And the bottom line is this – for the most part they are correct if not technically accurate.
OK, let me step back for a second. This weekend I was away and traveled by air. As I was waiting for my final plane to load, I was watching CNN on a big screen, and in a ‘special report’ he was talking about the Chinese rebuttal to the US Human Rights report that was highly critical of China. The blurb was quick and due to airport noise I missed most of it, but it intrigued me enough to search it out and have a look.
And as I say, they are not off-target with their criticisms of our country and government, but many things they bring up under the guise of ‘human rights’ are not accurately described as such. Here are a few main points they make, with my comments reserved for the end:
society is chronically suffering from violent crimes, and its citizens’ lives lack proper protection
The intriguing thing about the lead-off of the report is that it comes entirely from U.S. sources. This is such a stark picture of the violence in our country that I am using a generous quote:
A report published by the U.S. Department of Justice on September 15, 2011, revealed that in 2010 the U.S. residents aged 12 and above experienced 3.8 million violent victimizations, 1.4 million serious violent victimizations, 14.8 million property victimizations and 138,000 personal thefts. The violent victimization rate was 15 victimizations per 1,000 residents (www.bjs.gov). The crime rate surged in many cities and regions in the United States. In the southern region of the United States, there were 452 violent crimes and 3,438.8 property crimes per 100,000 inhabitants (in 2010) on average (The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2011). Just four weeks into 2011, San Francisco saw eight homicides — compared with five during the same time of the previous year, with Oakland racking up 11, when the previous year in the same period it had four (The San Francisco Chronicle, January 29, 2011). Grand larcenies in the subway in New York City increased from 852 in 2010 to 1,075 cases in the first nine months of 2011, a 25 percent jump (The China Press, September 24, 2011). Homicide cases in Detroit in 2011 saw a 13.5 percent rise over 2010 (www.buzzle.com). Between January and October 2011, a total of 123,924 serious crime cases took place in Chicago (portal.chicagopolice.org). An anti-bullying public service announcement declared in January 2011 that more than six million schoolchildren experienced bullying in the previous six months (CNN, March 10, 2011). According to statistics from the Family First Aid, almost 30 percent of teenagers in the United States are estimated to be involved in school bullying (www.familyfirstaid.org).
United States prioritizes the right to keep and bear arms over the protection of citizens’ lives and personal security
While fairly vague in the report, the numbers elsewhere are clear: the U.S. has 5 percent of the world population and close to 50% of the non-state owned guns.
The U.S. people hold between 35 percent and 50 percent of the world’ s civilian-owned guns, with every 100 people having 90 guns (Online edition of the Foreign Policy, January 9, 2011). According to a Gallup poll in October 2011, 47 percent of American adults reported that they had a gun
The United States is the leader among the world’s developed countries in gun violence and gun deaths.
Well, take the violence from the first quote and having half the personally owned guns in the world … this is kind of a ‘no duh’.
30,000 Americans die every year from gun violence and another 200,000 Americans are estimated to be injured each year due to guns (Online edition of the Foreign Policy, January 9, 2011). According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Justice, among the 480,760 robbery cases and 188,380 rape and sexual assault cases in 2010, the rates of victimization involving firearms were 29 percent and 7 percent, respectively
Severe Civil Rights Violations – Occupy Wall Street
I pretty much laid out my opinions on this last year, which agree with the Washingpost article cited that says “As a U.S. opinion article put it, the United States could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian.”
Almost 1,000 people were reportedly arrested in first two weeks of the movement, according to British and Australian media (The Guardian, October 2, 2011). The New York police arrested more than 700 protesters for alleged blocking traffic over Brooklyn Bridge on October 1, and some of them were handcuffed to the bridge before being shipped by police vehicles (uschinapress.com, October 3, 2011). On October 9, 92 people were arrested in New York (The New York Times, October 15, 2011). The Occupy Wall Street movement was forced out of its encampment at Zuccotti Park and more than 200 people were arrested on November 15 (The Guardian, November 25, 2011). Chicago police arrested around 300 members of the Occupy Chicago protest in two weeks (The Herald Sun, October 24, 2011). At least 85 people were arrested when police used teargas and baton rounds to break up an Occupy Wall Street camp in Oakland, California on October 25. An Iraq war veteran had a fractured skull and brain swelling after being allegedly hit in the head by a police projectile (The Guardian, October 26, 2011). A couple of hundred people were arrested when demonstrations were staged in different U.S. cities to mark the Occupy Wall Street movement’ s two-month anniversary on November 17 (USA Today, November 18, 2011). Among them, at least 276 were arrested in New York only. Some protesters were bloodied as they were hauled away. Many protesters accused the police of treating them in a brutal way (The Wall Street Journal, November 18, 2011). As a U.S. opinion article put it, the United States could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian. (The Washington Post, January 14, 2012).
While advocating press freedom, the United States in fact imposes fairly strict censoring and control over the press
I have brought up the police actions blocking citizen journalists, illegal seizing of cameras, videos and cell phones, and so on. That is just part of it:
The U.S. Congress failed to pass laws on protecting rights of reporters’ news sources, according to media reports. An increasing number of American reporters lost jobs for “improper remarks on politics.” U.S. reporter Helen Thomas resigned for critical remarks about Israel in June 2010 ( “Report: On the situation with human rights in a host of world states,” the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia, December 28, 2011). While forcibly evacuating the Zuccotti Park, the original Occupy Wall Street encampment, the New York police blocked journalists from covering the police actions. They set cordon lines to prevent reporters from getting close to the park and closed airspace to make aerial photography impossible. In addition to using pepper spray against reporters, the police also arrested around 200 journalists, including reporters from NPR and the New York Times (uschinapress.com, November 15, 2011). By trampling on press freedom and public interests, these actions by the U.S. authorities caused a global uproar. U.S. mainstream media’ s response to the Occupy Wall Street movement revealed the hypocrisy in handling issues of freedom and democracy. Poll by Pew Research Center indicated that in the second week of the movement, reports on the movement only accounted for 1.68 percent of the total media reports by nationwide media organizations. On October 15, 2011, when the Occupy Wall Street movement evolved to be a global action, CNN and Fox News gave no live reports on it, in a sharp contrast to the square protest in Cairo, for which both CNN and Fox News broadcast live 24 hours.
These are all some serious problems in our country, and the report also touches on other stuff, such as:
- the expansive monitoring of the internet leading to people being detained for hours upon hours for an innocent Tweet, being quotes from British sources such as “What’ s worse, being arrested for an innocent tweet, or the fact that the American Secret Service monitors every electronic message in the world?”
- The buying of the electoral process and politics in general “money has emerged as the electoral trump card in the U.S. political system, and corporations have a Supreme Court-recognized right to use their considerable financial muscle to promote candidates and policies favorable to their business operations and to resist policies and shut out candidates deemed inimical to their business interests (Online edition of Time, January 20, 2011). According to a media report, nearly two thirds of all the contributions that the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee received during the 2010 election cycle came from industries regulated by his committee”
- The expansive use of so-called ‘Security Enhancement’, which many call ‘Security Theater’ – “violate the freedom of its citizens in the name of boosting security levels. the U.S. government can use “national security letters” to demand, without probable cause, that organizations turn over information on citizens’ finances, communications and associations, and order searches of everything from business documents to library records. The U.S. government can use GPS devices to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review”
- Police Brutality and Over-reach: “Abuse of power, brutal enforcement of law and overuse of force by U.S. police have resulted in harassment and hurt to a large number of innocent citizens and have caused loss of freedom of some people or even deaths.”
- Lack of Due process for ALL Citizens: “government continues to claim the right to strip citizens of legal protections based on its sole discretion. The National Defense Authorization Act, signed December 31, 2011, allows for the indefinite detention of citizens”
- The incredible prison population problem: ” U.S. remains the country with the largest “prison population” and the highest per capita level of imprisonment in the world, and the detention centers’ conditions are terrible. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of prisoners amounted to 2.3 million in 2009 and one in every 132 American citizens is behind bars. “
- The report also hits hard on income disparity and the tremendous poverty problem of the world’s richest country. It singles out the tremendous problem of health coverage: “The U.S. declared it has the best health care service in the world, but quite a lot of Americans could not enjoy due medication and health care. The Cable News Network reported on September 13, 2011, that the number of people who lacked health insurance in 2010 climbed to 49.9 million (Cable News Network, September 13, 2011). Bloomberg reported on March 16, 2011, that 9 million Americans have lost health insurance during the past two years. An additional 73 million adults had difficulties paying for health care and 75 million deferred treatment because they could not afford it”
- The tremendous cuts in educating youth are highlighted as well: “U.S. government has significantly cut the expense on education, reduced teaching staff, and shortened school hours with tuition fees soaring. The guarantee for teenagers’ rights to education is weakening. The New York Times reported on October 3, 2011, that since 2007, school budgets in New York city have been cut by 13.7 percent every year on average. Since 2008, 294,000 posts in the American education industry, including schools of higher education, have been cut”
- They look at how “US-led wars have created humanitarian disasters, although the wars were allegedly waged as “humanitarian intervention” efforts and for “the rise of a new democratic nation,” the report said, citing the death toll for the US-initiated war in Iraq, which currently stands at 655,000.”
- Finally the report cites the extent to which women and both ethnic and religious minorities are discriminated against, and how recently anti-discrimination laws have not been passed and sometimes recently they have been repealed. Treatment of Muslims was singled out as an example.
The reason I highlight SO MANY of these things is that it is easy – as it was in my Lance Armstrong / Joe Paterno post – to take a single item from the list and dismiss it. However, looking at all of the instances of rampant violence, the sheer extent of our gun obsession (and directly related ‘world leader’ status in gun violence and death), reduction in education, a growing discrimination against women and racial/religious intolerance, press restrictions, and on and on and on – it paints a picture of the actual state of our country. For to dismiss ALL of what is said ‘because it is China’ saying it makes no sense – the quotes are made up of sources from the US, UK and other ‘reliable’ sources.
When I look at this list, I wonder what a report might have looked like 15 years ago, before 9/11. We know Gun Ownership as national obsession/litmus test is less than 40 years old (after 200 years of restrictions), and things were actually getting better in terms of tolerance and equal rights and equal pay (the 1999 law, for example), and so on. While we would have been even more dismissive of the origin (with good reason), the contents would also have been quite different.
In my mind there is no question – we are a changed country since 9/11. For all of the rhetoric, we ARE more authoritarian (not saying we actually ARE authoritarian, just that we have shifted in that direction), less tolerant of religions, more violent, more fearful of science and higher education and therefore make those a lower priority, less willing to have our ideas challenged or listen objectively, and so on.
Of course, the real question is ‘what can we do’? We have to take back our country, take back the ideals of freedom and inclusion and of being a great melting pot (or mosaic), and learn to again embrace everyone who wants to make our country better and stronger by listening and working to compromise rather than steamrolling and focusing on ‘winning’.
I would LOVE to see a rebuttal report that would make me laugh at its silliness rather than cry for the truths it contains.