30 or however far back your own memory takes you and then look again at what’s happening now.
At this time of year, it’s important to think about how you live your life and what legacy you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren, or just those who will go on living here beyond your lifetime. Part of that legacy is how you participate in your government and what it does in your name.
What can we do as citizens to make our country one we can be proud to live in?
I found this quote on reference desk:
“But this Veterans Day, I believe we should do more than sing the praises of the bravery and patriotism that our veterans have embodied in the past. We should take this opportunity to re-evaluate how we are treating our veterans in the present. ” – Nick Lampson
It got me to thinking how much we ask of our people in uniform and how little they get in return. Years ago, when I was in college, veterans got practically all of their expenses covered as they worked on their degree — the only requirement was that they attend their classes and get the grades to continue. Now full veterans benefits barely cover anything leaving much of the cost of a college education to be covered by other means.
Even the veterans medical benefits are not as inclusive as they once were. My uncle had quite a bit of difficulty getting coverage for his cancer and related treatments before he died. The Veterans Administration was very helpful in helping navigate the twisted ways of the paperwork to patch together some help for his medical care.
We ask these men and women to step forward and possibly give their lives for us — the ultimate sacrifice that they may be required to give. Yet, consistently our Congress has been reducing the benefits that these people can expect from “a thankful government and people”. I know our candidates talk a good game, but talk is cheap — it’s actual actions that speak to the real priorities.
So, today and throughout the year, remember our veterans and those serving in our undeclared wars — honor them by bringing them home. Their lives shouldn’t be put on the line for less than the safety of the nation — not the safety and convenience of the corporations that sponsor Congress.
NOTE: These are my personal opinions and as such are valid for me. Your own mileage may vary.
Tags: Veterans' Day