Friday, December 16, 2011

Universal rights

I wanted to talk a bit about the concept of universal rights in relation to Obama's decision to not veto a bill that said law enforcement agencies can hold terrorist suspects in military detention indefinitely. Before Obama's veto threat, the bill was going to force the law enforcement agencies to place even suspects captured on American soil in military detention. Thankfully Obama cares about executive power enough to have them get rid of that. What a disgrace that he didn't care about the actual violation of rights of people it would have violated.

The reason the other part of the bill is still in there is basically because a majority in Congress and Obama don't believe the rest of the world enjoys the same rights as US citizens do. Both Obama and Republicans like to say otherwise. And when it comes to some rights they probably do. But at best they are wildly inconsistent in actually enforcing or respecting the concept of universal rights; something that great document they all like to talk about, the Declaration of Independence, at least hints at.

I don't think many liberals have trouble with universal rights. I think if you go down a list of every right Americans have they would agree that everyone in the world should have them as well. I think the reason some may not agree in this instance is because they have a blind deference to Obama, they are Islamaphobic, or are too uninformed to understand the debate between safety and rights. They hear politicians talk about threats and just assume rights need to be restricted in order to dispel those threats. I wish more liberals would care more about civil liberties so that Obama and Democrats would be more compelled to do the right thing.

Many conservatives believe rights, the ones put forth in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, come from god. I suppose some believe that god only gave Americans rights. But the logic used to get to that conclusion is even more stretched than the logic to conclude that rights come from god. If you believe a person has the right to due process in the US, why don't they have the same right in Paris, Russia, Iraq, or Afghanistan? Why is god making a distinction between Americans and those people? So assuming most believe that god gives rights to everyone simply by way of them being human and made by god, its then unclear to me how they can say that just because you aren't a US citizen you can't enjoy the same rights that we have.

I presume the reasons conservatives wouldn't extend rights to every in this instance are the same they were for liberals; they are either blindly partisan, Islamaphobic, or uninformed regarding the issue. Still, you would think that deeply religious conservatives and empathetic, bleeding heart liberals would be more concerned for everyone's rights. But its a stark reminder of how fragile rights are when people are so willing to give them up or deny them for some when told they should be afraid of something. Its also worrying and disgraceful that the people we elected to protect those rights are so willing to take them away.

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