That Human Rights Thing
As Holly Wood observes in her recent post:
Millions of Americans cannot tell you what is contained in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They could not tell you when it was signed. They cannot tell you why it was needed. I wager if you asked most Americans right now, they would not know this document exists.Why does this matter, you might ask? Consider:
According to Article 5 of the UNDHR, torture is recognized as a human rights violation and proscribed by international law. However! America believes itself exempt from the Geneva Conventions. Many Americans plainly do not seem to give a fuck. In fact, consumers of conservative talk radio seem pretty into torture as a weapon in the War on Terror. Perhaps one of the most terrifying historical consequences of 9/11 is that it revealed to the rest of the world how eager and willing a great number of Americans are to disregard the United Nations Human Rights Declaration. And if that was the terrorists’ intention — to make the world see how inhumane we really are — the case could be made that they succeeded.So what can we do? Well:
Today, millions are gleefully campaigning for Hillary Clinton without giving a second of critical thought as to her position as Secretary of State atop a multinational system of torture and state violence. She can run for President because millions of Americans think this is good foreign policy experience that qualifies her for the Presidency. Few Americans seem willing to engage with its objective reality: Hillary Clinton is a profiteer of state torture. Slay, queen.Run that by me again? OK:
The logic of human rights agreements is that when we agree that under no circumstances should a human body be tortured, under no circumstances is the torture of a human body legitimate. No exceptions. Hard and fast. Black and white. Cross your heart and hope to die. This is a promise we make to the world and future generations that torture will be no more. The promise was to never again be as cavalier towards the sanctity of human life as were the Nazis. That was the point of the agreement. No hyperbole necessary.But we freed the slaves, right? Jesus:
According to the UNDHR, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.” Yet, human trafficking persists all over the world. At no point has human slavery ended. At no point has there been a unified commitment to eradicating human slavery, either. Sure, people think human slavery is awful and shouldn’t happen, and yet still it does.Surely, that can't happen here! Right:
As democracies, we could demand that our governments unite in eradicating slavery across the globe. And yet people hear about sex trafficking and child soldiers and somehow their existence doesn’t consume our media attention. We should be hearing stories about Boko Haram every fucking day. But we don’t have to go to Africa to see bondage. Our landscape is littered with cement boxes where the bodies of Blacks and Latinos are caged for years. And in many of these for-profit prisons, they are conscripted to work for corporations such as Microsoft, Quaker Oats and Victoria’s Secret in exchange for what amounts to a tube of toothpaste a week in their hyper-inflated prison economy.At least we got Obamacare! Christ:
This is too complicated. Really:Right now, healthcare is run on a for-profit basis. Health insurance is privatized in America. It is illegal for the government to regulate drug prices. Even executives of ostensibly non-profit hospitals make millions of dollars a year in personal income, wildly stretching the meaning of nonprofit. To put it bluntly:Until we come together to recognize healthcare as a right — not a financial privilege — we are violating a basic tenet of the UNDHR. Many people want to claim healthcare is not a human right but a commodity. But here’s the thing: in the same breath you are saying you don’t care that America is violating the human rights of its citizens to appease Capitalists. That’s what you’re saying. You’re saying Capitalism matters more than this basic human right. You can believe that, but just admit to yourself that you’re that kind of an asshole. Don’t sugar-coat it.
America, the most radical thing we can do is go back and honor our agreements to the world in the UNDHR. They weren’t fancy. They weren’t complex. They were simple promises we made to a world in crisis the American government would be pioneers in modeling good governance for its own people. They were basic tenets of a good society.