Saturday, October 6, 2012

Someone Has to Hold the Line

     Being American is considered by many to be the most privileged birthright in the world.  Americans are exalted everywhere there is oppression.  The experience of oppression is far more extreme and life-threatening in many countries than anything I could recount here in the USA.
     But oppression is a matter of degree, not kind.  It has an insidious onset, and grows invisibly, like a spider web in the night, suddenly capturing innocent creatures in its vast sticky net, creatures who never even saw the threads spinning.
     Oppression is the unjust or cruel exercise of power.  It can take many forms.
     1.  The worst example of a government's persecution of its own citizens, currently, is Syria.  Bashar al-Assad's regime has killed 20,000 Syrian citizens since a civilian uprising against this oppressive regime began in March 2011.  Every day government troops bomb and shoot ordinary people in the suburbs of Damascus.  Syrian troops have targeted people waiting in line at bakeries to buy bread, firing artillery at ten bakeries in the town of Aleppo, so that now the bakeries are all closed and people have no bread.  "Enforced disappearance"--a strategy employed by the Syrian government for decades--has reached an all-time high.  Anyone who is suspected of opposing the government's methods is detained, tortured and killed, and families are kept in the dark about the person's fate.  These victims disappear without a trace, and the government is careful not to leave behind a trail of official records, so that it will seem as though the person never even existed.
     2.  Jordan has been deporting refugees back to Syria, in the midst of Syrian bloodshed, because the refugees protested about awful conditions in the Jordanian refugee camps.
     3.  More than one million Rohingya Muslims have been massacred by extremist Buddhists in northern Myanmar (Burma), including attacks at the border of Bangladesh, against those seeking asylum.  The genocide includes burning of children, an atrocity depicted in photographs by people making an effort to bring world attention to this largely ignored problem.  The Myanmarese government has shown little interest in protecting its Rohingya citizens, and in fact has granted amnesty for perpetrators of the large-scale human rights violations since 1988.  This Muslim minority group remains under constant threat and masssacre, and lives as a stateless people whose government endorses--because it doesn't protect them--these human rights violations.
     4.  30 million people live in extreme poverty in Ethiopia.  The international community has responded by providing long-term aid to Ethiopia, especially in response to recent droughts.  But the Ethiopian government, led since 1991 by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, is withholding this aid--food, seed, and fertilizer-- from villages where people don't support his regime.  As a result, Ethiopian men, women and children are starving to death in these regions.  In addition, Ethiopian government forces are using torture and detention of citizens as a method for suppressing those who are suspected of opposing the government.  Recently a teacher in his late twenties, Yenesew Gebre--doused himself with petrol and burned himself to death at a protest, as a way of calling attention to the brutality of Ethiopia's government.
     5.  Sri Lanka is one of the worst countries in the world for the pedophile sex tourist industry.  Children as young as three are sold into the sex trade for money, often under the guise of religion, in many Southeast Asian countries, especially India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.  Thousands of ads on the internet draw pedophiles from all over the world to these countries, where buying sex with girls and boys is easy, and supports a huge organized crime industry.  Sri Lanka is one of the principle sources of child pornography for the western world.  Trafficking and prostitution of children to pedophiles, and the sex trade industry in general, remains an alarming problem in every country of the world, including large and small towns in the United States, and so far has not been acknowledged as an important agenda item in most of these countries.
     6.  The site,, reports on the widespread oppression, through propaganda and violence, of the Chinese government against its citizens, especially in Chinese prisons, where people are regularly tortured to death.  "Severe beatings, starvation, and forced isolation are all used to elicit confession and cooperation from prisoners, and not just political detainees," it says.  Religious persecution in Tibet and the Uyghur nation (East Turkistan) is one of the worst examples of systematic oppression in the world.  China refuses to recognize Tibetans and Uyghurs as legitimate religious groups, having outlawed the practice of their religion since 1949.  Chinese law enforcement officials treat Tibetans and Uyghurs "worse than dogs, subjecting Buddhist nuns and laywomen to violent assault, rape and degradation"--including murder.  The Chinese government's imperialist strategies against the Uyghurs include razing the oldest part of the Uyghur city of Kashgar, as a way of destroying their culture and religious identity, and silencing those who oppose the official Chinese position by imprisoning and torturing them.  Rebiyah Kadeer, head of the World Uyghur conference in Germany, was incarcertaed for years by the Chinese government and reports that she is under constant threat of assassination at the hands of the Chinese secret agents.
     7.   The ethnic cleansing in Darfur resulted in death by mutilation, murder, even crucifixion of 300,000 Sudanese citizens in a horrendous, systematic massacre of tribespeople by Black Arab militias--which has not yet ended.  Some estimate the death toll to be in the millions.  Sudan has repeatedly violated international agreements, and the genocide continues "by attrition," as 1.7 million Darfuris remain displaced, many are dying from famine, and government atrocities against its own people continue.  As recently as a few years ago, Sudanese military planes bombed villages, then Arab troops moved into the areas to rape and kill survivors.  Now, in the Nuban mountains of South Kordofan, Sudan's counterinsurgency strategy ("They say they want to finish off all the black people--they want to kill them all," reported one Nuban woman) is forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.  Sudan soldiers are gang-raping women, then cutting their throats, stabbing three-year-old children to death, and executing men with guns, without fear of reprisal.  Because Sudan's struggles began with starvation and drought, and were a dispute over arable land, many people continue to die of thirst and starvation.  The Sudanese government is bombing refugee camps and cutting off supplies to large populations.  Food is running out in the Nuba mountains, so starvation is about to become an even bigger problem.
     8.  The U.N.'s Committee Against Torture has been investigating thousands of complaints against the Cuban government for harassment of dissidents, short-term arrests without judicial orders, 202 unexplained deaths of Cuban prisoners in 2010 and 2011, and acts of intimidation by the National Revolutionary Police.  Cuba lists crimes as vague as "pre-criminal social dangerousness" as punishable by imprisonment.  Cuba is well-known for its use of coercive methods during interrogations.
     9.  President of Cameroon, H.E. Paul Biya, has been reelected amidst "election irregularities" since 1982.  His country is guilty of security force killings, torture, beatings--especially of detainees--life-threatening prison conditions, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment of journalists, societal violence and discrimination against women, forced child labor, hereditary servitude, and female genital mutilation.
    10.  The United States is also guilty of arbitrary detention.  400,000 immigrants per year are detained in this country, and individuals cannot exercise due process because they don't have access to lawyers.  Detained prisoners are subject to physical and sexual abuse, and may not receive medical care.  Advocacy groups are working to educate congressional leaders on the need for detention reform.  The United States incarcerates more people than any other country, often in conditions that are substandard, and sometimes for reasons that are unclear.  1 in 142 Americans is in prison.  1 in 32 Americans is either in prison, or on parole or probation (50% felonies, 49% misdemeanors, 1% other crimes;  24% for drug law violations, 17% DUI's).   30% will be reincarcerated, have their parole revoked, or abscond abscond.

     Who am I to complain about my puny situation, vis-a-vis a government that is "the best in the world," by some estimations--when so many people in the world are suffering at the hands of outright monsters, given free-range by Qaddafi-like rulers?  Am I guilty of the same "entitlementality" that afflicts so many young Americans today, impelling them to ask for more privileges, more consideration, bankrolling by their parents into their thirties?
     I don't think so.  Basic human rights are entitlements that are the hallmark of a civilized, democratic society.  They include the right to speak, work, demonstrate peacefully, and think out loud;  the right to an education and medical care; and the right to know why a government attacks, detains, or punishes its citizens.  I have a right to know why the government attacked my clinic, assaulted my reputation, and took my belongings, including the cash in my bank accounts.   I should not have to wait for years and years to find out why--I want to know now.  I should be allowed to mount a defense, if necessary, and obtain restitution, if the attack was not based on "reasonable suspicion."
     The worst governments in the world become cruel and oppressive, not overnight!--but one small loss at a time.  They lull their populations to sleep with comforting lies about how great their countries are, how defenseless people would be without big government, how much the government "cares," and how important it is for each of us to turn over our individual human rights, one by one, so that government agents might usurp the power they crave to "fight terrorism," "fight drugs," "fight crime," "fight fraud," and, in an elaborate incongruity, fight the very authoritarianism-turned-tyranny that is the ultimate goal of power-obsessed leaders.
     Someone has to hold the line, or the gradual attrition of our rights and our freedom, year after year, will allow this country, the United States of America, to deteriorate--by a process that seems inevitable because of the basest elements in our shared human nature, without conscientious attention--into one more cruel, atrocious governments in the world.  


1 comment:

  1. We need to Vote Obama out of office in November, in order to begin again to put the Constitution of the United States of America in place, as it has been in the past. Part of the issue of perhaps your persecution is the result of too much complicity within the operation of the Government, in other words some people just can not seem to get it that some people are actually good, if not great for the Country, keep your chin up, you are nothing less than Brilliant.