Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Defending Rights in the U.S. Military

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

The rights of those serving within the ranks of the U.S. military (or employed by its contractors) made the news this week. On Monday, the 2011 Defense budget proposal was released and included prohibitions against defense contracts with companies that deny court hearings for sexual assault victims. The prohibitions mirror Sen. Al Franken’s Anti-Rape Amendment, which was adopted in December in spite of opposition from the Defense Department. On Tuesday, during a Senate hearing top U.S. military officers endorsed the gradual repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” the policy which “forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.” Controversial statements by Sen. John McCain speak to some of the issues at hand: “Many gay and lesbian Americans are serving admirably in our Armed forces, even giving their Lives so that we and others can know the blessings of peace…{this is} military life which is characterized by its own laws, rules, customs and traditions.” How much longer will the U.S. military exempt itself from the very values that it purports to defend?

Johnny Symmons Ask Not

Photo Credit: Johnny Symons, Ask Not

Earthquake in Haiti: Natural Disaster and Manmade Devastation

Monday, January 18th, 2010

HaitiMy thoughts and prayers are with the millions of people impacted by the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday January 13. Print and online media is awash with stories and images of “one of the worst ever natural disasters in the western hemisphere.” No matter how many articles I read or how much live footage I watch the utter devastation, pain, and suffering are difficult to comprehend.

Amidst the endless stream of information detailing the destruction and tireless relief efforts there is also a plethora of suggestions of how and where to send donations, including information about the largest text-based fundraising campaign in history. As with most life-threatening emergencies there has been an immediate outpouring of support (an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review discusses why sudden crises pull heartstrings and loosen purse strings more than persistent, chronic conditions).

The media coverage is focused, in large part, on the current conditions, with only occasional reference to the historical and structural injustices that magnified the earthquake’s devastating impact. A provocative audio slideshow, published online in the July 2009 issue of Guernica Magazine, captures the reality that the current devastation is best understood as the manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence. A May 2009 Times of London article points to the degree to which Haiti’s status as the poorest country in the western hemisphere – mired in historic debt, stricken by flood and famine, and rife with violence and abuse – was simply accepted.

It is critical that the international community confronts these historical and structural injustices as it considers the help that Haiti needs. An online post in Foreign Policy magazine calls on the international community to cancel Haiti’s debt. The Association for Women’s Rights in Development highlights the specific experiences and needs of Haitian women during this humanitarian catastrophe. If we are serious about Haiti’s recovery, we need to be as committed to addressing the country’s systematic injustices and inequalities as we are to emergency relief.

What Makes You Think About Rights?

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

We constantly have news of war and conflict, detentions and renditions, and all of that takes place in very high-flown language of law and international politics. My daily path to work takes me past a spot where homeless folks line up and wait for different churches and civic groups who bring meals there, and I cannot help but feel sympathy and a lot of uncertainty about the experiences that brought them to that same location in such different circumstances as me.

Do you think about rights when you read the Sunday paper? Maybe it’s through discussion with a friend or a random acquaintance? Is it while you’re waiting for the bus or stuck in traffic? At a coffee shop, bar, church, synagogue, mosque, the local swimming pool?

What makes you think about rights? Put another way, what makes rights relevant to you?

First Thoughts on Rights

Monday, September 14th, 2009

I read to find out what I think.  Since you’re here, reading, I know many of you do the same.

You’re reading a blog about human rights, so I also know you think a bit about human rights.  We intend this blog to be a place where people can speak up and participate in engaging discussion.  This given, I would like to start a bit of a discussion here…

What is the first right you think of?  Why do you think that is?

I was raised to expect certain rights. I also know many of us were raised to expect particularly different ones. We all know of rights being protected or limited because of all sorts of things, and we each have faced very different circumstances- ranging from war, to immigration, to just being raised in the same place as our grandparents. I don’t think it’s too strong for me to predict that we will be talking about different expected rights because of these different circumstances.

Let me give an example of what I have in mind.  For me, the right to vote first pops up.  On one hand, I think it’s because I live in the United States and voting is so central to this society. On the other hand, I know it’s because I do not face any immediate challenge to my rights–nothing threatens my life; I am free to move among society; I am free to speak as I see fit.

So, what right is the first to come to your mind?  Why?