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Rights

by on February 28, 2020

Rights

by Marco M. Pardi

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” St. Francis of Assisi

For the third time in a training session Tonio refused the Training Master’s directive that he put a spiked choke chain on his attack dog. “It’s just not necessary, and it breaks the trust between dog and handler that could have fatal results later.”

Hours later Tonio overheard the Training Master in a heated argument with the Unit NCOIC. The TM was arguing for Court-Martial charges; the NCOIC, tolerant to this point of the TM’s brutal training methods, refused and offered an alternative: a public competition in which 21 dogs and handlers would compete. The teams would have 21 days to prepare and Tonio would be allowed to employ his own methods of training and working with his dog.

All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

In this era of thoroughly outrageous health care costs a common saying has emerged: Health care is a human right. Admittedly, that’s a catchy saying and fits nicely on a bumper sticker. But I pay close attention to words, and especially to the concepts they are used to transmit. In this case the predicate seems to be that humans, simply by being human, have certain universal and undeniable rights. Who decided that? Non-humans? Oh, of course, we awarded ourselves that, along with preeminence over everything else in existence.

The pronouncement of health care as a human right may flow, though I doubt it, from the following: “Everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. United Nations Article 25.1 10 December 1948.

I said above that I doubt this is the predicate of health care is a human right simply because I think most people are only dimly aware of the United Nations, much less what the U.N. has to say. Nonetheless, no matter who states it, the challenge remains: On what basis do humans claim rights for themselves?

Moments before Tonio took the oath swearing him into the military he was informed that in so doing he would surrender his rights under the U.S. Constitution and would henceforth come under the UCMJ, the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Furthermore, he was made aware that what rights he would have did not come free. As Samuel Coleridge said, “There are no rights without corresponding duties”. But Tonio, being a quietly independent soul, may have been listening in his mind to Robert Frost, who said, “I hold it to be the inalienable right of anybody to go to hell in his own way”. (When unwanted telephone calls come to me I just tell the caller to go and engage in a certain auto-erotic behavior.) My phone, my right.

Americans, by acquiescing to the daily destruction of their rights as citizens, seem to be heeding Frost in a perverse way. To the extent they have come to believe the way of the regime now in power is in fact their own way, they are marching in lockstep into the hell of Fascism. Please look back at that Universal Declaration of Human Rights above and ask yourself how the billions of dollars poured into the Pentagon, into the border monument to Trump, into the tax breaks to the planet killing fossil fuel industry, the move to abolish the Consumer Protection Agency and limit the right to sue manufacturers for damages, the reduction or elimination of social support such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), the usurpation of power from the Legislative and the judicial branches of government to the Executive branch, the closure of dozens of rural hospitals in States that refuse to accept MedicAid expansion, and the de-funding of scientific programs not helpful to or in contradiction of the military-industrial complex honor and serve the “human rights” so confidently listed.

For many years I have been a strong supporter of several organizations that protect, rescue, rehabilitate, and/or provide homes for non-human animals. One of these, the Nonhuman Rights Project, is winning expensive court cases in favor of recognizing the inherent sentience, and therefore rights, of a variety of nonhuman animals. How strange it must be to courts and observers that serious, competent attorneys plead cases on behalf of captive elephants, chimpanzees, and other nonhuman animals kept in miserable confinement for the passing entertainment of a few shallow humans. No one is asking that these nonhumans be enfranchised with voting privileges; we ask only that they be freed from their tortuous captivity and allowed to live out their lives in certified sanctuaries. (For the record, I also support the sanctuaries). I also support organizations with a broader scope, such as Earthrights International. What? Rocks have rights? The formative philosophy is that Earth is a cohesive whole, not an amalgam of separate parts. As such, its presence gives it validity. And, its validity gives it rights.

I often hear the phrase, “God given rights”. Whose God? And what of those people who do not believe in a God for which there is no evidence? Do the believers have the right to smite the unbelievers? (I like that word smite. It’s so kinetic. A physicist would call it elegant.)

But again, no matter where we look, we have no factual basis for the concept of Rights as it is applied solely to humans. The claim that humans were created by a God is interesting, but must take into account that, according to the belief, so was everything else. Ah, but we are told that this God “breathed” a spark of divinity into humans, but not into anything else. Really? Who says so?

Since we have elevated ourselves above every other form of existence we are asked to reach down to the nonhuman animals and to exercise compassion toward them. Noblesse oblige. How very wonderful of us. But Mankind has long demonstrated that compassion, even decency, takes a very distant back seat to money and pleasure.

Some people flippantly state that Might Makes Right. In very specific and short-term settings there may be some truth to that. However, those people would be wise to remember the saying, Those who live by the sword die by the sword. The new corona-virus now rapidly spreading over all but one of the seven continents may prove mightier than Man’s ability to defeat it. Does its Might give it the Right?

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9 Comments
  1. Dana permalink

    Marco, this post reminds me of a woman with whom I recently engaged on public transportation. The bus driver and I attempted to shut down her attempts to proselytize riders, which came with her insistence we would all go to hell if we didn’t heed her warnings. Shutting her down led to her shouting about her right to freedom of speech. Who decides the limits of that right, especially when riding on a public transportation vehicle that clearly states “no soliciting?”

    I do think we should have universal healthcare, but I try to avoid calling that a “right.” It would feel more like a privilege to me since I’ve mostly gone without it since I moved to the U.S. Calling it a right seems odd, especially for those of us who attempt to be self-aware. Sure, I could cry that healthcare is my right, but is it still so when I’ve binge-watched Downton Abbey and eaten things that aren’t so great for my health (Cadbury Mini Eggs are out for Easter – a real problem every Spring for me)? Along with calling healthcare a right, perhaps we should state that a healthier lifestyle is our duty. I do take care of myself for the most part, but not always.

    As you know, I always enjoy stories about Tonio. I’m so glad he stood up for the rights of his sentry dog.

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  2. Thank you, Dana. I’m sure your example of the woman on the bus is familiar to most of us who have taken public transportation. And yes, freedom of speech does have limits but most of us hesitate to present those limits to those who impose themselves on us.

    I’m still puzzled over health care as a right, especially in the context you provide in which people do not consider the duty to take care of themselves. It seems we have moved toward a society which is quick to claim rights with no obligations to perform duties. But then we open the box of “deserving” versus not so deserving. I saw this repeatedly in STD clinics where patients demanded treatment for their repetitive STDs even after they had been made aware of safeguards and given condoms. “You HAVE to treat me!” is something I heard all too often.

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  3. Tomorrow begins the month in which I turn 65, a random age at which everything apparently changes. As a military (retired) dependent, my ID card contains my access to medical care, a privilege which we were promised in exchange for giving up our civil rights upon enlistment. It was to have been free for life, but of course that didn’t turn out to be true. The medical insurance for which I have been paying expires at midnight tonight; its replacement (Tricare for life) has no cost, but requires the purchase of Medicare B in order to be activated. Without these, My ID card is no longer valid. Fortunately, after a couple of false starts, I have managed to put things right. Now, if I can just find a free day in which to visit the base, I can get a new card. Without it, I question whether I even truly exist.

    Before I had medical insurance, I lived in blissful ignorance of all that was wrong with me. Now my fear is that I will not be able to access the care and medicines I need. I am not poor enough to receive my medical care at the government’s expense, not wealthy enough to afford it on my own.

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    • Thank you, Rose. And I wish you the best for your upcoming birthday.

      Your situation is common among retired enlisted personnel. Yet, it is invisible to the general public. Many people seem to think that military retirees settle near military installations because they love the lifestyle and can’t leave it. In fact, it’s for ready access to healthcare and some of the basic amenities available at those installations. But here, too, we see a great disparity: my brother, a retired Colonel, enjoys a lifestyle far beyond the average civilian and not comparable in any way to retired enlistees. When I was in service I wondered what the “lifers” had in store, and chose to not find out.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dana permalink

      Rose, I’m in the same situation. Not indigent, but not wealthy enough to afford insurance. In January I’ll be fifty and I know there are some milestone tests I should probably have. Oh well……….

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      • Dana. This must represent a real turning point in American society. It speaks more than ever of the need to oust the Fascists from this country.

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  4. Elizabeth Martinez permalink
    I also agree that Rights are a human construct. I don’t know when we humans divorced and separated ourselves from everything else in the world, but it’s been downhill ever since. “I think therefore I am”….really? Seeing ourselves as a separate entity has its place in life but forgetting that we are everything and everything is us is literally killing us in every sense of the word. Our species as a whole lacks reverence for all creation. This country’s god is money and it’s mantra is “greed is good “. We are so lost. It’s so sad. Not enough people have “woken up” to really turn the whole mess around.

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  5. Thanks, Liz. I doubt we will see a cultural change before we have to pay a heavy price – more than we already are. But even then, people won’t understand that this price will be the consequence of our beliefs and actions. They, under our current leadership, will blame it on something else.

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