Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Right Side of History

James Monroe, fifth President of the United States, articulated in his 1823 State of the Union address that the door was closed for European colonization of the Americas, both North and South, and interference in American affairs would be considered an act of war. Subsequent US Presidents have taken The Monroe Doctrine very seriously, none more so than John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The generally acknowledged author of the Monroe Doctrine was Monroe’s Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, who grew up in the household of the U.S. Ambassador to The Netherlands and then England, his father John Adams, whose best friend was the Ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson. Young John Quincy traveled widely, including to Russia as secretary to a diplomatic delegation, even before he entered Harvard.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 1948, proclaiming : All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights….that rights are not conferred by government; they are the birthright of all people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or even who we are. Because we are human, we therefore have rights. And because we have rights, governments are bound to protect them. At the anniversary celebration in Geneva last week, the current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a policy update on behalf of the United States that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”

According to Secretary of State Clinton, “This morning, back in Washington, President Obama put into place the first U.S. Government strategy dedicated to combating human rights abuses against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) persons abroad…, the President has directed all U.S. Government agencies engaged overseas to combat the criminalization of LGBT status and conduct, to enhance efforts to protect vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, to ensure that our foreign assistance promotes the protection of LGBT rights, to enlist international organizations in the fight against discrimination, and to respond swiftly to abuses against LGBT persons.”

“Many LGBT Americans have endured violence and harassment in their own lives, and for some, including many young people, bullying and exclusion are daily experiences…. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse. They are denied opportunities to work and learn, driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm.”

“Some have suggested that gay rights and human rights are separate and distinct; but, in fact, they are one and the same. This recognition did not occur all at once. It evolved over time. And as it did, we understood that we were honoring rights that people always had, rather than creating new or special rights for them. It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave. It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished.”

LGBT “are all ages, all races, all faiths; they are doctors and teachers, farmers and bankers, soldiers and athletes; and whether we know it, or whether we acknowledge it, they are our family, our friends, and our neighbors….Finally, progress comes from being willing to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. We need to ask ourselves, "How would it feel if it were a crime to love the person I love? How would it feel to be discriminated against for something about myself that I cannot change?"

This may or may not become known as the Obama Doctrine, whatever role his Secretary of State played. I’ll bet that Hillary Rodham Clinton is as familiar with the accomplishments of John Quincy Adams as I am and knows that Secretary of State was not the end of his political career.

1 comment:

Lorraine said...

That was very powerful and I applaud your words! And, of course, theirs!


Hit Counter
Boden Clothes