Not at all. That’d be great actually, go right ahead. I just ask you let me know if you do in fact end up using it somewhere.
Not at all. That’d be great actually, go right ahead. I just ask you let me know if you do in fact end up using it somewhere.
The big day is finally here in Iowa. After a somewhat late night conversing with the beat reporters, pretending as though I belonged amongst them, I rolled out of bed a little groggy this morning. However the excitement of the political theater that awaited quickly energized me. In the hotel lobby, Mitt Romney volunteers conversed calmly over breakfast while the news rolled out analysis of what the end of the day would bring. Everywhere you looked you were surrounded by caucus talk. That is, until you stepped out the hotel doors where those Iowans encountered showed little interest in their national spotlight. The stock the national media puts on Iowa is shocking, given the fact that in 2008 Republicans set a new record of only 21% party participation. That involvement is only 4% of Iowa’s population, such a small number for the nation to be focused on.
My friend and I headed to a high school where candidates where making a petition to win over first time voters. Whether or not this was helpful is debatable. It seemed to be more a final big press conference, especially considering that when the Secretary of State asked who out of the students in attendance were going to participate in the caucus only about 25 out of 800 raised their hands. Michelle Bachmann was the first to the stage. For under 10 minutes she explained the complexities of what an iPhone does and told the students that her tax plan would allow the students to wildly succeed in the business world. Throughout her time on stage Bachmann never caught on and she had to resort to a rally cry in support of the school’s mascot to earn any real applause.
A representative from the Obama campaign followed Bachmann and while she provided one statement supporting the President’s reelection campaign, she spent nearly the entire time giving a pep talk to the youth in attendance. Avoiding partisan talk, the organizer told the crowd that they hold immense stock in this and all elections and motivated them to develop a habit of participation in civil discourse.
Mitt Romney didn’t come to the school after his earlier rally, but four of his sons were present. Two spoke and took the opportunity to present more campaign points than other candidates were willing to do in front of the student audience. Again, the audience was less than enthused. Still, the students seemed more at ease with the confident Romney than Bachmann. The Romney’s talked up their father and attempted to critic Obama in the most polite way they could.
After a wait, Santorum came to the stage. His speech was notably better than the one presented during yesterday’s visit to the Altoona Pizza Ranch, but he too found it difficult to relate to the students. He provided a story about his immigrant grandfather and father and reiterated the importance of focusing on the family. Before stepping off the stage, Santorum presented an argument that perhaps only high school students would believe. To the former congressmen, Obama is attempting to build the country from the top down. Presumably Santorum was talking about the roll of government, but it created a strange juxtaposition especially coming from a trickle down economics candidate.
Lastly, Ron Paul took to the stage and finally the gym was filled with real, enthusiastic applause. Paul touted his Kelly Clarkson endorsement, although he said beforehand he wasn’t really familiar with the artist. Paul didn’t seem aware of a lot of things, including the reason young people support him. To him, it must be because they love the Constitution. Those students interviewed didn’t really know why they supported him either. When asked, they gave answers that almost always boiled down to the uniqueness of Paul in comparison to other Republican candidates. However vague this assessment may be, it is certainly true. Nonetheless it is probably equally true as Tagg Romney alluding to the fact that Mr. Paul is an unelectable candidate. Unelectability aside, Paul was very comfortable with the crowd. Whether his youth appeal helps him we shall see, but it seems unlikely to have a great impact considering the likelihood of youth participants come caucus time. It is a good sign however, as Paul and Romney continue to provide the only excitement I have encountered on the trail.
Upon the end of the event, students were left without what may be the most important issue to them. Not a single candidate mentioned anything about making college more affordable. In fact, it was a student speaker who spoke the most on the importance of college. All candidates focused on post graduation jobs, but the candidates did not touch on the issue that gave Obama much of his support from young voters in 2008.
Notably missing was Perry and Gingrich, but that doesn’t mean Iowans aren’t hearing about them. Perry continues to flood the airways in Iowa and Gingrich has been on nearly every news network; interviews being about all his campaign can afford.
Iowans are almost ready to begin discussion at their caucus locations, and results are still up in the air. I can’t say that being here has made me any more aware of the potential winner, but it has allowed me to experience a process that seems more important to the reporters following the candidates than the Iowans participating.
Still, I feel like I should offer my prediction for this event which we shall all forget about one week from now. Romney will hold on for a slight victory, even if many people are ‘settling.' Paul comes in a close second. The ol’ doctor could come in first if turnout is high, leading more young voters and independents to caucus. Santorum has peaked and third is where he’ll end up. His only hope for being top dog is if his supporters sway Bachmann and Perry backers to his side as the viable social conservative. Fourth belongs to Gingrich and fifth to Perry, both of whom who will fight on. Last goes to Bachmann and it will be interesting if she continues to stay at the race, which will undoubtedly hurt her brand.
I’ve left for Iowa for a couple days to follow the Iowa caucus on the ground. Yesterday, was packed with candidates flooding in on the eve of the caucus. Here’s what we know so far: it’s a three-way dead heat with many who are still unsure. Traveling with another political junkie, we made our way into Des Moines and instantly headed into the Marriott Hotel where Ron Paul was holding a rally.
Mr. Paul ended up providing the most substance of all the candidates we encountered today. The room was packed, but it is likely that there were just as many reporters and crew as there were supporters. The demographic was very broad with a strong showing from those 25 year old and under. These youths, however, seemed very skewed towards high school students instead of recent college graduates. Their main agenda was drug legalization, and they didn’t seem to care about too much else.
This may seem overly simplistic and unfair, but it is doubtful that these supporters (or any Ron Paul supporters) truly understand the horrible implications of Paul’s economic plan to return to the gold standard and eliminate a multitude of government agencies. Nonetheless, Paul should be commended for offering his political agenda, something candidates would avoid throughout the day.
Next it was Michelle Bachmann. Bachmann gave the crowd and I little besides providing me with the first installment of my “bad face with a bad candidate” photo. Her aides (what’s left of them) made sure we knew that she wouldn’t be taking any questions. In fact, initially they corralled myself and others from the media behind the counter of the diner we were at, a possible ploy to keep us away from Bachmann rather than to give us a better option for pictures as was stated.
All Bachmann offered was"Hi’s" and “How are yous?” Before stepping out she did offer one last jab to Obama and plea to supporters. Bachmann has promised to continue on to South Carolina and New Hampshire, but the congresswoman’s face appeared tired from the campaign.
Lastly, we stopped at a Pizza Ranch where Santorum was making his 36th stop at the chain and 380th overall stop in Iowa. The former Congressmen actually gave a speech, but it ended up doing nothing except setting Santorum up as the candidate of contradiction.
First, when comparing himself to other candidates he was quick to point out the faulty pasts of his competitors. He then backtracked and conceded that he has made many mistakes in the past. But don’t worry, Santorum promises that while his mistakes were aplenty, he never strayed from his convictions.
You see, Santorum thinks we need to forget about moderates in the Republican party. The GOP needs a real conservative like him, one who won’t concede on right wing principles.
Santorum believes this, except when asked about how he’d get Congress to work together. If elected, he says he’d do what he thinks the President hasn’t, find common ground with all Representatives. You must use common values, says the former Congressman. I wonder how easy Democrats would find it to come to a common ground with Santorum?
What else does Santorum think Obama did wrong? Well, the President has been too divisive according to him. Santorum obviously doesn’t consider his earlier critiques of his GOP counterparts or his attack on moderates as divisive, because after all that only applies to the President. However, if you’re sick of hearing Santorum rant about Obama, don’t worry, if elected he won’t ever say the President’s name.
Overall Santorum gave a vastly simplistic speech. He seemed overwhelmed with his new found success. After all, in this side show of a primary everyone gets their turn as the front runner. While Santorum left I was able to grab the second installment of the “bad face with bad candidate” photo and that remains the highlight.
I didn’t discover anything new from these candidates. Ron Paul certainly provided something the other candidates didn’t, that is substance. Michelle Bachmann continues to push a fantasy where she can return to the top after her dramatic fall after the Iowa straw poll. Lastly, Santorum offered nothing except contradictions and an appeal for Iowans to be bold.
Being bold is something I recommend for Iowans as well, but its a different boldness than requested by Mr. Santorum. What I already knew going into Iowa is further ingrained in my beliefs after today. Once the caucus is over the best thing for Iowans is for them to be bold and overlook the radical conservatism that will serve only as a means for our country to take a step back. Rather, Iowans, like all of us, must look forward to real solutions, something I heard very little from my interactions with the candidates.
Stand With Randy at the Zoo Bar. Such diverse crowds. This is not a political issue, it’s a peoples’ issue. Nebraskans don’t want the pipeline. Tell TransCanada NO!
Africans Stand With Randy-Antelope Park. Amazing and sad to hear how big oil ruined their countries in Africa, so glad to have their support.
As a follow up to my last post, here is an article that provides a good example of someone who believes they hold a responsibility to advocate for someone whom they feel has had their human rights taken away. World re-renowned artist, Chaz Guest, is using his ability to reach many people in bringing the story of Troy Anthony Davis to the forefront of his art. Davis’s guilt is looking much less likely or certain since his punishment was given 20 years ago. Seven of nine witnesses have recanted their original statements. Guest is admirable in taking this case to another level of salience.
While we may not all have the ability to make a movie about human rights, the point is that we should do what is within our means. Amnesty International has done a great deal on Davis’s behalf. In fact, I believe Amnesty International is a fine example of what is within each of our means. We can all send a letter, and as is the case for much action that will take place because personal responsibility, results will be seen when we take action collectively. We can all do that through membership with A.I. Let’s hope that we can all keep a focus on human rights after this class is completed.
As our human rights class draws to an end we are discussing the problems that face America in regards to human rights. America is not perfect (see: the debate on the Patriot Act), I think most of us realize that. We are all responsible to promote human rights in our country and abroad.
Small, personal action is where the future of human rights in this world lies. America, and the hypocrisy many countries are quick to point out, is going to have an increasingly difficult time in spreading what we regard as essential human rights. Cultural relativity is going to come further in play as the divide between the U.S. and some Arab nations grow. Influence on behalf of nations will continue to diminish as small states try to grow their interest and expand economic prowess at the expense of human rights.
While there is certainly some effect that will come out of interventions on the scale of Libya, it is not feasible for us or other Western nations to intervene at all times. However, this doesn’t mean that human rights are doomed to fail. By examining improvements around the world in the last 50 years, we can be confident the failure or the diminishment of our human rights is not imminent. There is much that can be done through the actions of a small group of people. Often times this will start with making the lives of those abused better by any means. Whether this is by donating food or even grander actions, we have the power to create the foundations on which human rights can begin. I have friends that are in Mali now, getting ready to add solar panels onto a hospital. These solar panels will allow the hospital to function and serve the many villages that surround it. With a society that is better taken care of, I believe they will be more inclined to claim their human rights and without a claim by its citizens, a nation is not likely to grant rights. The World Energy Project is a good example of what is necessary to promote the well-being of all people. We discussed how well-being is essential in developing the human rights of a populace. People may not even know or consider it possible for their lives to improve. The very existence of human rights is far from their minds. It doesn’t take much for us to help them realize their lives can be better.
It is this same effort, this personal responsibility, that will force us to stay vigil on human rights in the U.S. Without this personal responsibility we make ourselves susceptible to a gradual slide into a less free society. Throwing out the arguments of increased surveillance or other fears of an expanding government, we should also focus on the improvement of the lives of the downtrodden in the U.S. We should hold the lives of everyone in high regard, and we cannot overlook the fact that there is a growing gap between our social classes. Personal action is what it will take to help these people in America as it is with the poor around the world. No government program will completely solve the problem. Perhaps I am providing an ideal view of the future. It is not likely that we will all become philanthropists, but we can hope that through the years more and more of us will feel the need to speak out, give money, give effort, do anything to help those around the world. This assistance is the first step in an array of goals we should have for the world, including the advancement of human rights.
This blog gives you a chill at times as you read accounts from Vernon Evans, a Maryland death row inmate. He is convicted of two murders, but consistently proclaims innocence. This claim could be related to our discussion in class where we discussed death row as a way for inmates to deny their guilt as they fight against the state as a victim. Still, we acknowledged our court’s system of being wrong, so maybe he is indeed innocent. Regardless, this blog offers a chilling account of a man on death row. Readers can present their questions to a friends of Vernon’s who then passes the message on and Mr. Evan gives honest, often times heart felt, answers.
Vernon gives this account in the latest post,
Life in prison is a slow death, but at least if you take that slowness and create something good, it will always in my opinion be better than the death penalty. You cannot atone from death but you can make a difference alive.
While reading this post it is very difficult to view Vernon Evans as a monster. His humanity and sincerity is often times felt. I can’t make an inference on his guilt or innocence, but I can certainly see that this man has a right to his life. Mr. Evans hasn’t posted in quite awhile, but he is still alive after his execution date was postponed while Maryland legislature approves new execution procedures. This is an interesting perspective that promotes unique and different feelings towards the death penalty debate than you may previoiusly have considered.
Many questions came to mind when I read this article. As it stated, girls could be being tricked into pregnancy and other girls may be searching for an option after being impregnated by a boyfriend. Other girls may seek pregnancy for the monetary gain of giving their child away. In either cases, the issue here is human trafficking. One is not able to infer if the babies are being sold into dangerous situations or wealthy families (as it is noted that the babies go for as high as $6,400). If that is the case, that the babies are being sold to families who desire a child (as opposed to going through an adoption process) is this something we are willing to be OK with?
Abortion is illegal in Nigeria, the punishment is not specifically outlined in the article but we can infer that it is harsh for the women of Nigeria. Are these trafficking centers that take these babies that may otherwise be aborted on the black market and gives them to desiring families while also providing money to the mother an ‘evil’ we are willing to accept? Is it even an evil at all, there are surely worse things that could happen; and after all is this not simply capitalism?
It’s obvious we shouldn’t be satisfied with unregulated movement of children and babies. Official adoption centers (what the leader of this center claims it to be) must be well regulated with proper medical care for the mothers. It is likely that there are cases when babies are not sold to favorable families or conditions. Therefore, an appropriate method would involve screening the receiving families. As it is however, I believe this is not an issue that deserves to be put to the top of the bill in concern to human rights in Africa. It doesn’t appear that many girls are being treated inhumanely, but as long as the rumors of tricking young women to bear children exist than this issue must be examined. Still, I believe issues such as FGM and proper granting of rights to protesters are more important. What do you think? Is this something we can overlook for awhile so long as attention is paid to other issues we deem more important? Or should any trafficking, no matter to what end, be stopped immediately and not tolerated?
Immigration, no matter where it lies on the list of priorities for the government, will always to a degree be a salient issue. This is due to multiple factors; one, immigration has played a very beneficial role in the development of our nation from the beginning. Secondly, these benefits are rarely acknowledged and any negatives that may exist are heavily blown out of proportion. Most people hold deeply ingrained attitudes towards immigration and do little to seek out information which may broaden their perception. Immigration debates have included the same critiques throughout the years, with arguments being modified to fit the present time. There a host of claims, but for the sake of being concise this analysis will focus on the claims of negative economic impact. Also, important is the explanation of a possible underlying cause to this argument. Is the claim of economic instability, broad and unspecific in nature, just a front to what are merely anti-immigration feelings?
Naysayers towards pro-immigration legislation often site the negative economic impact that would result in the further influx of immigrants. Furthermore it is argued that the amount of illegal immigrants are a giant burden on our economy, draining public resources and benefits while not equaling the consumption with their benefit to the economy. Studies done by Hainmueller and Hiscox analyze survey data on public opinion to highly skilled and low skilled immigration. It was found that responders at all levels of education supported increasing immigration for highly skilled immigrants, in comparison there was opposition for an increase in low skill labor with opposition becoming stronger as the education level for respondents decreased. This can be explained through multiple avenues such as less educated opinions and inferred fear of competition for the same jobs current low skilled citizens will be seeking. It is my opinion that attitudes towards low-skilled immigrants are strongly associated with illegal immigration. Yet in consideration to the complete immigration impact, both illegal and legal, are Americans and its economy benefiting or hurting?
It is likely that very few Americans have personally been negatively affected by immigration and there are likely benefits that have went unnoticed. Indeed there surely exist examples where immigration and illegal immigration are the direct cause of a native citizen loosing or being unable to get a job. However, when the economic negatives are compared equally to the unrecognized benefits, we get a different picture of immigration, specifically in the case of undocumented workers. To be brief, I concede there is a level of tax evasion by illegal immigrants. But, there is also a sizeable amount of taxes collected via fake social security numbers for social security, Medicare, and state sales and property taxes. This is millions of tax dollars being paid by illegal immigrants, but this information rarely finds a spot in the political discourse.
The argument of lowered wages is valid to an extent. Yet again, counter arguments explain an unlikelihood of filling immigrant jobs with native workers and highlight the benefits of lowered goods and services by means of cheaper labor. The point being, the debate is rarely cut and dry. One cannot merely assume that the presence of low skilled and undocumented immigrants present only a blight on the U.S. economy. Indeed they provide a benefit and to some extent are vital.
Are these claims of economic disadvantages the main cause of immigration opposition? Or, is this a common theme, a tool, used to hide what may be a more complex hostility to the issue? For many, it is a fear of the perceived changes that are occurring in their communities, a fear of the loss of cultural hegemony. This claim is ingrained in many by the racial concepts we create. At the moment much negative immigration sentiment is aimed at Hispanics. The reasons vary, but spring from the fact that Hispanics hold a majority of those entering the country and are strongly associated with illegal immigration and lower skilled labor. J. Celeste Lay in It’s Always About Race describes how the economic threat is a second expectation preceded by the perceived power threat of a different culture. What I am arguing is that even pointers to economic threat often have feelings of intolerance to immigration and openness to change. Many proclaim that immigrants should be reduced or disallowed because it is hurting the economy, disallowing them to find a job or making their overall quality of life harder/worse to some degree. These arguments are eagerly consumed by members of the public as they would rather describe economic dissent than, “I don’t want my child to attend school with a bunch of Mexicans, Chinese, or Cubans.” Few want to relate how they are uncomfortable that their community now appears different with the addition of immigrants. It is the observed change in the racial makeup of a community that will cause a person to find an avenue in which they can oppose immigration without acknowledging or admitting to having racial undertones to their opposition. It seems that a rational and factual approach to the immigration debate can only begin with the advocacy of others, those people who choose to see the complete picture and are willing to bring their understanding to a public that may not be welcoming. Perhaps there will be a political figure whose bravado and charisma will bring this rationale to the greater masses. However, ideologies and partisan binds hold strong. Reducing the polarizing nature of the immigration debate will come from personal responsibility of those who recognize it and whom feel it necessary to combat it.
Hainmueller, Jens, and Michael J. Hiscox. “Attitudes toward Highly Skilled and Low-skilled Immigration:.” American Political Science Review Vol. 104, No. 1 (2010).
Fix, Michael E., and Jeffrey S. Passel. “Immigration and Immigrants: Setting the Record Straight.” Urban Institute (1994).
Lay, J. Celeste. It‟s Always about Race: Tolerance for Immigrants in Small Towns Undergoing Rapid Diversification. Tulane University, 31 Mar. 2011.
I’m sure many of you have seen this. But definitely worth another watch.
I wouldn’t say I have an uneasy or woozy stomach. I’m able to tolerate the most gruesome of horror movies and frequently mock the over the top blood sequences. I can view any television or reality show about the E.R., and watch as patients undergo graphic surgeries. I don’t necessarily always enjoy watching these things; they are not my most desired form of entertainment. Point being, I am able to watch them and do so unshaken.
However, in the pieces we had to read for class on female genital mutilation I frequently could feel the color washing away from my face and I felt my stomach turn. I knew the practice was gruesome. I realized it condemned women to a horrific practice. Yet, I didn’t comprehend just how horrible the practice was until reading in detail about it. I was appalled. I was nearly sick.
This is about the best example of sentimental education I can think, as it is a personal realization. I have been horrified while learning details of genocides and persecution before. But nothing struck a feeling like this. In part, I believe, because many previous violations of which I have learned of where of the past. Furthermore, I think I have usually have felt that the matter is receiving attention if it is a current one. I feel that while horrible, the world is paying attention and will see to it that it is stopped. This is a selfish and irresponsible thought, I would certainly agree, but nothing has seemed so ignored to me before as FGM. Perhaps what makes it worse is that many of the accounts that we read were full of people being exposed to the horror and giving neither the necessary attention nor assistance required.
The class read a piece by Sheryl McCarthy, in it she quoted Nancy Kelly as stating,
“Historically, the notion of what persecution is has been defined by what happens to men. What happens to women is different, because these things are gender related, and because the persecutor is usually not the government, they’re considered cultural.
I was very interested in the cases of asylum for female genital mutilation and the way in which judges ruled on them. Cases against granting asylum certainly fall straight into the relativist way of approaching the issue. As McCarthy notes, FGM has been around since the 5th century B.C.E. and is still practiced in 30 African countries. It is easy for a judge to make an argument of cultural relativity. The practice is certainly ingrained within many cultures. Women may grow up knowing they will be subjected to this, but surely none desire it. Judge John Gossart Jr. stated in regards to an asylum case for a female from Sierra Leon that while the victim couldn’t change the fact she was a women, she could change her tribe and customs. Relativist arguments like these are insignificant because they fail to do exactly what a real relativist should do, consider all the cultural factors. If Judge Gossart Jr. did this he would realize it is not so easy for women to cut ties with their tribe. They will seek, find, and possible murder her if she stays in the country.
Dawit and Mekuria present a piece calling for the Western World to take a step back and let Africa deal with the problem of female genital mutilation. Yet, I don’t see how it is possible to do so after a sentimental education like the one I feel I experienced. Yes, we must approach the matter with respect to the region, but I feel that while I may not be able to travel to Africa I must call further attention to this matter. Greater masses from outside of Africa must call for the immediate halt of this action. Anyone not so sure of this, do a little reading. Oh, and if you’re a male, do read the analogy of what the process would be like if applied in a similar fashion to male genitalia. Everyone, women and men alike, should already find FGM atrocious, but see if that parallel doesn’t make your stomach turn.
Many of you have probably read the book or seen the documentary Gun, Germs, Steel. If not, here is a review from our wonderful friends at Wikipedia.
Jared Diamond argues quite convincingly that it wasn’t superior inherent intelligence that let to the dominating societies of Europe. However he describes the many factors that allowed European cultures to make grand developments. In some ways Europe lucked out in terms of geography and available resources and in other ways European cultures had negatives that forced them to develop necessary means of survival. Diamond isn’t without critics, many of whom state he doesn’t give necessary attention to the successes of the Middle East and Asia. While there are valid claims against his points, Diamond’s Pullitzer Prize winning book has more fans and has earned more praise than critique.
If this is true than any society would have experienced similar developments in society and technology given the same factors that pertained to the European, and later North American cultures. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the road to European based dominance was the right road, but certainly it seems the most advanced. I think you can then apply this to human rights. If, given the same or similar factors, non European based cultures and societies would have created a culture that would foster similar human rights sentiment. Much of the societal advancements of the European nations were from the abundance of resources and ability to focus on other things. If a society doesn’t need to worry about food or whether they have the necessary means to survive through the week then more devotion can be placed on promoting other ways to benefit their life. People are much more willing to endure certain violations if it means that they are going to have a way to eat. A more nourished, satisfied, and one could even say wealthy, a society is the more apt they would be to claim other human rights.
So if our stance on human rights developed from the advancements our societies have achieved, at least I am going to theorize that it is the most advanced. I believe this caveat allows us to say that rights are universal. Certainly we must analyze a countries state, especially economically, and then change our demands accordingly. Nonetheless, to theorize that any society would achieve similar successes to that of Euro-based societies given the resources it means they would also create a similar stance on human rights.
You can argue for a relativist position by saying that we cannot hold a society to our same standard if they are not similar in economics and resources. However, these countries strive to improve economically and it as it has been described how many leaders desire Western conveniences and luxuries all the while denying a duty to enforce certain human rights they deem ‘Western' because of their culture. Developing cultures also frequently state that they should not be required to follow environmental standards because Western nations did not when they had industrial revolutions. Still, during these industrial revolutions slow changes were beginning in our countries stances on human rights and we should require these nations to continue to improve their guarantee of human rights while they develop.
Many, I assume, would say that Diamonds book lends more to a relativist argument as it is well stated that all regions of the world were not given the same conditions and/or advantages that Europe had in developing its societies. I believe Guns, Germs, and Steel offers more to the universalist argument. A Wester nation has been the world super power for centuries, and I believe our successes (and our slow successes in human rights) show that we have the most advanced and therefore correct view on human rights. We should hold a subjective view in advocating for human rights and while we must consider how harshly we require some nations to apply human rights we must at least make it known we require them to work to secure rights to every citizen.
This article at times seems to mock some European leaders for being so quick to offer praise and indicate that Serbia was on the fast track to E.U. membership. While many things will need to be considered in regards to Serbia’s membership, this is a good indication of the soft power that the European Union has. Despite the financial problems of many of the E.U. countries and the state of limbo the euro is in, the E.U. has effective soft power mechanisms in its arsenal. Whether this is used for debate on a country’s membership or if it is through pressure on an already member country by the others, we can hope that we are transitioning to a future where greater cooperation between nations increases leveraging power where hard power is not necessary. That time is obviously not here now as it was deemed necessary to attack Libya.
Granted Serbia is not like Libya. But one could suppose that the path Serbia has taken to this point is a possible route that may suite Libya. The persuasive successes of the E.U. should make us more supportive for the African Union and any other regional cooperation (granted we perceive them as supportive of human rights) that exist or may begin in other areas of the world. This article points to other troubles that exist with Serbia, including Kosovo and the fact that many Serbs resist actions that Serbia is “conceding to much to the West.” Opposition to the West is very evident in other areas of the world, such as the Middle East, but maybe events passed in Serbia offers hope for Mid-East nations. We can then ask a question in the universalist/relativist debate. Will successes in soft power only come as the West spreads its influences? Perhaps the only successful African Union we would designate would be one that mirrors the European Union. We must continue to debate what issues we are will to tolerate and which we will work to eliminate. The E.U.’s continued pursuance on Mladic, at the very least, shows that we will never tolerate genocide no let an offender be forgotten.
Should we consider India guilty of human rights violations? There is a quote that says India’s poverty line more equals a “starvation line,” in this article. In comparison to other countries in the third world, India’s poor would be very similar. However we cannot offer large resources to every country with low poverty standards. Nor can we pressure a large range of rulers as effectively as we can target one. So do we hold India to a higher standard as their upper class continues to grow along with India’s ever expanding economy? Or is this level of poverty and offenses against the poor a human right we are willing to overlook? While it is understandable that genocide would be first issue on the table, is it not to much to compare the large factions of unassisted poor a less obvious form of genocide? I believe while there may be other priorities, this is an issue that deserves universal attention because left alone it is liable to spread and cause large scale starvation. Is this an issue that we consider human rights related, or an economic factor that should be left the human rights sphere of debate?
This is an interesting article about Robert Gates’s farewell address. Much of it has to do with what the author’s, and so he would argue Gates’s as well, notion that the U.S. involvement abroad will and must shrink. He presents two things that I think are important to the debates in our class.
One: will a lessoning U.S. force and military leadership abroad cause the UN and ICC to grow in power and action? Or will it leave the world void of leadership, where countries’ rulers are allowed to act uncontested in violation to citizens? Such a void would grow the relativist argument on human rights, but I hope it leads to a more universalist one. We have seen how soft power can lead to ICC successes, and perhaps with the U.S. playing a downgraded role (especially in terms of hard power), we will see greater collaboration within the UN in stopping these atrocities.
The article also points to a point that is often brought up today. To what extent has our involvement in foreign wars forced us to strip funding away from domestic programs? Has our education and healthcare system suffered? If so we must make a hard decision in our foreign policy. Undoubtedly Americans hold a higher standard of living than most of the world. Even our very poor are better off than the poor of other nations. Should we then focus on elevating the human rights of other abroad when they lack the basic rights of freedom of choice, life, and liberty? Or should we focus on improving American lives with rights that are not seen as basic as the rights others around the world have withheld from them. Healthcare doesn’t even have consensus on being a human right.
I believe that we should continue in our pressure of foreign governments in allowing basic human rights. However, we have a duty to our citizens first and foremost and to me, education and certainly health care are rights belonging to Americans. These rights are not universal yet, I simply find it unfeasible for them to be. We will win few arguments if we say we desire every human to have the right of choice and a right to their own lives, but then tack on healthcare and education as required as well. Demands like this will prove unsuccessful in countries that lack the necessary resources. We must take the appropriate small steps first. I hope for a future world where these are considered universal for all. Yet, for the time being we should take the first steps in making this happen by ensuring these social rights to Americans.
Rorty explains well in Human Rights, Rationality and Sentimentality that he holds an evident subjective view of human rights and in his opinion it is much more efficient for us to decide how best to spread human rights instead of debating where we get them. It is useless, he contends, to decide what rights are universal; rather we are much better suited to opposing human right violations that are obvious to us all and then trying to return or bring human rights to the violated region.
How we do this, explains Rorty, is by making these violations known to those who believe the rights to be precious and belonging to every human. You must then make these people passionate in their opposition of these violations, hopefully then creating action that increases the pressure on the violators to stop. This isn’t easy, but it is feasible. Furthermore it is complemented by the studies and theories of others in applicable cases.
In one period we discussed the phenomena of cognitive dissonance, loosely defined as views contradictory to one’s actions, or holding and believing two contradictory views . Most who have researched, including the leading theorist Leon Festinger, agree on some ways to dispel cognitive dissonance. Festinger writes (A theory of cognitive dissonance, 1957) about the actions someone with a cognitive dissonance may do to reduce or rationalize their dissonance. Such justification is explained when “the preaction or prediscision situation will be characterized by nonselective seeking of relevant information.” Meaning that you readily consume information (although he later relates, all the while knowing it to be false) that reduces your dissonance. Example: Someone who supports freedom and liberty for humanity but holds slaves. They consume information and opinions that say that in some manner slaves aren’t human and therefore not deserving of freedom and liberty. Many would agree that those who advocate for human rights yet do nothing to help or acknowledge those who don’t have them may seek information to justify this. They may say it is not in their culture therefore we should not force our own beliefs. Or they may simply consume information that makes it easier for them to disregard and forget about the issue.
So how to solve this? Studies by social scientist Elliot Aronson (1991, 1992, 1995) showed that a group exposed to their own hypocrisy (and usually how it may affect others) were much more likely to change their view and continue with their new belief than the control groups of the experiment. Essentially this means, according to the theorists, that people change their view to be less hypocritical when forced to realize it, this is because seeing their hypocrisy lowers their sense of self worth. Rorty essentially stated the same thing when he spoke of the importance in seeing the similarities between ourselves and others thereby outweighing the social differences. This ability to relate would then cause us to care about more and oppose human rights atrocities. Change then can only come when the violations are realized.
Cognitive dissonance also theorizes how people are more willing to accept the information that exposes their hypocrisy when they have social pressure, especially by those immediately around them. If society will scorn them for holding this hypocrisy then they will change and dispel their dissonance because we all want a positive self concept so we avoid the embarrassment by conforming. So to does this relate to the subjectivist point on human rights. If more and more people care it will become expected to care and those who don’t will be pressured by society to do so.
The subjectivist views on human rights, especially the ones in Human Rights, Rationality and Sentimentality, are indeed related to cognitive dissonance theory. This is completely understandable as you could probably argue that when we advocate for human rights in this country and then allow violations abroad we are holding a cognitive dissonance. Each of us must have some belief that allows us to justify our inaction. Perhaps we lack a belief. Either way we all know this is irrational. The fact that Rorty, Festinger, and many other found similar paths to dispelling dissonance and human rights violations gives credence to the method itself. We must all find ways to relate to those different from us, we must realize our hypocrisy and do our part in helping others realize as well.
We must at times look at other examples of human rights, such as ones we may consider good. The Spanish protests on lack of jobs and general discontent by Spain’s citizenry (specifically the youth) were poised to be halted from a ban on political protest before the upcoming election. The protesters refused to heed this warning and Zapatero has declared that he will allow the protests to continue as they have been peaceful. Many of the protesters consider Zapatero to be a lame duck prime minister and much of the opposition is directed towards him, so his move to allow the continuation of the protests is an optimistic sign.
Occasionally a leader shows a commitment to human rights. From Zapatero to the Egyptian Army’s (at times debatable) allowance of protest, we see examples of leaders choosing to support the people in their opposition of a country’s leadership and in the case of Zapatero, the leader with whom some of the protests are directed, an ability to let his own opposition continue. We can certainly have a discussion on whether or not the right to protest is a human right at all, but these people are exercising a right to their lives and to make their own decisions. It is doubtful that these cases will be a guiding example to governments like Syria or Libya in their toleration of protesters. Yet, we mustn’t shake off these signs of hope. In the case of Zapatero few will take the time to commend a European leader in his decision to allow the protests, it is expected of him. Would he be in the Middle East he would surely receive more applause. Nonetheless as my previous posts discussed, the western world is not without its own human rights controversies, and when something like this happens we must take note. The decision to protest and the protection of this decision is a positive sign.
(Also: a little help with tumblr. For some reason I cannot get the massive link to disappear when I post this. It doesn’t show up in my preview of the post. Suggestion to remedy this?)
In the U.S. we are obsessed with the political game as much as anything else politics. What I mean by this is we are much more fascinated in the partisan divide than solving it or even discussing what real policy change may be. Very few issues leave the realm of public debate and enter into serious talk about how they can be addressed. The radical views on either side of the aisle do too much to assure that we remain in a stalemate of cultural debate. The culture wars are something that a large faction of the populace finds too appealing to consider letting go of. The divide it creates certainly riles up the partisan base, while also alienating the moderates and independents. However, rarely do we consider that at the heart of what I am referring to as the culture war, or the debate on social issues, is human rights. We are in a time of continued economic strife and multiple wars and military altercations abroad, and as the premature discussions to the 2012 election begin we are focusing on these social divides.
Take the issue of abortion; isn’t this debate coated in human rights context? Does a woman have the right to decide on her own life, make her own decisions? Now, my political leanings cause me to say absolutely. However the opposite argument is certainly similar. For those who consider life to occur at conception they will as fervently argue that the child, fetus, embryo, cells, or what have you have this same right to life and should be protected. Of course this can be tied to our discussion of religion, as much of this debate has religious backing in the forming of some of the arguments. Even when two people may technically hold the same denomination, their separate interpretation of this causes another “I’m right, you’re wrong” scenario. This will never change. The issue will continue to come roaring back when it appears to fade. Simply look at all the states looking to cut abortion funding for Planned Parenthood. It is a fact that federal money allotted to Planned Parenthood cannot go towards abortions, but this is of little matter to the right as they find different ways to justify their side, including the wrongful claims of wasteful spending the government pays towards funding abortions.
Gay rights are considered to be the next big human rights front in America. But it will surely be a difficult road. The opponent coined, “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Tennessee has passed the Senate. Banning the discussion of gays and lesbians in Tennessee curriculum, this bill shows how many people do not consider gays as holding the same rights as heterosexuals. Does this mean homosexuals are less human? Again strongly planted in the religious right versus liberal battle ground, this is but another example of how the country who considers itself the shining light of human rights in the world falls short of its promises.
The examples abound, taken more broadly you can apply the human rights discussion to the debate on healthcare and certainly to our foreign policy agenda. My purpose here is to not tell you what I think. I have made obvious indication to my stance on the matters, however I am just reiterating what I think we all know, but much of America refuses to realize. We lack real attention to the discussion of human rights in America. Both the left and the right do this. It is far easier to finger point at the violations of other countries than to denounce ourselves. Indeed, other countries’ human rights violations would be considered much more serious than the U.S.’s by our class and the majority of the western world, but nonetheless many Americans remain second class citizens due to our stance on human rights. Racial minorities, differing sexual orientation citizens, and even half of our society-women, all can make strong arguments for their rights violations. We as a nation will continue to discuss the issue of race, homosexuality, abortion, and a host of other issues yet a large number of us will refuse to recognize the debate for what it really is about: human rights.
Which particular right is univeral? Not all social contracts are the same simply because not all societies are the same. So why should we presume that there is one right that is the same for everyone?
I took your claim as stating that universal human rights in generally did not exist, not that you were pointing to any specific rights or claiming that only specific human rights exist. Are you arguing that because the inhabitants and governments of the world may not come to an agreement on what specific human rights exist that this means that no human right exist universally? I was not arguing for any specific set of rights existence. By “universal” I was simply arguing that human rights to some extent exist to all people. Social contracts to which a society enters may vary and with that the human rights they enforce would also vary. There again I can see your point as to what makes something a human right if it is only enforced by some people; that is certainly a valid point. Perhaps then we need to have a dicussion on basic human rights that exist to all, because there are certainly cultures where some of the articles of the UDHR will not be as easily applied. However, I think in the case of rights along the line of life, liberty, health, property, etc. you will find few people whom will state they do not hold these rights. It is unlikely that you will find a majority of a country’s populace that will state they do not have a right to their own life. My argument was merely to state that human rights, in some regard, are very real and exist. Furthermore, I think that we (our class) could probably come to an agreement that there are a set of what we may call the very basic human rights that are universal and able to be applied throughout any nation.
Even if you prescribe to the theory that man created human rights and that they are a human construct, something that has not always been in existence, than one must agree that they respect and acknowledge the human rights of others simply by the social contract within which they exist. I am confused as to what this assertion that universal human rights do no exist entirely entails. Each of us operates within this societal agreement every day so by denying that these rights exist would we not then be allowing for others to disrespect and commit actions against us which would otherwise be considered in violation of our human rights? Our laws are constructed around the agreement that human rights, specifically those expressed in the Bill of Rights, exist. By contending that these rights do not exist are you, macuser219, also stating that our laws are illegitimate? Furthermore, by universal human rights are you speaking of all the rights listed in the UDHR or do you mean human rights in generally that apply to humanity as a whole? In forming my argument below I am going to operate as though it is the latter than you meant.
At the very least I believe one can state that human rights will exist so long as we agree to operate within the social contract, in other words, to operate in respect to the continuance of our own reason and dignity. Now as many would argue, and as we discussed in class, it is easy to form an argument that reason and dignity are nothing more of an explanation of human rights than the argument that God gives us our human rights. However simply stated, we all acknowledge human rights so long as we reap the benefits that society and its social contract give us. One can state that universal human rights do not exist but so long as a person does not remove themselves from society or break society’s laws, they are living their lives in acknowledgement of human rights existence. Even if a person begins to break as many of society’s laws as they please they will still be operating in a society where human rights exist because the result of their civil disobedience will land them in jail, and the ability to revoke one’s freedom of life and liberty because of their actions is also a construct created through the agreement that human rights exist. Much of this argument is using the early arguments of natural rights, yet it is through these natural rights that we create our human ones. It is not possible, I assert, to deny the existence of one and not the other.
I suppose a denier of these rights would bring up the many violations of human rights in the world as examples as to why they do not exist. In a situation such as Libya or Syria where the possibility of being gunned down in the street is very real, do human rights really exist? I think if one uses the reasoning I provided above, this is a very easy question to answer. Yes, they absolutely exist. These civilians are advocating for a different social contract, the advocate for this because they feel their rights are being violated. Whether or not it is their morality, dignity, or reason that tells them they should act doesn’t really matter, I believe. By fighting for their rights and a revised or entirely different social contract they are acknowledging their existence. I believe in this case you can say that simply by acknowledgment do human rights exist. Yes, this means they are completely created by humanity, but this doesn’t make them any less real.
This gets to the heart of the immigration debate in true Lockean theory. If these illegal immigrants have rights, should we not be granting those rights, specifically in regards to article 25 of the UDHR. However, if we regard them as criminals does that justify all acts of deportations and thereby justify controversial measures in “Arizona-style” immigration bills going through states such as Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina? Its a difficult questions that is at the center of any new immigration policy that may be created: do illegal immigrants have rights? Furthermore, those children who come by no choice of their own, are they really criminals? Should they not be given the access to education like other Americans simply by the human rights they are owed? Through this interpretation the DREAM Act seems to be a sensible measure. While much of the debate on the DREAM Act has focused on economic effects, you could argue for this bill by attention to human rights (article 26, UDHR). It is not surprising that the debate on immigration often lacks attention to the human rights aspect. The debate has long been depersonalized. However, this should be changed, as any new comprehensive immigration policy should be drafted in consideration to human rights and what is outlined in the UDHR.
There is reason to be optimistic, as the article you mentioned notes:
In Libya Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, Africa’s longest-serving leader, is wondering whether he may face the same fate, after the ICC’s chief prosecutor announced that he was seeking three arrest warrants (with names so far undisclosed) for those deemed most responsible for the killing of hundreds of unarmed people since pro-democracy protests began in February.
Well as to be expected, Qaddafi is one of the three included in the arrest warrants that were requested today (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/16/muammar-gaddafi-arrest-wa_n_862354.html). It is left to see if judges will confirm these warrants and upon approval it is obviously difficult to assure that Qaddafi will be brought to justice, however its further proof that the ICC continues to seek action and pay attention to the current climate in the Middle East.
The Huffington Post quotes Luis Moreno-Ocampo:
These are not just crimes against Libyans, they are crimes against humanity as a whole.
This quote presents further optimism as you may interpret this to mean that there are those associates with the ICC that consider human rights as a given that applies to everyone in the world and to which it is the responsibility to those in the ICC to uphold, making the debate less political and more altruistic.
Throughout my 3 years of Political Science study I have not had as much attention to political theory as I would have liked. International Human Rights will provide me with plenty of chances to theorize on the importance/existence of human rights, how broadly they extend, and how we can ensure/protect them. Like others have noted, I too have had much focus in my previous study on immigration policy and the political climates of those countries to the south of the United States. This class will give me another way in which to study these topics. Too often the debate on immigration becomes a primarily economical one which takes out the human element. This creates what a previous professor of mine described as a continuous “Us vs. Them” context to the debate. In a similar manner to which we do not guarantee all the rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to every current citizen in the United States, rarely do we reference this declaration when considering how policies will affect immigrants.
I am interested in how far we can take our classroom debate and look forward to what is to be a lively three weeks.