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Mar-17-2011 13:33printcomments

U.S. vs. World: America's Strange Case of Split Personality

We need government that protects rights for everybody. Otherwise, we’re all in serious trouble.

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(PHOENIX, Ariz.) - Several news items this week remind me that Americans suffer from a sort of "split personality" that places the United States outside the mainstream when compared with many other industrialized nations. We consider our country a democracy, where everyone’s rights are honored, but we’re failing in many areas. Consider this week’s examples:

The women’s-rights division of Human Rights Watch reports that unlike their counterparts in other lands, American workers rarely receive pay when they take time off to give birth to or adopt a child or care for a sick relative. Worse, U.S. law covering unpaid family leave doesn’t apply to companies with fewer than 50 employees. That means half the U.S. workforce could lose their jobs if they dare take time off for family emergencies. Oddly, the party that opposes these and other workers’ rights, especially the right to medical care, is the one that claims to support "family values."

Arizona lawmakers want to close state-run homes for developmentally disabled and send them to privately-owned Hacienda Healthcare, despite the fact that residents and their families praise the quality of state care. It took years to get states to establish standards of care for disabled citizens. Now the Right wants to hand control of some of the most vulnerable citizens over to industries they’re loath to regulate.

Then there’s the ongoing saga of GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin, Ohio, and five other states trying to abolish state employees’ collective bargaining rights. On the other hand, it seems union-busting isn’t as popular as the Tea Party would have us believe. The move has spawned massive protests throughout the country.

Speaking of protests, AP reports arrests of business executives who amassed filthy lucre with help from now-deposed Egyptian officials. In the States, the Bush and Obama administrations handed tons of tax revenues to executives who’d drained their companies and the economy dry. Then the execs received huge bonuses because, as the story goes, companies have to pay big bucks for big brains. With brains like that, the economy couldn’t have done worse with Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Pluto at Wall Street’s helms.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act against a horde of legal challenges, ensuring that the issue of same-sex marriage will quickly reach the Supreme Court. With Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell almost history, the U.S. is moving closer to full rights for the LGBTQ community. President Obama says he’d be more comfortable with civil unions for gays and lesbians, but he’s a grownup; he knows he doesn’t channel the Voice of God. The same can’t be said of many of his political opponents.

Canadian authorities report at least nine girls from 12 to 18 were transported, many by their own parents, to become "spiritual wives" of polygamists in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. Two of the youngest were "married" to now-imprisoned cult leader Warren Jeffs.

While the U.S. recognizes the legality of South Africa’s polygamous leader, Jacob Zuma, authorities in Lehi, UT, virtually ran Kody Brown and his four wives out of town because the otherwise law-abiding family dared to show in their TLC series, "Sister Wives," that all polygamists aren’t child abusers. Lawmakers ignore the fact that bans against polygamy provide the secrecy that protects and encourages abusers like Jeffs and his cohorts.

The rest of the world doesn’t have all these issues figured out, but many countries, especially much of Europe, are way ahead of the U.S. in such areas as paid family leave, workers’ rights, universal medical care, green energy, disability rights, LGBTQ rights, and more. It would behoove us to pay attention to how many of these countries are surviving the current economic crisis without pulling the rug completely out from under their neediest citizens.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the favorite hobby of people at one end of the political spectrum. That’s why people on the other side have finally realized we must speak up at least as loud and long as Tea Partiers. We, on the other hand, must speak for the rights of all people. If we don’t, we could see the neocons fulfill Grover Norquist’s dream of "[shrinking] the government down to the size where [they] can drown it in the bathtub."

We need government that protects rights for everybody. Otherwise, we’re all in serious trouble.


Debbie Jordan is the author of The World I Imagine: A creative manual for ending poverty and building peace, a collection of 47 essays originating in the column she writes for the Arizona City Independent Edition. Jordan writes about her solutions to some of the world’s most detrimental social issues. Jordan is committed to inspiring others to improve the world through community involvement and volunteerism.

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Douglas Benson March 19, 2011 7:28 am (Pacific time)

Theres this little thing called the constitution ,that should do just that .It seems our courts are broken . We only have the rights we take ,if we dont use them ,demand them ,protect them ,even if its for someone or something we hate ,like hate speech at soldiers funerals.We lose them .

Amanda March 18, 2011 2:51 pm (Pacific time)

The governement to protect everyone?? An Illusion - it never was and never will be.

Anonymous001 March 17, 2011 5:16 pm (Pacific time)

We can't even get the podunk Salem PD to act honestly regarding complaints of police brutality.

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