Today we celebrated Human Rights Day. When I consider the words with which we communicate, I often pause at the matter-of-fact way we toss them about. “Celebrate.” By its very definition “to celebrate” something means to put it high above everyone or everything else; to publicly praise, applaud, honor, commemorate, or otherwise observe in a joyful way a noteworthy event or anniversary. Whether it is an accomplishment, a birthday, anniversary, prize, or victory, for me a celebration is a time to reflect on what’s been achieved. So, can we really “celebrate” Human Rights Day, or is it more appropriate to say that we “commemorate” or “recognize” December 10th as Human Rights Day? Either way, today is a day to stop & consider how we participate daily in support of human rights.
Perhaps I’m being a bit cynical, and I welcome any gentle nudges in a more positive direction, but, have we really made great strides in the area of Human Rights in the last year? In the last 50 years? I am so happy to be a part of a group advocating for Human Rights and Dignity in the field (CIW), and great strides have been made this year by the members of the CIW as well as by the businesses that have recently signed on. Wal-Mart is a new Fair Food partner (although they have a long way to go on other human rights abuses!). Many other companies and farms have become partners of the Fair Food Program over the years. This is progress! So where are Publix & Wendy’s on this list of supporters? OK! Perhaps I’m not cynical, just demanding & impatient?
As Americans, however, I think we have become too indifferent in our response to human rights abuses in our own country and around the globe. With this year’s high-profile murders of unarmed African-American citizens by the police, the inhumane treatment of children & families at our borders, the human trafficking and other forms of modern day slavery that take place in our country & around the world, I wonder if we have made any progress in improving human rights. Oh!!! And don’t get me started on this week’s CIA Torture Reports, and the latest on Brazil’s human rights abuses! (still processing this disturbing information!). Heartbreaking and unbelievable; I am simply horrified by all of it!
While I ponder human rights abuses and our necessary response to these atrocities and injustices, I will also consider how to actively engage others in recognizing the human rights abuses that have become a part of every-day society. Please share your thoughts on how you address these human rights issues.
As this years Human Rights Watch slogan suggests: Celebrate human rights, not just today, but every day!