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Another Mythical Threat to American Sovereignty

For all the constant freakouts from the right about everything the United Nations does being a threat to American sovereignty, it’s really a wonder that we still exist as a nation at all. We should have lost our sovereignty decades ago, and multiple times. Rick Santorum and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah are the latest to beat the “ZOMG, they’re going to take us over” drum — and it’s over a plea for people to respect the equal rights of disabled people.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a former GOP presidential candidate and the father of a handicapped child, joined Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in denouncing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, saying it would open a “Pandora’s box” of legal interpretations resulting in a “direct assault on us and our families.”

In a press conference on Capitol Hill Monday, both Santorum and Lee said Articles 4 and 7 of the convention, which reference the rights of disabled children, represent a threat to both national sovereignty and the rights of families to make decisions on how to raise their own children.

“Our concerns with this convention have nothing to do with a lack of concern with the rights of persons with disabilities,” said Lee. “They have everything to do with protecting national sovereignty, protecting the interests of parents … and the interests of families.”

Article 4 of the convention compels member states to embrace “economic, cultural and social rights” that are rooted in the concept that government creates rights, as contrasted with the uniquely American view that rights are inalienable and God-given.

This is, Lee explains, “unknown in our legal system” as it presupposes that the state, not God, is the origin, of our rights.

Uh, what? Couldn’t one make this same argument against every provision in the constitution or the law protecting someone’s rights? We don’t have any declarations from any god about what rights an individual has; indeed, we have a Bible that Lee and Santorum believe to be the word of God and it not only does not contain such a list of “God-given rights,” it contains innumerable commandments that would destroy the rights declared in the Constitution. This is just gibberish.

And let’s get one thing very clear. This convention could not possibly diminish American sovereignty for one simple reason: It has no force unless we agree to it. Treaties don’t become part of the American law because the UN proposes them, they only have an effect if the president signs it and the Senate ratifies it. And even if we do that, it doesn’t mean we’re actually going to follow any of it. Look at the UN Convention on Torture, which Reagan pushed through and was ratified by the Senate, and which we have been flagrantly violating for the last decade.

Comments

  1. raven says

    Santorum is still running for president, not realizing that anyone remotely normal thinks he is a Dark Age Pope wannabe.

    we have a Bible that Lee and Santorum believe to be the word of God and it not only does not contain such a list of “God-given rights,” it contains innumerable commandments that would destroy the rights declared in the Constitution. This is just gibberish.

    True.

    The bible doesn’t say anything about democracy. It does mention communism, with approval.

    It also says the rulers are appointed by god and should be obeyed in Romans 12. Right now that is Obama.

    What the bible is good for is making up arbitrary rules and prescribing the death penalty for trivial offenses like breaking the sabbath. Eating shellfish or pork, wearing mixed fiber clothing, tattoos, or sowing two different seeds in the same field are strictly prohibited.

    IIRC, in Jewish law, there are 613 mitzvots, biblically derived rules that people are supposed to follow. Unless you are an orthodox Jew, most of them are pretty silly.

  2. Sastra says

    Article 4 of the convention compels member states to embrace “economic, cultural and social rights” that are rooted in the concept that government creates rights, as contrasted with the uniquely American view that rights are inalienable and God-given.

    One of the big problems with this line of argument is that if our rights are “inalienable” then they exist as part of our nature — and therefore can only have been given by a God who does not interfere with Nature.

    Otherwise, if our rights are “given” by a God who created and bestowed rights for His purposes, then these rights can be taken away by this same God when His authority deems it best. And so they are, if you look at the history of what happens when God is at the head of the State instead of we the people.

    It’s the same principle as a King having the authority to grant a privilege to some and deny it to others because it’s HIS land, HIS kingdom, HIS subjects. People’s rights are coming from a source above them. They aren’t growing out of common relationships between them — relationships with include their king, and include mutual duties and well as rights. God has no duties. The obligations all go the other way.

    It’s fun when they try to imbed a justification of human rights into an authoritarian supernatural system. Doesn’t work, for good reasons.

  3. Sastra says

    raven #1 wrote:

    IIRC, in Jewish law, there are 613 mitzvots, biblically derived rules that people are supposed to follow. Unless you are an orthodox Jew, most of them are pretty silly.

    No, I think you’ll agree that, even if you are an orthodox Jew, most of them are pretty silly. It’s just that, if you are an orthodox Jew, then you won’t agree that most of them are pretty silly.

  4. says

    “Look at the UN Convention on Torture, which Reagan pushed through and was ratified by the Senate, and which we have been flagrantly violating for the last decade.”

    To be fair, even the Reagan administration wasn’t committed to upholding the commitments upheld by the Reagan administration.

  5. says

    the uniquely American view that rights are inalienable and God-given

    Given their proposed policies viz. women & people who are not hetero-normative, it seems to me that Santorum & Lee are prepared to throw some supposedly inalienable rights under the bus.

    (I’m sure they sincerely believe they are for inalienable rights, but the consequences of their policies are to deny that such things exist for over half the US population.)

  6. scienceavenger says

    …the concept that government creates rights, as contrasted with the uniquely American view that rights are inalienable and God-given.

    What good is an inalienable God-given right if it is deemed illegal by law and society? What does that even mean? One can sit in one’s prison cell mumbling about inalienable rights all one likes, but unless the government acknowledges it, it seems little more than mental masterbation, worthy of a place at the table next to the ether and ontological arguments.

  7. jnorris says

    Under the authority of this UN convention, peacekeepers will take over America and force Christian white males to give their guns to disabled people.

    Glen Beck will verify this in 5, 4, 3 …

  8. DaveL says

    the uniquely American view that rights are inalienable and God-given

    A uniquely American view devised by such uniquely American sources as Locke, Montesquieu, etc.?

    And that’s only counting the idea of divinely mandated equal rights. If you want to include the idea of rights granted by God to some but not others, I think you pretty much have to go back to the most ancient religious texts.

  9. Sastra says

    scienceavenger #6 wrote:

    What good is an inalienable God-given right if it is deemed illegal by law and society?

    They’re talking about justification. If you believe in ‘inalienable God-given rights’ then you can at least say that the law and society are wrong. They should not throw someone into a jail cell without just cause, for instance. You can argue against the status quo, and against those in power, on some basis other than status quo or which human group has the power. You argue by citing God, who has Ultimate Power.

    But ‘inalienable’ rights are even better, because then you can say that God is wrong. God is wrong even if law and society back Him up. Might does not make right. Doesn’t matter what God says, or approves, or wants. This is a lot firmer a foundation than trying to complain that someone is misunderstanding God.

  10. khms says

    Americans, especially right wing Americans, and their views on the world outside their borders, somehow remind me of when, a decade back or so, I learned about how customers lie.

    We were selling networks back then, and the most important piece of information for troubleshooting was if a problem was local to one machine, or network-wide.

    After a while, I learned how to translate customerese:

    “The problem is only with my computer” – “I am too lazy to ask my colleagues”

    “The problem is everywhere” – “The problem is really, really urgent”

    That lying to the troubleshooting tech is about as bad an idea as lying to your doctor or lawyer seemed a bit too difficult a concept to grasp.

    Similarly, it seems that many people in the US think they can just make up stuff about the rest of the world if it just sounds like support for their current argument. Reality? Facts? Surely those are unconstitutional and, worse, blasphemous?

  11. thalwen says

    They oppose this treaty because of some vague references to reproductive health which is obviously code for them being forced to pay for Sandra Fluke’s abortions or something. Also, it’s supposedly a stepping stone to passing the Rights of the Child treaty which does the unthinkable and condemns beating children. And it doesn’t matter how toothless treaties are, their Agenda 21 theories put the worst and the lamest evil villain plots to shame.

  12. DaveL says

    That lying to the troubleshooting tech is about as bad an idea as lying to your doctor or lawyer seemed a bit too difficult a concept to grasp.

    I’m all too familiar with this problem. Often, it isn’t even so much a matter of lying as it is the simple fact that human perception is easily just as much “filling in from preconceptions” as it is actual sensory input. That’s how we end up with physically impossible problem reports that I describe as “The Wheels Fell Off My Ipad.”

  13. The Lorax says

    “They have everything to do with … protecting the interests of parents”

    Also, abortion is bad.

    … wait, what?

  14. Ichthyic says

    force Christian white males to give their guns to disabled people.

    I like this idea.

    let’s do it.

  15. Akira MacKenzie says

    Considering how well we’ve run our own country, I’d welcome a loss of “sovereignty” if it meant this capitalist/theocratic pile of pig-shit called the US were run by civilized people for a change.

  16. says

    Sastra#9

    But ‘inalienable’ rights are even better, because then you can say that God is wrong.

    The two problems I have with the idea of ‘inalienable’ rights (often conflated in my experience with ‘natural’ rights) are:
    1)There’s no epistemic path to determining what rights are or aren’t ‘natural’ or ‘inalienable,’ and there’s vast disagreement among people who claim they exist as to what they consist of. AFAICT, it amounts to a theological dispute, even if gods aren’t being cited.
    2) Whatever set is decided upon, they quite patently aren’t inalienable; people are deprived of them all the time.
    Whether they should be is a whole other story, of course.
    On that note, I hold that the only meaningful concept of rights is that they are entirely granted by society/government, and that there are perfectly good consequentialist arguments for guaranteeing most of those listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, although there are some there that I will quibble with, specifically the ones about what decisions parents are allowed to make about children’s education.
    Akira MacKenzie #15
    I agree completely. I’ve repeatedly argued that we ought to put our government in the hands of the Swedes or someone until we can get our shit together as a country.

  17. says

    God-given rights?

    Leviticus 21:18-22, KJV: 18 For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach : a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose , or any thing superfluous , 19 Or a man that is brokenfooted , or brokenhanded , 20 Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; 21 No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.

    Deuteronomy 23:1, KJV: 23 He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.

  18. Sastra says

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy #16 wrote:

    1)There’s no epistemic path to determining what rights are or aren’t ‘natural’ or ‘inalienable,’ and there’s vast disagreement among people who claim they exist as to what they consist of. AFAICT, it amounts to a theological dispute, even if gods aren’t being cited.

    No clear epistemic path, true, but that doesn’t mean that one couldn’t be rationally discerned, if in the long run we individuals are more like each other than different.

    A right is the flip-side of a duty and makes sense only in the context of relationships. So while there are disagreements, as long as there’s an agreement to leave religion out of it I think the most basic rights and duties human-equals would agree to remain remarkably consistent for the human animal. We all share a common perception about “fair” and “unfair” — even if we quibble over the (important) details of what that entails. That’s not insignificant.

    Treat others as you yourself would be treated: we all want to flourish and make our own choices, and do not wish others to prevent that. It takes off from there, and AFAICT isn’t anything like a theological dispute. It is more like a debate, where we persuade equals rather than proclaim from on High. A long debate — but working in the right direction towards consensus.

    2) Whatever set is decided upon, they quite patently aren’t inalienable; people are deprived of them all the time.

    I suppose it depends on how “inalienable” is defined. But even when religious people use the term, they obviously can’t mean that people can’t ever be deprived of them or else they’re not inalienable. They’re standing on what should be. So I’d argue that yes, you’re right here — but that’s not the best definition.

    On that note, I hold that the only meaningful concept of rights is that they are entirely granted by society/government, and that there are perfectly good consequentialist arguments for guaranteeing most of those listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…

    I don’t think that works. If the only meaningful concept of rights is that they’re ENTIRELY granted by society/government, then no society or government could be wrong and you clearly don’t believe that. You wouldn’t be able to make a ‘good consequentialist argument’ for one declaration of rights to be better than another, if there is no standard for all individuals to aim at.

    I think it would be perfectly reasonable, however, to say that rights are entirely guaranteed by society/government. That means you could point out that some societies/governments are doing a piss-poor job, measured against a common standard.

    Measured against a common standard, the Abrahamic God does a piss-poor job: the humans who all share equal value because they’re “made in God’s image” don’t all continue to share the divine value the minute they do anything less than perfect, fail to belong to God’s tribe, or it’s discovered that they were created by God for a “purpose” having to do with the flourishing and salvation of their betters. Human rights can’t grow out of a hierarchy of worth.

  19. says

    You wouldn’t be able to make a ‘good consequentialist argument’ for one declaration of rights to be better than another, if there is no standard for all individuals to aim at.

    Of course I can. If the desired consequence is human health and happiness (and I think that I can safely say that virtually everyone would like to be healthy and happy, so human health and happiness can be construed as a universal good), then some declarations of rights quite clearly provide them better than others, assuming that they are, in fact, also enforced.

  20. Sastra says

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy #21 wrote:

    Of course I can.

    We must be arguing past each other. You seem to be saying that you DON’T need a common “standard for all individuals to aim at” — and then you provide a fair and reasonable common standard to aim at. Suggesting the universal good of “human health and happiness” as the basis of deriving human rights means that the “only meaningful concept of rights” can’t be that they’re ENTIRELY granted by society/government. No, the society and/or government ought to take health and happiness (or something similar) into consideration or we can quarrel with what they grant… which I agree with.

    So what are we arguing over? Or are we?

  21. says

    Toothless guidelines about sustainable development, treaties about the international sale of illegal weapons that specifically exclude any interference in a country’s internal affairs, and agreements to respect the rights of the disabled. All these are the stuff of scary conspiracy theories about one world governments among wingnuts.

    Yet the WTO, which already has encroached on out sovereignty gets a free pass from conservatives. Why is that?

  22. says

    sastra
    I’m not sure we actually are arguing. What I’m saying is that calling a given right inalienable is functionally meaningless, because a)it can be removed, and b) even as a rhetorical device there has to be a case made for why it should be considered a fundamental right. I’m also arguing that a right which is not actively guaranteed/enforced by government or some other element of society doesn’t exist in any meaningful sense. The best you can hope for is that if a right is officially guaranteed but not enforced, you’re one step closer to making it real compared to a right that’s neither guaranteed nor enforced. You might not even get that, though; the Soviet Union’s constitution guaranteed freedom of speech, but trying to exercise that right was a good way to get shipped to the gulags. Trying to change this by referencing the rights guaranteed in the constitution was also a good way to get shipped to the gulags, so even a written guarantee doesn’t necessarily help you make your case.

  23. jayarrrr says

    As somebody who has increasing difficulty moving about as time goes on, I wonder why do these Wadds of Fuck hate me so much?

  24. llewelly says

    … indeed, we have a Bible that Lee and Santorum believe to be the word of God …

    Lee is Mormon. Mormons believe the bible to be the Word of God “in so far as it is translated correctly” . Any biblical passage that disagrees with Lee’s personal Holy Ghost is a mistranslation. (And now you know why Mormons continue to use the KJV (with trivial alternations).)

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