'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere'
In President Obama's meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao this week, should discussion of human rights and religious freedom be on par with economic and environmental issues, or should human rights and religious freedom be secondary matters?
The first question we should ask is, "What do we, as a nation, stand for?" Mahatma Gandhi advised us all to "Be the change you want to see in the world." Martin Luther King warned us that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The U.S. has long claimed to be a nation where human rights and religious freedom are paramount. Can we walk that talk? Unless we want those concepts to remain nothing more than sweet, useless rhetoric in the world, we have to stop turning a blind eye and bowing (in Obama's case, literally) to those who ignore human rights simply in hopes that they can benefit us economically.
Jimmy Carter had a great many shortcomings as a leader, but at least he took human rights seriously when relating to other countries and their conduct in this regards. Some say we do not have the right to tell the political leaders of other countries how to treat their citizens. On one level, I agree, but then we should avoid anything but absolutely necessary interactions with such countries. This is one of the major reasons why we MUST become energy self-sufficient and stop propping up dictatorial regimes so we can purchase oil or cheap goods from them.
Human rights and religious freedom can and should be our first priority, and we can use our economic and political influence to encourage China and others with whom we deal to pay more attention to these issues. Environmental concerns go hand-in -hand with these. Those countries that put monetary profits over concern for the quality of water, air and food their people consume are hurting their own citizens, and everyone else in the world. If we allow economic issues to be paramount in our dealings with them, we are then part of the problem and not a part of the solution. It also means that our values and any concerns we have for human rights are for sale at the right price. Unfortunately, that seems to be happening a great deal these days.
We need to rethink the way we interact with many countries in the world. If we want others to stop polluting and suppressing their people, we have to lead the way with actions, not just words. In this case, we are definitely not walking the talk. The U.S. does more to pollute the world's environment than over 90 percent of the countries in the world, and one of the biggest single polluting industries here and abroad is the livestock industry. That pollution is not only hurting us all, but millions of innocent animals as well each and every day. We could learn much from the Hindu concept of ahimsa, or non-violence, in this regards.
Would such an approach in dealing with others weaken us? On the contrary, America has become powerful and a place envied by people worldwide precisely because of the creativity, opportunities, ability to experiment, and industriousness that have been integral, for the most part, in our country. And, these have been made possible through the cherished availability of human rights and religious freedom. Sure, we have had problems with making those freedoms available to everyone, and we have to work to foster these values more consistently and across the board, but we have been far better at it than most countries.
The American spirit has usually defaulted toward freedom over limitation and suppression. Limit people's abilities and possibilities, and you often limit their growth and success. Every semester, I have foreign students who come to the U.S. for study but then want to stay. Whenever I have asked them why, the one answer that dominates is "because of the freedom you have in this country."
Currently, the fiscal crisis in the world is making many think that we need to focus solely on the economy, and it has led our leaders to ignore everything else, especially in dealing with countries like China and Saudi Arabia. We have to remember what made the U.S. strong in the first place and return to the roots of that strength. We have to remember that freedom is important to all that we hold dear as Americans. We can encourage and help other countries to move in that direction and resist world leaders and their policies that put money over humanity. However, in doing so, we have to "be the change you want to see in the world."
Posted by: carloslebaron | January 23, 2011 5:47 PM
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Posted by: TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ1 | January 23, 2011 6:29 AM
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