December 10th, 1998 marked the 50th anniversary of the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is the world’s most widely accepted standard for judging a nation’s actual circumstance concerning the protection of human rights. Implied throughout the document is the belief that all nations should be similarly held to a set of globally accepted standards related to how it treats its citizens. Let us acknowledge, that if the United States government is to stop looking hypocritical, it must accept the idea that people in other countries have the right, just as Americans do, to choose their own national direction and leaders, whether the United States approves of them or not. The United States of America does not have the right, wisdom nor ability to run the world.

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came out against America’s war in Vietnam, and the nature of American foreign policy in general, urging young men not to participate in unjust wars, most mainstream leaders and much of the general public were disappointed and/or angry. But Dr. King was right and they were confused. There is similar confusion and hesitance today. And as a result, few leaders are prepared to speak out against the current plots and plans of richer countries to dominate poorer ones.

Recent reports issued by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, on human rights abuses, in the United States, were dismissed, by many in this country, mainly because, when you’re in denial, the truth can hurt. One wonders how long the United States government will continue to quote the world’s most recognized human rights watch dogs, including the U.N., on their findings related to China, Iraq, and Cuba, etc., while it ignores the organizations’ conclusions concerning systematic violations in this country, related to areas including: economic inequalities, racism and the judicial system, police brutality, prison conditions, the death penalty, political prisoners, and the training, support and protection of human rights abusers overseas.

Nevertheless, we must not allow ourselves to become apologists for human rights violations committed anywhere or for a foreign policy that puts the profits of gigantic multi-national businesses before the interests of working people, here and abroad. This is not the King tradition nor the tradition of progressive America. As we do for ourselves, building our own institutions and coalitions with others, we must speak out. Opinion polls only reflect what is popular or what ruling elites would have us believe, not necessarily what is right or true.

On April 16, 1967, not long before his assassination, from his father’s pulpit in Atlanta, Dr. King spoke in the tradition, saying:

 

“And don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be, a sort of policeman for the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgement. And it seems that I can hear God saying to America, you’re too arrogant. And if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power and place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know my name. Be still, and know that I’m God.”

 

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