(EDITOR’S NOTE: Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She will be a regular contributor to the Meigs Independent Press Op/Ed page.)
It is 2018 and tyrannical rulers of oppression and subjugation still reign on thrones of terror on planet Earth. Power and control are used to thwart and abolish freedom and dominate real estate, and both natural and human resources.
History shows the horrific reigns of despots Tamerlane, Ivan the Terrible, Robespierre, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, Duvalier, Ceausescu, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and Fidel Castro violated human rights and held humanity hostage. And human rights violations are still alive under Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Xi Jinping in China, and Vladimir Putin in Russia.
Murder and mayhem persists in the world. While the dictators eat steak and cake, their forced servants eat bread and broth.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations in Articles 1 – 30.
Article 2 states, “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.”
Article 18 states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
Article 19 states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is neither respected nor followed by totalitarian regimes. Is world peace just pie-in-the-sky idealism?
But, how can a group of human beings be held hostage in a democratic and capitalistic country? Not a country of communism where leaders are generational or appointed by a forced coup—a society without voting rights. But, the country of freedom that we call America.
“I had crossed the line. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land,” wrote African American, Harriet Tubman.
The pilgrims from Great Britain landed in Plymouth to pursue religious freedom. And the American Revolutionary War was fought to obtain the United States Declaration of Independence and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And you know the rest of the story about the Indians. Have you read the books: Trail of Tears or Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee?
In 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States. President Lincoln freed humanity in chains—Africans Americans living in a democratic nation, yet, denied the constitutional rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Denied freedom, dignity, and choice. The Civil Rights Movement was a human rights movement from 1954–1968. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.
After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, 110,000 Japanese-American citizens were rounded up and confined in detention camps in the USA—denied the constitutional rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“Discrimination is a prominent and critically important matter in American life and throughout American history.” The National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Harvard T.H., and the Chan School of Public Health conducted a survey in 2017 called Discrimination in America. The survey included samples of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, whites, men, women, and LGBTQ adults (a total of 3,453 adults). “Overall, 92% of African Americans believe that there is discrimination against African Americans in America today.” Visit www.npr.org.
It is 2018. The Klu Klux Klan, neo-Nazi’s, and white supremacists continue to wreak havoc in the U.S. Prejudice, discrimination, and racism continue in our democratic nation and multicultural society.
I am grateful that I was born and raised in the USA. I love America and support democracy, capitalism, and patriotism. I am thankful for freedom. But, equality, justice, and freedom must be for all.
Nonetheless, when my mind tries to comprehend the atrocities of human rights violations in communist countries, I also struggle with the history of human rights violations in the United States, the greatest country in the world.
“My story is a freedom song of struggle. It is about finding one’s purpose, how to overcome fear and to stand up for causes bigger than one’s self,” proclaimed Coretta Scott King.
(Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in southern Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.)