In 1941, FDR enunciated the Four Freedoms, signalling U.S. commitment to basic rights for all. In 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt led the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the foundational document for human rights in the modern world. But despite these hopeful beginnings more than half a century ago, a culture of respect for human rights has not taken root here in the USA. The seeds were planted, but the soil has not been fertile.
From torture and executions to discrimination in things like education, or even marriage, the U.S., at the federal and state level, often engages in policies that are willfully contrary to human rights norms accepted (if not always practiced) in much of the rest of the world.
That’s why, in Maryland and California, it is extremely important that those of us who want to establish a real culture of human rights here in the U.S. get out and vote.
In Maryland, voters can affirm their state’s laws supporting marriage equality (Vote Yes on Question 6) and a statewide DREAM Act (Vote Yes on Question 4), and in California (Vote Yes on Prop 34), voters can end their state’s killing of prisoners (and redirect money saved to support victims of crime in more authentic and effective ways).
While Election Day is not the only day we should be striving to make our voices heard on these issues, it is a day when our voices are all brought together, and their impact amplified. Passage of these initiatives will demonstrate that a real culture of human rights can and is taking shape right here in the USA.
It may have been a U.S. President and his widow who planted the seeds for a human rights culture in this country, but it will be up to us, together, at the state and local level, to ensure that those seeds take root.
Vote on Tuesday!