The United States entered the turn of the 21st century feeling like it knew what it was doing. Communism had failed in Eastern Europe with little bloodshed; apartheid in southern Africa was overcome by decency; military dictators were appropriately ousted all over Latin American. The rule of law was spreading over the globe as never before. Many dissidents who had previously suffered from breakdowns of the rule of law went from jails into executive power to restore justice before the law. Torture was more of a trait of the struggling, poorer nations than the rich western ones. The Middle East had the attention of the American President. The long war in Ireland was slowly coming to an end.
American apologies for inaction and neglect were given for Rwanda and Bosnia. Some humility, rather than hubris, was showing up in American diplomacy. We had international support. The first war in Iraq had a coalition of some merit.
Artists showed citizen power and citizen leadership regarding many of the disasters in the world. They were using their talent and money to help fight poverty, hunger and human rights abuses. Celebrities were responding to each national and international need as it arose. Americans were a confidant people. Leading the world into a higher respect for the rule of law seemed to be a shared goal with the rest of the world. Primacy of human rights was a key part of US foreign and domestic policy. The future was bright for shared values.The wake up call
Then the Supreme Court decided an American election. Five people with long judicial backgrounds decided they would pick the US president. The Supreme Court thrashed the rule of law in our democracy, which dictates that the majority wins in an election, and the voting of the nation was thrown out. An elite stepped in. Like many historic houses in Washington DC, the house walls of the Supreme Court were separating, splitting and showing wear and tear on the Constitution of this country.
The 9/11 strikes and the war in Iraq have left our country in a much different situation. We now have few, if any, answers to the issues before us as a nation. American credibility in our own system of justice is low due to secret wire-tapping, secret meetings with energy moguls, and the inability to explain our continuation in this Iraqi civil war. Billions of people on all continents question our pro death penalty and pro torture image as a government. They join millions of Americans in asking why or how we got into secret jails, secret torture cambers, secret administrators, and secret surveillance of our own people. We move prisoners from one place to the next, allowing the torturers to go to work. We want gay soldiers to fight but not tell their orientation. In short, we have become a people without answers. And sadly, not a lot of embarrassment about that lack of answers.ACTION: do not vote for a candidate who says yes to torture.A people without answers
Let me list just a few of the answers we lack. We are confused on what to do next in the Middle East. What to do on home security. What to do on immigration. What to do on how to find Bin Laden, though we know what area he is in. What to do for the millions of uninsured regarding health issues, especially the children. We have no energy policy. We have presidential candidates who would torture if they felt the nation were at risk and campaign on that platform. To simply blame all of this confusion on President Bush and Cheney is not enough. But it starts there.
The Democrats believes that it is ‘those guys’. The right, primarily the televangelists, are becoming convinced of the same, but therein lay the problem.
Furthermore, both Republicans and Democrats have candidates with very high negative ratings. The free-for-all for money for the candidates is embarrassing even to donors. Our army is brave and talented but tainted by accusations of torture and gratuitous killings. Our intelligence forces are scared by secret detention centers. The mercenary army that protects the non soldiers to Iraq is not responsible to any one for their killings. Blackwater and its record in Iraq is a black hole of irresponsibility. The Supreme Court is usually five to four, thus representing this deeply divided nation on many key issues like abortion, education, and rights of the detained, death penalty and health care. Abortion is the issue of the right, but they now know that their elected national leaders for 20 years have done very little to deliver anything real approaching their stated goal of stopping any of them. They are disappointed with their party. The Democrats got elected in 06 to stop the war. The war rages on. Independents are growing due to this betrayal. We are a confused nation on most key issues. Both parties are truly elites to their supporters.ACTION: Give only to candidates that you deeply believeConfusion Reigns
Television often follows the life of government and people who have done little for the common good. But it surely has mirrored the government in freezing out human rights issues. Few editorials speak of human rights. Few human rights activists are on television shows. If so, they need a celebrity to reassure the channel that all is well. If one were to look at the 80’s and 90’s for human rights articles and compare those periods to now, it would prove that human rights issues are easily passed over.
The left finds itself trying to stop a war but not ready to solve the fifty years of isolated camps for the Palestinians and safety for Israel. Africa looms into our focus through its own violence and hatred but with little understanding of the decency of most of its peoples and different regions. Asia has the present day Mandela in Aung San Suu Kyi and most Americans do not know her name or even pronounce it correctly. Latin Americans have shifted to the left, fearful of their northern neighbor. China and India took millions of jobs and are growing at a rate three times our GNP. We have few engineers and these nations are blessed with thousands of candidates.
At home, we watch the movie ‘Sicko’, which proves there is no answer for the uninsured, even for the insured at times. Social security may eat the young one-day. China has intimidated businesses to avoid close association with human rights organizations and human right advocates. That is the business deal, unsigned but very real. Millions and millions are poured into large human rights groups all the while the primacy of human rights has disappeared. The clarion call of the United States Congress to have a single standard for human rights has been muffled and submerged. Maybe even forgotten. If there is no massive turnout of demonstrators re torture in the Bush period, will there ever be a public outcry re torture by the American people?
A Coke or a Pepsi or a plastic bottle of water in a gas station costs more than the petrol that comes from far away, deep places and no one notices. Take a look next time when you are refueling and get a handle on the real price of a cola or a bottle of water. We aim at oil barons but not the water and cola barons. The gallon of sugar and caffeine soda from Atlanta is more expensive than the gallon of gasoline. Salt, sugar and cigarettes are killing us but their lobbies are strong and mighty and are generous to the candidates for office. American elections are moving to European type dynasties; we have Bushs, Clintons, Kennedys, Tafts, Chaffees, Sunonos, etc. The rich certainly have done well, along with those powerful families. Billionaires are pushing out millionaires in Aspen. The poor often welcome families falling out of the middle class by the tens of thousands to the lesser life. Is any one watching? Are there answers?
We Americans are governed by confused people. Both parties. Much like the time when FDR came to power. Quiet and real fear is adrift though out the land. We know we need a leader who can move this nation from problems and fears back to solutions and courage. From torture to the rule of law. From gun pointing democracy to international strength built on coalitions and a national unity of purpose. We need leaders who will find a secure path with the like minded to insure the world that the super powers both want human and commercial progress to benefit the majority if not the entire entire world. A president who invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One who has actually read it and wants others to read it as well.ACTION: ask your government to print the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in your passport.Clearing the fog
Simply letting this administration go into a corporate sunset will not clear up the fog generated by this administration. But looking at both parties closely is important to find solutions. Is there a way to secure some assurity that the next president will guarantee a few basic results? Can we find someone who is interested in making the USA do well but also this world of ours?
Looking at the candidates for the presidency of ‘08 demands that citizens seek a person who will seek a break from the past of both parties. The reason is that both parties got us to this point and they both are responsible for the mess. The world waits with trepidation for the next American President. Rebuilding respect for American diplomacy and people will take a long time, no matter the winner of the election.
Since not much is clear re issues with either political party, maybe what we do is ask for a few clearly stated commitments from the presidential candidates. And if these few serious commitments are not completed in their first four-year term, they automatically resign and not run again. Otherwise, any other political promise may seem like the last two terms and then where are we?ACTION: Perhaps five guarantees to ask for might be:
1. health care for all children;
2. an end of the war in Iraq;
3. statehood for Palestine and safety for Israel;
4. printing of the universal declaration of human rights in American passports;
5. guarantee no torture of anyone.
Labels: action, Human Rights, rule of law, USA politics