They come through long, arduous struggle. They can go away in the blink of an eye. I’ve been thinking about human and civil rights, ever since the general election. Some individuals in the new Executive administration have vowed to dial many of those gains back.
Racial minorities, women, LGBT people, non-mainstream religious, ethnic minorities and the disabled have been working for most of the history of the United States for basic human rights. The preservation of the human and civil rights of these groups are being openly questioned by the administration-elect.
Anyone who belongs to an embattled group should be alarmed about any planned setbacks. In fact, everyone should be concerned because when even one group’s human rights are taken away, all citizens rights are endangered. No, this is not hyperbole. Examples are found throughout history.
I have been passionate about human rights and civil rights most of my life. These subjects have sparked my interest in current events, history, and activism ever since my youth.
The most important official document regarding everybody’s rights is embodied in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html I recommend that everyone look over this important work. Here is the essential portion of the Preamble:
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,…”
The declaration goes on to enumerate the aspects of human rights in 30 Articles. The core of universal human rights can be summed up in the first three Articles:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Perhaps the only thing I can say to summarize this document is the beautiful statement, “Live and let live.” Those four words have been at the heart of how I spend my time on Earth and how I treat other people. Personally, I cannot think of a better way to live an effective, compassionate life.
I think that all of us will do well to read The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and contemplate the implications of applying it to all human beings.