The problem with political terms, even those which are in common use, is that we often have very different definitions for the same exact words.
Take “Human Rights.”
In America, we generally define them as political rights.
Our Bill of Rights limit the power of the government in order to protect the rights of liberty and property, including freedoms of religion, speech, a free press, free assembly, and free association, as well as the right to keep and bear arms.
This is the classical liberal view.
In recent decades, this view has expanded to include freedom from discrimination—not merely concerning ones religious views, but also as to race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, physical capability and other realms.
In the International Realm, “Freedom House,” a “Human Rights” monitoring group, takes a roughly equivalent position:
“Freedom House…supports the expansion of freedom in the world. Freedom is possible only in democratic political systems in which the governments are accountable to their own people; the rule of law prevails; and freedoms of expression, association, and belief, as well as respect for the rights of minorities and women, are guaranteed.”
But, as worthy as such goals are, some have found them too constricted, even as recently expanded.
Franklin Roosevelt put it this way:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
With the help of Roosevelt’s widow, it was this point of view which was embodied in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The ultra-"Progressive" Urban Justice Center (UJC) champions this point of view locally in its, emphasizing the Third Freedom in an expansive manner.
According to UJC:
"Our work represents a unique and creative attempt to push for a higher standard of government accountability than U.S. legislation typically allows. For example, the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a host of international treaties articulate the right to basic necessities such as food, housing, health, and employment. However, U.S. safety net programs and laws do not clearly acknowledge these rights, and often circumvent or disregard them."
A salient point, though UJC’s actual application of it may be worthy of some reconsideration.
There are many on the far left who, while giving lip service to all Four Freedoms (including their expansion into anti-discrimination), are actually only concerned about Freedom #3.
In the international realm, this is sometimes the road to Chavez and Castro, and from there sometimes even Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.
This should not be. As AJC says:
“Human rights are indivisible and interdependent.”
And yet, in the local realm, the #3 Uber Alles view has some strength, which sometimes leads to kudos being visited upon advocates of this sort of politics.
The UJC has once again rated the entire City Council on the matter of Human Rights.
A number of City Council members appear on what UJC now calls their “A-List.” Last time out, UJC referred to such members as “Human Rights Heroes.”
Both times, Councilman Charles Barron has been among the Human Rights Elect.
Even under the Roosevelt/UN standard, UJC stretches the definition of Human Rights in a highly innovative manner.
Last time out, it included in its Human Rights ratings such concerns as term limits, the recycling of electronics, street vendor permits and the Willets Point Development plan.
This time around, the street vendors are back, with multiple proposals for their protection.
Joining them are such Human Rights concerns as the 15 Penn Plaza and South Jamaica re-zonings, working conditions in nail salons, creation of a Youth Violence task Force, air conditioned transport for children with IEPs, multiple proposals concerning food allergies, bans on toys containing dangerous chemicals, vermin removal (I guess animal rights is not a high priority), webcasting of Parent Association meetings, advice and consent for Mayoral appointments, and a lot of City Council process issues.
I am not saying these are not worthy ideas. I strongly support several of them, and find others intriguing.
I just think that when you start calling every idea you like a human rights issue, you define the term out of existence.
Further, UJC, while giving lip service to the more traditional definition of Human Rights, really does little more.
UJC defines eight “Major Issues.”
Only two deal with traditional Human Rights, and one of those (“Legal Immigrant Participation in Municipal Elections”) does so in a manner one could reasonably call a radical alteration of the national status quo.
The other traditional Human Rights issue (an audit of Human Rights in Government Operations) seems to have been thrown in for show.
Of the six other issues, one (City Oversight Agency Budget Independence) is a Human Rights issue only by UJC’s fiat, while the five others (prevailing wages, paid sick time, fair wages, private employee paid sick time, and paid family leave) fall into the “Freedom from Want” category.
Some people, like myself, who support many of these ideas on a State or Federal level, think municipal government should be providing municipal services (a business the City administration seems intent upon getting out of), which we define expansively, to include things in realms like public health that conservatives and even moderates might find too expansive, but we demur at the idea that municipal government should be about creating “Socialism in One City.”
Still, many of these ideas are worthy, at least in theory, and under some circumstance (such as when an employer has obtained a substantial governmental benefit) may even be amply justified.
I’m for some, and open minded on most of the rest.
However, I am of the opinion that one can and should advance such ideas without implying that those who raise questions about them are analogous to Francisco Franco.
Especially, when at least one of UJC’s heroes qualifies as a neo-Stalinist (At long last, a Dead White European Male with the Barron Seal of Approval).
Under UJC’s standards, articulating support, as Mr. Barron does for violators (like Mr. Robert Mugabe and the late Colonel Gaddafi) of what are thought of as more traditionally defined "Human Rights," including those of homosexuals (who Mr. Mugabe compares unfavorably to dogs) does not bar one from being on UJC’s A-List.
Does the “A” stand for Arrogant Ass?
A contrasting view is of “Human Rights” is held by the premier national lobby for the LGBT community, which calls itself the "Human Rights Campaign (HRC)."
It should be noted that, though HRC concentrates on issues of concern to its specific constituency, it has consistently supported traditionally defined "Human Rights" across the board.
In New York, the local equivalent of the HRC is the Empire State Pride Agenda, and its primary focus was, until recently, same sex marriage.
I think it is safe to say that, in the "Progressive" precincts of New York, it is no longer considered good enough to be right on all other matters if one opposes same sex marriage.
But as originally reported by Room 8’s Mary Alice Miller, Human Rights Hero Barron has a “nuanced” position on same sex marriage.
That nuance being that he opposes it.
As does his wife, Assemblywoman Inez, who voted against it twice in the state Assembly. If Barron had his way, and had been elected Governor, same sex marriage would not exist in NYS.
As Miller notes:“Barron's position on gay marriage is somewhat reserved. ‘My conviction on gay marriage is based on my definition of marriage, which is between a man and a woman.’ Barron cautioned that he ‘would not like to impose my values on the state. Nor would I take a position in opposition to heterosexual marriage.’ He added, ‘I am not going to abandon that position to appease others.’“
Barron, who has been married to his wife Inez for 27 years said, ‘Marriage is an institution I hold in high value. I define it as a union of a man and a woman.’”
“Broadening the topic, Barron offered a criticism of ‘the gay movement's focus on this singular issue.” Seemingly “Nothing else in the world matters. I don't see them on other civil rights issues as individuals. Nor as a group or coalition of organizations,’ he said. ‘When we die at the hands of police, we don't hear from them.’”
“Barron has another criticism of the gay movement. ‘I do not like when gays try to compare their movement to the Black movement,’ he said. ‘They were not stolen from their lands, lynched, worked to death, whipped, hung, or had their genitals cut off. They have no comparison to our experience in America. I am supportive of gay rights and civil unions. I am supportive of (white) women's rights. Women have no comparison. The only ones who have a comparative holocaust would be the Indigenous Americans, who are still subjected to oppression.'"
At the time Chuckles made the statement, “They were not stolen from their lands, lynched, worked to death, whipped, hung, or had their genitals cut off,” a young man of color in the Bronx had just been sodomized with a baseball bat by a gang of other young men of color for the crime of being gay.
Apparently, being sodomized with a baseball bat doesn’t count.
I wonder if Abner Louima agrees.
I know that, unlike Louima, this was not done under any color of law (and I do know the difference).
But that only makes it comparable with the death of Emmett Till, whose murder was actually prosecuted quite aggressively.
Color of law (and many times LGTB person have been persecuted under color of law) or not, such acts stem from the societal zeitgeist.
The societal zeitgeist of American makes these acts possible, just as the societal zeitgeist in the south helped make the lynchings of Emmett Till and Leo Frank (more color of law on that one) possible.
And so does the overheated rhetoric of Chuck Barron minimizing the persecution of LGBT persons.
And no matter how much lip service (perhaps not the best choice of words) Barron gives to LGBT rights other than marriage, his contempt for the LGTB community creeps out nearly every time he mentions them, usually gratuitously.
Here, for no good reason whatsoever, he links them with such other Barron favorites as Wall Street, Jews, Israel, and conservative Democrats:
"It seems that Barack Obama gives more to the blue dog conservative Democrats than to the black Democrats…He takes the black community for granted, thinking that we have nowhere to go, it's either him or Mitt Romney, or some other fool who's making a mess of this Republican primary,…He knows we're stuck with him, so he has more of a tendency to take care of Wall Street, and take care of the Jewish community and Israel, and take care of the gay community, and take care of the conservative Democrats, who say they're not going to give him their vote for health care, or regulations, unless he gives them something…"
But it is not only in the matter of LGTB people where Barron shows contempt for Human Rights.
Addressing the New Black Panther Party, a Barron ally which can only regarded as a hate group, Barron said:”
"You know some days I get so frustrated I just want to go up to the closest white person and say, 'You can't understand this, it's a black thing,' and then slap him, just for my mental health."
Sadly, I think it’s probably too late for even such extreme measures to be helpful.
Then there is the matter of Freedom #2. Barron and not only wants to impose his Pentecostal Christian views on marriage upon the rest of us, but also wants to teach intelligent design in the schools.
Further, he does not embrace the rights of one religious group to be treated on the same plane with every other.
Charles Barron seems to support the national liberation struggles of every group which was founded by socialists, with one religiously-based exception:
"…where should we start [the discussion]? Should we start with the 1906 Zionist Convention, or in 1914, with the Balfour Declaration? With Menachem Begin, the terrorists, all the wars, you want to discuss Israel becoming a state in 1948 when it should not have? Who are the terrorists? You want to talk about the definition of terrorism? How do you define acts of piracy?"
But, of course, Charles Barron is not an anti-Semite, because Jews aren’t Semites:
"I am tired every time you criticize Israel, you are anti-Semitic. Well technically my pastor taught me about the Semitic people, the Semites are black."
Yet, it is rare for someone in the "Progressive" community ever to actually question whether Councilman Barron is "Progressive" on the issues.
The consensus seems to be that if not for his reverse racism, he would qualify with flying colors.
A Google search I undertook in 2009 revealed that "Charles Barron" + "Progressive" attracted 6,470 hits.
Contrast this with the results for WFP-endorsed John Liu (3540), WFP-endorsed Bill DeBlasio (852), enrolled WFP member Leticia James (1,790, plus 284 if you search her as "Tish"), and such other left-liberal favorites as Rosie Mendez (713), Gail Brewer (205), Annabel Palma (147) and Melissa Mark Viverito (429).
And, in fact, at the far left end of the "Progressive" spectrum, groups like the International Action Center and “International ANSWER” (essentially the same group) consider Charles Barron the epitome of political correctness. As they put it:
"[H]e will be a rare and revolutionary voice for the movement in the bourgeois white male domains of Capital Hill. Unbowed and unapologetic, Barron is the most radical member of the NYC Council, and the most consistent ally of the antiwar movement holding any elected office in New York and anywhere else. Barron led the fight to bar military recruiters from NYC public schools, and he has never hesitated to publicly support Venezuela, Cuba, and (especially critical right now) the Palestinian people."
Moreover, the election results from the last time Barron ran for Congress indicate that white left-liberals from neighborhoods like Boerum Hill, Prospect Heights and Fort Greene apparently agree.
Among Mr. Barron’s most outspoken supporters was Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn’s Lucy Koteen, who’s since served as President of the lefty/reform Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats.
Who cares where a potential member of Congress stands on Robert Mugabe or the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, when he opposes Atlantic Yards?
To really understand where Charles Barron stands on “Human Rights,” it is helpful to examine the company he keeps, like his close ideological allies at the interconnected International ANSWER, International Action Center and Worker’s World Party.
“International ANSWER [is] a front group for the Stalinist Workers World Party, a tiny political sect with a perverse attraction to the world’s worst people. The party formed in the 1950s, after splitting off from the Socialist Workers Party over a disagreement about the Soviet invasion of Hungary, which the Workers World supported. Since then, the Workers World Party has thrown itself behind Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jong-il; it backed the Chinese crackdown on the “counter-revolutionary rebellion” in Tiananmen Square. The Workers World Party is not just pro-Palestinian; it is pro-Hamas and pro-Hezbollah, devoted to the destruction of Israel. It’s fringe views would hardly be worth noticing if not for its members’ organizing skills. For example, by securing protest permits on significant dates far in advance, it was able to take a leading role in the early marches against the Iraq war, even though many progressives were mortified by its involvement."
I bet they share Barron’s love for Mugabe as well.
For those who do not remember, Barron invited Mugabe to City Hall in 2002.
As I noted, Mugabe is fanatically anti-gay, and has actively carried out actions against LGBT people and spoken out in public against homosexuality:
"I find it extremely outrageous and repugnant to my human conscience that such immoral and repulsive organizations, like those of homosexuals, who offend both against the law of nature and the morals of religious beliefs espoused by our society, should have any advocates in our midst and elsewhere in the world."
"It degrades human dignity. It's unnatural, and there is no question ever of allowing these people to behave worse than dogs and pigs. If dogs and pigs do not do it, why must human beings? We have our own culture, and we must re-dedicate ourselves to our traditional values that make us human beings. … What we are being persuaded to accept is sub-animal behavior and we will never allow it here. If you see people parading themselves as Lesbians and Gays, arrest them and hand them over to the police!"
Mugabe views homosexuality as an "un-African" and immoral culture brought by colonists and practiced by only "a few whites" in his country.
For those unconcerned about Mugabe’s persecution of LGTB people, it is helpful to remember that, according to human rights organizations, the government of Zimbabwe violates the rights to freedom of movement and residence, freedom of assembly and the protection of the law. There are assaults on the media, the political opposition, civil society activists, and human rights defenders.
Further, for those concerned only about Roosevelt’s Third Freedom, Mugabe’s regime violates the rights to shelter and food.
Asked about the horrific violence reported against the democratic opposition to his government in Zimbabwe, Barron compared Mugabe to Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu. Barron specifically cited Mugabe’s efforts (apparently of mixed success) in facilitating Freedom #3, while minimizing the importance of the others.
Recently, Barron mourned another worthless African despot:
“Like Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe, [Khadafy] is an African freedom fighter — taking back African resources for African people…America hates strong African leaders who are not afraid of them…Out there, they don’t know that Qaddafi was our brother…People say ‘Didn’t he kill all those people?’ I say, ‘I don’t know anything. The man was a freedom fighter…Can you imagine what this man had to go through?…Long live Muammar Qaddafi…“Long live African freedom…”
Not surprisingly, like other Barron heroes and allies, the Libyan despot was no friend of LGTB people or Jews.
In 2003, Gaddafi claimed that only homosexuals can contract HIV/AIDS, no doubt contributing to the spread of the disease. So, obsessive was Gaddafi about this claim, that six foreign health workers (five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor) were accused of deliberately infecting 426 children with HIV-tainted blood in a hospital in 1999.
On May 6, 2004, a Libyan court sentenced the workers to death. They were eventually freed in 2007, following European diplomatic efforts.
Gaddafi jailed homosexuals, and made sexual relations between members of the same sex a crime. Private homosexual acts between consenting adults are punishable with up to five years’ imprisonment.
In the 1990s, Gaddafi began to enact “purification” laws designed to enforce a harsh view of Islamic law on the population. Libyan courts were given the power to use amputation, flogging and other cruel punishments against persons found to be violating traditional Islamic morality.
In a 2010 there was French asylum case involving a Libyan girl who sought was jailed, raped and then returned to her family for a forced marriage after she made a public statement online that she was gay.
One must acknowledge, that Gaddafi’s regime initially made great strides in Freedom #3, but did dismally in the others.
As to Freedom #4, the regime was involved in the Lockerbie bombings, killing hundreds of innocent non-combatants.
As to Freedom #2, as already noted, it expanded the implementation of Islamic Law.
As to Freedom #1, in 2010, Amnesty International published a critical report on Libya, raising concerns about cases of enforced disappearances and other human rights violations that remained unresolved, and that Internal Security Agency members implicated in those violations continued to operate with impunity.
On a scale of seven, the regime got the follow Civil Liberties ratings from Freedom House:
Protection from state terror, unjustified imprisonment, and torture: 1.29
Gender equity: 3.00
Rights of ethnic, religious, and other distinct groups: 1.00
Freedom of conscience and belief: 1.67
Freedom of association and assembly: 0.80
In the end, he bombed his own people, which would seem to merit poor grades in both Freedom #1 and #4.
With all due respect to UJC, any ratings system which gives Charles Barron an “A” on Human Rights is seriously flawed.