Thursday, June 23, 2005

On human rights, Part - good Lord, part X

Okay, so we're getting close to the end. Bear with me here.

Besides, think of what a handy reference you'll have when this is all over.
Article 19.

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.

Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

But what does this mean for me?

God bless Lindsay Lohan when she sings, "Don't think that you can tell me what to think / I'm the one who knows what's good for me." It's not a new idea, but she's the most recent person to put it to music. And then she dieted until her boobs went away, and the rest of us women who have boobs were, like, "What, boobs aren't cool any more?"

But that's neither here nor there. The point is, you are welcome to your own opinion, and the government can't step on that. Let it be known that other entities aren't the government - if you're an idiot and I tell you to shut the hell up, I am in no way infringing on your right to free speech, because I'm not the government, I'm just one pissed off citizen. And in terms of profanity and "fightin' words" and lies, if you can manage to get through a sentence without cussing like a sailor, Doug, or lying about people or insulting their mama, you're good to go. Similarly, you "decide / where [you] go / what [you] need / who [you] know" because of your freedom to (peacefully) assemble with whom and where you want to, within reason. Or not assemble or associate, as you see fit.

Ohhh, Article 21, how I love your rippling abs. This is the one that says you have the right to participate in government and take advantage of all the services it provides. It also says that government serves at the will of the people. The government, at the will of the people. Does this say the majority of the people? It does not. Everyone gets the right to vote, but the majority of the people are not given the right to just step on the minority. Just because most people think a certain way doesn't make it right. A majority of Germans going along with the Holocaust didn't make it okay, a majority of Americans going along with segregation didn't make it okay, and a majority of people going along with discrimination against gay people or the wholesale Conservative Christianization of the country or the invasion of Iraq while things weren't finished in Afghanistan doesn't make any of it okay (as we're seeing now, as a majority of Americans are now saying, "Hold on, we invaded Iraq? Why? I didn't vote for that").

It also means that you don't have to agree with what your leader says just because he says it. It's okay to disagree with your government, in fact, it's expected. That's why we have a legislature, and debates, and elections - because not everyone agrees. And if you happen to think that someone, say, your current president, has made some great big, huge screwups, it's okay to say so. It doesn't make you any less patriotic or any more divisive. Your government serves at your will, so if you think they've screwed up, it's not just your right but your responsibility to tell them so.

Just answer the question already.

It means that you not only have the right to your own opinion, but also the right to express it and to seek others' opinions. And it means that you tell the government what's good for you, not the other way around.

Part I: The Preamble; Part II: Articles 1 and 2; Part III: Articles 3 and 4; Part IV: Articles 5 and 6; Part V: Articles 7 and 8; Part VI: Articles 9 and 10; Part VII: Articles 11 and 12; Part VIII: Articles 13, 14 and 15; Part IX: Articles 16, 17 and 18

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