Today is May 15th, “Bloggers Unite For Human Rights” day. Human rights represent one of the most agreed upon ideas—that all people are born with basic rights and freedoms that include life, liberty and justice. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” adopted by the United Nations.
After a year of blogging, it’s easy for me to forget what an awesome privilege it is to have an international platform for my thoughts and ideas. As an American, I take for granted that I can say just about anything–as long as it’s true–and not fear for my life. Given that you are reading this article, you likely live in a country with similar freedoms of thought and expression, so you also have reason to be thankful.
Of course there are times to speak, and times to shut up. My mother always said if you don’t have anything good to say, better to talk about the weather. It’s common courtesy to avoid discussing money, politics or religion at a fun party. And no, honey, that dress does not make you look fat.
But freedom of expression does allow me to say:
- Our president is a doofus who launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq.
- Our congress is an ineffectual group driven by lobbies and self-interest.
Sadly, in many countries, public criticisms like those could bring me serious trouble.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK!
“Oh ****, who’s that? Back in a moment…”
“Phew! It wasn’t the Thought Police. It was just FedEx delivering my latest electronic gadget. Gotta love America!”
In all seriousness, over 3 billion people on this planet would never think about criticizing their government or leaders. Sadly, that number seems to be increasing lately and now includes former (if temporarily) democratic Russia and Venezuela.
Most often thought control is about money and power. As The Oracle said in The Matrix-Reloaded, “What do men with power want? More power!” And so when otherwise good leaders like Putin or Chavez gain power, they become drunk with desire to keep that power forever, so they close the society, suppress free discussion, and intimidate opponents with force. Whereas truly great leaders would recognize that the Republic is greater than themselves. It seems quite unfair that millions of citizens must sacrifice freedom and opportunity for success so that a few rulers and their cronies can sustain a life of power and luxury. But sadly that is the way in many parts of the world today.
Because of this fundamental difference in beliefs, Iraq, Iran and North Korea and their closed societies are branded the “Axis of Evil.” But I have nothing against the people in Iran and North Korea. I don’t even know any of them, so how could I hate them? But I sure hate some of the things their governments do. Though that seems only fair, given that most of the world hates what my government does, especially but certainly not limited to the past 8 years.
So that’s something most humans have in common worldwide: our governments stink and fail to adequately represent us. The difference is that our government was openly and freely elected by its citizens, allowing us to complain loudly when it fails to do its job. What a precious gift this is, something we all must appreciate, celebrate and fight to sustain.
Article published on May 15, 2008
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