Disrespect of Human Rights

The American community, especially in the wake of the atrocities on September 11th, has been wholly absorbed by images broadcast on network television. Unfortunately, many issues have been fully discounted. I feel that at least one issue must be addressed to a larger extent on a national level. The violation of human rights abroad should be given more attention, especially in civil conflicts. I feel that this moral issue is central to many of the deepest interests of the American public.

The loss of the United States seat on the United Nations Department of Human Rights brought some focus into this arena as journalists dismissed the removal as "contradictory, unjust, and flat out ignorant." They somewhat addressed human rights concerns, but did not deal directly with any regimes. The main brunt of the argument was "the United States should be allowed to come back."

That debate has cooled, while the coverage of human rights has cooled even more. Publications such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International give excellent coverage of these abuses. Unfortunately, they are solely limited to their respective websites and are only occasionally referenced by national media source like CNN.

Nearly everyone in America can remember at least one human rights violation in their time: Tiananmen Square, the Hutu/Tutsi massacres, or even Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansing in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. It seems that the whole array of human rights issues is universally overlooked, but especially by American television broadcasting companies. I feel the violence in Zimbabwe under the ruthless, power hungry Robert Mugabe must be more publicly discussed. Also, there are violations in Angola, Sierra Leone, Cuba, China, Mexico, Brazil, and even the American prison system.

I feel a simple catch phrase must be remembered: "Human's abroad are being massacred and do not even have some of the most ‘fundamental' rights." I concede, as Michael Ignatieff of Harvard University writes, that individualism inside America has probably shaped my views on human rights. Many Middle Eastern regimes are critical of the issue of human rights as a universal norm.

However, as Ignatieff continues, human rights are still necessary worldwide to protect individuals from the abuses of group authority. As an individual, I realize that I cannot cause sweeping policy changes. I do not expect a sweeping protest as a result of increased attention nor immediate action by the Congress. Some may see my views as extremist or overly idealistic. However, I still feel it is imperative to address these concerns.

I feel that paying more attention to human rights abuses and the lack of human rights in many governments, including the United States itself must be a priority. I feel it is imperative to address this issue on a national level. Not everyone is removed from the issue of human rights' abuses, but I still feel that the greater part of America is inadequately aware of the basic status quo of the their fellow world citizens. Violations of human rights deserve far more than simple attention, but attention is certainly a start.

A coincidental article was written by Ignatieff in the New York Times a day after I published this essay: Is the Human Rights Era Ending?

Michael Knight, February 4th 2002 [email protected]

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