Monday, November 11, 2019
By now most know of Rapper TI's disclosure that he attends his daughter's annual gynecology exam so that the doctor can perform a "virginity test" and inform TI of the results. When his daughter turned 18 the doctor informed TI and his daughter that the doctor could not give TI the results without his daughter's consent. TI told his daughter to give consent.
But this post is about the US media's coverage of the story. Every major news outlet led the story with a discussion of the physiology of the hymen, noting that a "virginity" test is a myth. Then follows a discussion of the tissue that constitutes the hymen and the ways in which it may be torn, and how hymens do not typically cover the entire vagina. This was the lead part of the story with Fox News, the New York Times, Boston Globe and others. Are we supposed to focus on TI's error and his lack accurate information on vaginas and hymens?
The appropriate lead story is "Rapper TI abuses his daughter by demanding that she be virginity tested each year and that he receive the results." Or "male supremacist believes he has the right to control women's bodies." Women are property and TI was enforcing his ownership rights. TI gave no thought to his daughter's autonomy and privacy. And apparently, neither does the US media.
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt's book "How Democracies Die" is an interesting read. The authors discuss how countries outside of the United States have permitted or averted demagogues from controlling the state.
Two threads are of particular interest to me. The first is that demagogues have been defeated when members of their own political party draw boundaries around and protest not only inhumane actions, but those that undermine the democratic process. Parliament has drawn the boundaries with Boris Johnson who on his own would continue with Brexit through a hard exit. Parliament is repeatedly telling Mr. Johnson that Brexit should only happen under an agreement. Rarely has the US Congress, and particularly the Republican party drawn boundaries around President Trump's actions, or even publicly criticized the president. Opposition criticism becomes fodder for the would-be demagogues' claims of victimization.
Secondly, in order to defeat a demagogue in an election, parties and voters must agree upon a candidate they will support, even if that candidate is mediocre or against some of the major policies of the uniting parties. In other words, just agree to elect anyone who is not a demagogue nor seeks to become one and voters interrupt the would be demagogue's path to power.
It is unlikely that the Republicans will take an aggressive stance against the erosion of democracy because they have already condoned many variations from the norm of civil democracy - for example, refusing to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the US Supreme Court. So we must rely on voter turnout for whoever is the opposition nominee. Voters may have had grievances against the Clintons that either stopped them from voting or turned them toward Mr. Trump. For the next presidential election, the only analysis needs to be which candidate will do the least damage to a democratic state.
Thursday, September 5, 2019
The Section on Women in Legal Education is pleased to announce a Call for Papers from which presenters will be selected to participate in the Section’s main program at the AALS 2020 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The program, A Century Since Suffrage: How Did We Get Here? Where Will We Go? How Will We Get There?, will explore the legal accomplishments and failures of the women’s movement since 1920. A century ago, women won the right to vote. Since then, women garnered additional rights in virtually every legal area, including in the realms of employment, property, reproduction, education, caretaking, sexual freedom, and protection from violence. Despite significant success, much work remains.
This session will consider the future of the women’s movement through a critical examination of our past as guided by three multi-faceted inquiries:
(1) How did we get here?
Topics can include, for example: Who shaped the movement’s path? What were the movement’s guiding ideologies, practices, and priorities? Where did the movement fail? How did the exclusion of African American and other minority women shape the movement’s trajectory and goals? How did the prioritization of some issues over others impact women’s lives and the reality of sex equality?
(2) Where will we go?
Topics can include, for example, What are or should be our priorities as we move forward? How do we continue our work given the current political climate, assault on women’s rights, and status of our world? How will our understandings of gender shift the goals of the women’s movement? What impact will intersectionality have on the movement?
(3) How will we get there?
Topics can include, for example: Who will shape our actions
and goals as we move forward? Which philosophies will guide us? What are the obstacles in our path? What have we learned from our past and how will that knowledge guide us into the future?
We welcome proposals for presentations on these topics.
Submission Guidelines: Submission guidelines: We welcome proposals for 30-minute presentations on these topics. Proposals for presentations should be sent as an e-mail file attachment in MS Word to Professor Rona Kaufman at email@example.com by Monday, September 23, 2019. She will confirm receipt of all submissions. Proposals for presentations should be 500-1500 words long, and should denote the topic to be addressed, any special technological needs for the session, the presenter’s background, years of teaching, institutional affiliation, and contact information. All abstracts will be reviewed by members of the WILE Program Committee. Selected professors will present their work at the 2020 AALS Annual
Meeting. Full drafts of articles based on conference presentations will be due by July 1, 2020. Final versions of the articles will be due by August 19, 2020. Accepted articles will be published in the Winter 2021 issue of the Duquesne Law Review.
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Summer half over and you're behind in your summer reading? Whittled away your time -- blog, tweet, watch the news, protest, repeat?
There's still time for you to catch up, and plenty of good reads. Every quarter, the Hong Kong Free Press publishes a rundown of the best Human Rights Books published in the past few months. The current list is here , with several US-related recommendations, including The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Indian America from 1890 to Present, and Solitary.
Monday, December 17, 2018
Looking for gifts for children? There are many age directed human rights books for kids. Several websites are particularly helpful.
The Institute for Humane Education recommends several books for children, from kindergarten to fifth grade. Among the recommended books are:
I Have the Right to Be a Child by Aurelia Fronty
2012. Grades K-3.
“I am a child with eyes, hands, a voice, a heart, and rights.” In simple text this book highlights some of the many rights represented in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to an education, to play, to clean air and water, and to be protected from harm.
The Stamp Collector by Jennifer Lanthier
2012. Grades 3-6.
Two boys in an unnamed country grow up far from each other, but as adults, their passions and lives bring them together: one as a prisoner whose words bring hope to many, but which have also sent him to prison – and to his death; the other a prison guard who is moved to help the prisoner by ensuring that his words live on.
Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed
2007. Grades 1-5.
When relief workers bring donated clothing to the refugee camp in Peshawar, Lina discovers a sandal just her size. But another girl, Feroza, has claimed the other. Eventually the girls work out a way to share the sandals, each wearing the sandals on alternate days, and their friendship grows. When Lina’s family is finally sent to America, Feroza gives her one of the sandals to keep—to always remember their friendship.
Then there is the children's version of the Declaration of Human Rights. And the Barefoot Mommy suggests 15 books on social justice and human rights that will prompt discussions with children on human rights topics. The ACLU has a wonderful list of human rights books for children and young adults. The books address a wide range of issues, including challenging rigid gender norms, homophobia and migration.
And for adults looking for a review human rights literature for children, and how children learn human rights, read Jonathan Todres co-authored book Human Rights in Children's Literature: Imagination and The Narrative of Law.
Thursday, June 14, 2018
In A Human Rights Code of Conduct: Ambitious Moral Aspiration For a Public Interest Law Office of Law Clinic, Prof. Lauren Bartlett addresses the development of lawyer ethics with a focus on the development of a human rights ethical code. The development of human rights ethics codes for our clinics is an important concept and one that opens all sorts of opportunities to engage students in developing the code, but also the professional tenor and goals, of the clinic.
The Introduction to this intriguing topic reads:
Incivility and unethical behavior in the legal profession have long been topics of concern in the United States. In recent years, many state and local bar associations, as well as the American Bar Association (“ABA”), have taken steps to address incivility, including adopting professional rules, amending lawyers’ oaths of office, and more. Yet current events continue to test limits of tolerance for incivility and unethical behavior. What is more, too many lawyers are unhappy and unhealthy in the legal profession, which has been tied to ethics and integrity. In these difficult times for the legal profession, moral aspiration, or the hope or ambition for high ethical integrity, is incredibly important.
Lawyers seek moral aspiration from a variety of sources, including other lawyers, religion, and cultural norms. They also seek the rules, standards, and guidance applicable to lawyers in the United States This Article offers an alternative source for moral aspiration for lawyering—human rights—and suggests establishing a human rights dignified, respectful, and safe space, and to hold colleagues, students, and others, to high ethical standards. The idea of a human rights code of conduct for a law office or law clinic builds on recent scholarship applying human rights principles to lawyering. In addition, this idea follows the recent proliferation of corporations choosing to adopt social justice and human rights related codes of conduct.
A human rights code of conduct provides practical, consistent, and significant ways to apply human rights principles to lawyering. Modeled loosely after professionalism codes or civility codes across the United States, a human rights code of conduct draws on human rights principles and provides ambitious moral aspiration for attorneys and law students. A human rights code of conduct provides practical guidance for navigating difficult ethical dilemmas, without necessitating additional regulation. A human rights code of conduct also promotes attorney and law student happiness and helps the reputation of the legal profession as a whole.
The full article may be accessed here.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
The Interconnections between Health and Housing
For its next issue the Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law (the Journal) invites articles and essays exploring the interconnections between health and the Journal’s traditional themes: affordable housing, fair housing and community/economic development. Topics could include creative housing developments; federal, state, local and/or private funding sources; statutes, policies or regulations; and empirical studies. Articles and essays could analyze new developments, tell success stories, or explore problems relating to issue such as affordable independent/assisted living, aging in place, or in-home care, and propose legal and policy recommendations.The Journal we
lcomes essays (typically 2,500–6,200 words) or articles (typically 7,000-10,000 words) on the theme.
The Journal is the nation’s only law journal dedicated to affordable housing and community development law. The Journal educates readers and provides a forum for discussion and resolution of problems in these fields by publishing articles from distinguished law professors, policy advocates and practitioners.
Interested authors are encouraged to send an abstract describing their proposals to the Journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Tim Iglesias, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Journal accepts submissions on a rolling basis. Please do not hesitate to contact the Editor with any questions.
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Having just completed my first Inside Out program with our local women's jail, I witnessed first hand the transformation that occurs when those who have been deprived of adequate education begin their journey to learning. A 2013 RAND Corporation study affirmed what most suspected. Education is key to reducing recidivism. "Our meta-analytic findings provide additional support for the premise that receiving correctional education while incarcerated reduces an individual’s risk of recidivating after release." The promotion of Inside-Out programs was one topic discussed recently by Pulitzer Prize winning Prof. James Forman at the AALS Clinical Section Conference. Forman is the author of Locking Up Our Own, which looks at the roots of mass incarceration. Forman advocated for more college education classes in prisons and jails.
Receipt of books by those who are incarcerated is essential for continuation of "inside" self-education. But educational programs are not a priority, particularly for privatized prisons. Everything from phone calls to Skype visits with children are available only to prisoners who pay. Shortsighted is the most generous description I can attach to a recently announced policy that prisoners would no longer be able to receive books directly from distributors, except for one approved by the prison. And those books would come with a 30% mark up.
Family and friends of incarcerated men and women responded, as well as those inside, as well. Coleman federal prison in Sumterville, FL was one that announced the new policy and that facility was the topic of advocacy efforts through national listserves and individual inquiry. Then the policy was rescinded.
To the extent that the policy was a "test", the national grassroots response was sufficient to at least postpone its implementation.
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Human Rights Advocacy in the United States, by Martha Davis, Johanna Kalb and Risa Kaufman is entering its second edition.
This text is an essential tool for introducing students to human rights concepts and their application within the US. In focusing on advocacy in the US, the authors provide a unique perspective along with assessments of successful human rights advocacy and those strategies less successful within our borders. The publisher's description reads:
This pedagogically innovative book is the only law school casebook focused on human rights advocacy in the United States. It illuminates a range of both hot topics and persistent theoretical and doctrinal issues while equipping students to thoughtfully engage these tools in their own practice of law. Readings and case studies expose students to the history, tools, and critiques of the U.S. human rights movement and the legal and practical challenges of human rights implementation in the United States. Skills exercises introduce practice-oriented approaches to engaging human rights-based strategies, including practice before international treaty bodies as well as domestic policymakers. Additionally, the appendices offer the text of relevant human rights treaties.
Law professors may obtain a copy here.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
For the most part, Sikkink does not sugarcoat the challenges facing the human rights movement. Trump’s nativist agenda, hateful rhetoric, and professed enthusiasm for torture techniques “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” have rightly alarmed U.S. human rights advocates, provoking fears of backsliding at home and emboldening bad actors around the world. Last December, the UN’s top human rights official, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who had expressed concerns about the Trump administration and other potential sources of harm to the human rights regime, announced his unusual decision to not seek a second term, saying it “might involve bending a knee in supplication.”
But Sikkink remains optimistic. She argues that the fight for human rights has taken on a new dimension as developing countries have joined the fray in ways that do not depend on Washington. “Human rights work in the coming years of the twenty-first century may look very much like the Cold War period,” she writes, when “the major powers were mainly in opposition to the international protection of human rights and where momentum and progress depended on the actions of smaller countries, with support from emerging NGOs and civil society.” But she also notes an important distinction between the two time periods: today, “these small countries and activists have far more institutional resources at their disposal—the human rights law, institutions, and movements that earlier activists created in the mid- to late twentieth century.”
Everyone should hope that Sikkink is right. Human rights organizations based in the developing world have evolved significantly over the past few decades, and Sikkink cites a study showing that they are increasingly trusted by citizens and are not perceived as the “handmaidens” of powerful donor countries. Such groups could become highly effective in mobilizing support for human rights in an era of populist nationalism and rising authoritarianism. But they and their counterparts in the developed world will need to craft customized solutions that do not rely solely on established practices. The kind of “boomerang” that has worked in the past may not always be the right tool—especially if powerful figures in Washington are not interested in listening to world opinion.
Editors' Note: This essay was published in Foreign Affairs.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Editors' note: Prof. Carrie Bettinger-Lopez writes this essay discussing optimism in the a difficult human rights era. Below is part one of a three part series.
Does fighting for human rights actually make a difference? Scholars, policymakers, lawyers, and activists have asked that question ever since the contemporary human rights movement emerged after World War II. At any given moment, headlines supply plenty of reasons for skepticism. Today, the news is full of reports of Rohingya refugees fleeing a campaign of murder, rape, and dispossession in Myanmar; drug users dealing with brutal, state-sponsored vigilantism in the Philippines; and immigrants and minorities facing the wrath of extreme right-wing and populist movements in European countries and the United States. It is easy to succumb to a sense of despair about the laws and institutions designed to protect human rights.
In 1968, the legal scholar Louis Henkin wrote that “almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time.” Subsequent empirical studies, primarily in the fields of international trade and international environmental law, have confirmed Henkin’s qualified optimism. But in the field of international human rights, empirical studies have sometimes led to more pessimistic conclusions. In a 2002 article in The Yale Law Journal, for instance, the legal scholar Oona Hathaway concluded that “although the practices of countries that have ratified human rights treaties are generally better than those of countries that have not, noncompliance with treaty obligations appears common.”
Hathaway and others who have analyzed international human rights regimes have generally focused on the efficacy of specific laws, institutions, or methodologies: for example, the number of human rights treaties that a given country has ratified, the existence of domestic legislation that reflects international norms, or the presence of national human rights institutions. But few have stepped back and considered the overall impact of the broader international human rights movement. In her new book, Evidence for Hope, the political scientist Kathryn Sikkink fills that gap—and the news, she reports, is better than one might fear. Drawing on decades of research into transnational civil society networks and international institutions, Sikkink counters skeptics from the left and the right who have argued that the persistence of grave human rights violations throughout the world is evidence that the international movement has failed and should be abandoned altogether. On the contrary, she concludes, the struggle for human rights has indeed made a difference: “Overall there is less violence and fewer human rights violations in the world than there were in the past.”
Sikkink contends that skeptics have relied on the wrong metrics to measure progress and have failed to see shifts in the human rights movement that have made it more durable. She is even relatively bullish about the prospects for continued progress in the Trump era. In this way, she distinguishes herself from the many activists and scholars who fear that the populist nationalism that helped put Donald Trump in the White House could reverse hard-fought human rights gains of the past few decades, both in the United States and abroad.
The essay continues tomorrow.
This essay first appeared in Foreign Affairs
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
For its next issue the Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law (the Journal) invites articles and essays exploring the interconnections between health and the Journal’s traditional themes: affordable housing, fair housing and community/economic development. Topics could include creative housing developments; federal, state, local and/or private funding sources; statutes, policies or regulations; and empirical studies. Articles and essays could analyze new developments, tell success stories, or explore problems relating to issue such as affordable independent/assisted living, aging in place, or in-home care, and propose legal and policy recommendations. The Journal welcomes essays (typically 2,500–6,200 words) or articles (typically 7,000-10,000 words) on the theme.
The Journal is the nation’s only law journal dedicated to affordable housing and community development law. The Journal educates readers and provides a forum for discussion and resolution of problems in these fields by publishing articles from distinguished law professors, policy advocates and practitioners.
Interested authors are encouraged to send an abstract describing their proposals to the Journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Tim Iglesias, at email@example.com by April 15, 2018. Submissions of final articles and essays are due by May 1, 2018. The Journal also accepts submissions on a rolling basis. Please do not hesitate to contact the Editor with any questions.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Joyce Radice of the University of Tennessee School of law has exposed as untrue the myth that juvenile records do not interfere with with life opportunities as juveniles become adults. Prof. Radice argues that juvenile records are much more easily accessible than most realize. The full article, published with Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 106 No. 2 (2018) may be found here. The abstract reads:
The proliferation of adult criminal records and their harmful impact on people with convictions has received growing attention from scholars, the media, and legislators from both sides of the political aisle. Much less attention has been given to the far-reaching impact of juvenile delinquency records, partly because many people believe that juvenile records are not public, especially after a juvenile turns eighteen. That common notion is a myth.
This Article addresses that myth and adds to both the juvenile justice ad collateral consequences literature in four ways. First, The Juevenile Record Myth illuminates the variety of ways states treat juvenile records - revealing that state confidentiality, sealing, and expungement provisions often provide far less protection that than those terms suggest. Although juvenile delinquency records are not as publicly accessible as adult records, their impact is felt well beyod a juvenile's eighteenth birthday. No state completely seals juvenile delinquency records from public view or expunges them. Some states even publish juvenile records online, and almost all permit some degree of public access.
Second, this Article provides the first comprehensive analysis of the crucial role of nondisclosure provisions in eliminating the stigma of a juvenile record. Now that colleges, employers, state licensing agencies, and even landlords are increasingly asking about juvenile delinqency charges and adjudications, the confidentiality, sealng and expungement protections that do exist, will be significantly undermined unless states allow juveniles with records not to disclose them. Third, using recent literature on juvenile brain development and the recidivism research of criminologists, The Juvenile Record myth presents new arguments for why juvenile delinquency records should not follow a juvenile into adulthood - and why the state's obligation to help rehabilitate juveniles (an obligation typically recognized in a state's juvenile code) should extend to restricting access to juvenile records. Finally, Prof. Radice argues for a comprehensive and uniform approach to removing the stigma of a juvenile record through a combination of robust confidentiality, expungement, sealing, and non-disclosure statutes to facilitate a juvenile's reintegration.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Tulane (New Orleans) will host a March 16-17, 2018 international conference on "Regimes of Redress and Reparations, Transitional Justice, and the Rule of Law." The conference organizers are seeking scholarly contributions for this multidisciplinary event. The conference announcement reads:
The organizers invite scholars and activists working on issues related to racial reconciliation, transitional justice, historical memory, regimes of redress, and the rule of law to participate in a two-day conference focused on these themes. The conference will be both transnational and interdisciplinary in scope. Interdisciplinary synergies will be created through the inclusion of experts from regions that have experienced racial and ethnic oppression and are in the process of achieving (or have successfully achieved) reconciliation through the establishment of the rule of law, norms of redress, and cultures of remembrance.
The two-day conference will consist of four to six panels based on submitted proposals, as well as at least one keynote address and one plenary session composed by the organizers. We encourage those who are interested in presenting a paper or organizers. Submissions should be made to firstname.lastname@example.org and have the words "Redress Conference" in the subject line. Abstracts for panels and papers are due by January 19, 2018.
Monday, August 7, 2017
Two opinion pieces were published this week that underscore the foundation of racism upon which the Trump Administration policies are built. Both pieces follow the "leak" this week of a memo outlining the Department of Justice's plans to pursue dismantling of affirmative actions programs. Both pieces point out the absurdity of portraying US whites as victims. Prof. Carol Anderson , is the author of White Rage, the Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. She reminds us in her NYT opinion, white men benefit from flexible undergraduate admissions programs. If objective scores and grades were the predominant selection method, white males would be a distinct minority on campus. Flexible admissions policies that consider gender as a bona fide admissions factor, benefit white males as much as anyone else. But it is race of which whites most complain.
In his New Yorker piece, Jelani Cobb focuses on the heart of racist thinking. Whites view their economic status comparatively. One African American succeeding financially is an affront to less affluent whites. The underlying assumption that whites deserve to be successful in every way before any person of color "succeeds", (however that is defined), is the source of white resentment. Whiteness as the ideal standard is what Trump and many followers look to preserve.
Mr. Trump may not be a seasoned politician. He may be unable to deliver on his major campaign promises. But he knows how to stoke his base. Through feeding anger and irrationality, Mr. Trump has begun his re-election campaign.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
The Law and Society Association conference, held this year in Mexico City, was the usual whirlwind of panels, roundtables and plenaries. This year's theme was Walls, Borders and Bridges. Nothing could better illustrate the Walls portion than the fortress-like US Embassy directly across the street from the conference hotel. The Embassy appeared completely impenetrable. At the same time, it boasted a large rainbow Pride flag hanging out of some upper floor windows. Perhaps there is life somewhere within the embassy after all, trying to make a connection with those outside.
The conference plenary sessions focused on populism and constitutionalism, with insightful talks on the US election, Brexit, and the Colombia peace referendum rejected by voters. Human rights -- particularly issues of economic, social and cultural rights -- was a frequent theme of the individual sessions, which also reflected the confounding theme of US human rights exceptionalism. Business and human rights also played a prominent role. In a session on comparative water rights, one speaker noted the relevance of human rights to water litigation in India and South Africa. Another panelist, providing an extensive analysis of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, focused on the growing popular movement in the US for water rights. As she noted "water is power" and power will not shift in the US without pressure from people. Other panels of relevance to the US addressed the continuing impacts of Washington v. Davis on civil rights and death penalty advocacy in the US; the experiences of undocumented immigrants within US borders; the jurisprudence of the InterAmerican system; and low wage workers' rights. You can search the program and download papers here.
There is so much to absorb at an inter-disciplinary, international conference like this. As the title of the conference suggests, the Law and Society Association is very much about building scholarly bridges to support the innovation that can come from such interchange. But with an embassy closed-off to the outside, and government institutions that often refuse to engage with human rights norms, the task of building bridges between the US and others beyond the academy is harder than ever.
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Women’s Human Rights and Migration, has just been published as part of University of Pennsylvania's Human Rights book series. In the book, Prof. Sital Kalantry describes how the U.S. Congress and state legislatures across the country have used stereotypes Indian-Americans and Chinese-Americans to restrict women’s rights to choose. The legislators misuse information about people living in other countries to argue that certain minority groups are aborting female fetuses. Using new national census data and survey data, the book presents evidence that some Asian Americans desire to have balanced families with both girls and boys. Practices like sex-selective abortion and veiling that occur in the country of origin of a migrant but also emerge or are attributed to migrants in their country of destination call into question traditional universal approaches human rights. Kalantry argues for a transnational approach to domestic regulation on migrant women’s practices. Read more about the book here. You can look inside the book and purchase at Amazon.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Poetry can convey indignities and dignities in ways that resonate more quickly and poignantly than prose. Poetry by the young can be particularly powerful and evocative.
And much Human Rights poetry focuses on Human Rights at Home.
Youth for Human Rights promotes poetry by young authors through a contest for those under 18. This contest has a December deadline.
Power Poetry has a contest for those who are 25 years or younger, America the Great?!, Poetry Slam. The current theme is 'my country'. Contestants may post directly to the website with a deadline of May 10. One entry titled "The Crayon Box" by Lancer Dave begins:
We were born as numbers, and disguised with names.
Statistics to the system, is God the one to blame. Born where
freedoms are equal, and where equals aren't the same.
Poetry Soup has a collection of Human Rights Poems some famous, some not. One by the late Edward Dorn, Heart of Copper, is particularly relevant from the Human Rights at Home perspective:
The Candidate, answering a question
about El Salvador, generalized
by saying he thought
we should support human rights
everywhere they were being abrogated--
South Korea, South Africa
or South Yemen.
He didn't have
the moral perspicuity
to mention South Dakota.
Perhaps it's too far north.
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Following up on an earlier post this week, the American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence is sponsoring a writing competition with submissions due on May 19th.
"Law students are invited to submit articles addressing domestic and sexual violence and the law from a national or international perspective. Submissions must further the legal needs of victims of domestic and sexual violence or their children, or advance efforts to address the incidence, causes and effects of intimate partner violence. View our past winners & view the guidelines.
Submissions are now being accepted for the 2017 year. Submissions are due by Friday, May 19, 2017 @ 5:00p.m. EST.
Submit your paper and any inquiries to email@example.com
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
by Jeremiah Ho
While admittedly I’m not usually a huge follower of David Brooks’ conservativism at The New York Times, I do agree with his comments about the decline of our social capitalism here in the U.S. as we have become more isolated across ethnic, diverse, and class lines. Specifically, he observes that the source of such isolation is philosophical: “We chose the wrong philosophers,” he said to interviewer Robert Costa. As he elaborated further, Brooks remarked that we chose John Stuart Mill when we should have chosen Martin Buber, we chose Jeremy Bentham over Viktor Frankl, and likewise we chose Descartes over Saint Augustine.
For Brooks, Mill impressed upon us a very individualistic worldview, when Buber offered a more communitarian perspective. Frankl’s idea that people were motivated by a search for meaningful, moral lives have been ignored in the light of Bentham’s pleasure versus pain principles. Consequently, Brooks thinks that our society has become “too economic, too social sciency, and too utilitarian, and not enough moralistic.” Descartes reached for the cognitive and rational when Saint Augustine focused on the emotional. All in all, Brooks said, “And so basically we've turned into shells of ourselves and that's cut down on intimacy, and it's had these devastating social effects. But it's ideas that drive behavior, and I think we have some of the wrong ideas.”
One of these ideas, in my opinion, is about civility in public discourse. Instead of focusing on civility, many of us collectively—left and right—have been sidetracked toward the debate over political correctness as the way to confront or prevent marginalization of diverse viewpoints and visibility of particular issues. Particularly as I see that the civility versus political correctness issue affects the development of human dignity and rights issues, I am starting the first of three posts on civility and authenticity here on this blog.
Besides David Brooks’ interview on Charlie Rose, the other inspiration for this first of three blog posts on civility was Keith Bybee’s book, How Civility Works, which I picked up at the exhibition hall at AALS this past January. Bybee is the Paul E. and the Hon. Joanne F. Alper ’72 Judiciary Studies Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University. The size of the book (80+ pages) makes it more a pamphlet. Yet, how many times in history have we seen pamphlets wield influence over the distribution of ideas? Through almost a cultural studies lens, Bybee’s book here examines the purported “crisis” (his quotes, not mine) of civility in American discourse by observing what civility means and the history of civility as it relates to public debates in American society.
What ends up very clear in How Civility Works is that civility, as a form of manners and a code of public behavior, can and has possessed a plurality of historical meanings as it has co-existed alongside our rambunctious American contrarianism (Chapter 2). But what Bybee examines further is the tension that civility has on individual liberty—exactly the individuality explored by John Stuart Mill—and its potential threat to inhibit First Amendment free speech. Although civility can inhibit free speech, Bybee argues that civility can also underwrite free speech by facilitating a means of communication that reflects good character and personal decency (Chapter 3). Such a means of communication through civility must embody authenticity, however, or risk a hypocritical exploitation of civility that leads to immoral behavior masked under false politeness; in other words, one’s civility must be real and that “realness” or authenticity is a moral virtue (Chapter 4). Finally, in order to fulfill civil discourse that is authentic but not overwhelming, Bybee suggests that discourse must utilize a balanced version of civility that not only sustains exchange of free ideas and promotes inclusivity but also is cautious of its chilling effects on free speech and reproduction of hierarchies (Chapter 5). Its paradoxes are also its virtues.
In sum, Bybee’s work here is prescient for recognizing how significant and importance functional dialogue is to a liberal society—and I mean “liberal” with a post-Enlightenment capital “L” and not necessarily “liberal” in its American political meaning. In the age of extremist ideas about populism and nationalism (ideas that can lead to marginalization, discrimination, and even violence), civility is sidestepped and reinterpreted as political correctness or seen as an inauthentic means of self-victimization that ought not to be given any credence. What does this have to do with human rights? Just watch and listen to the rhetoric in the Keystone pipeline debate, the tone of misogyny in women’s rights issues, or the political debates regarding transgender individuals and restroom use. The lack of civility is a first step in marginalization and denying the inherent humanity of different people and their views. It is also an assertion of power over another. Reading Bybee’s book is a must in this age of conflict and separatism.
My next post in this series will further address the topic of political correctness as a strawman for getting rid of civility in public discourse.
How Civility Works. By Keith J. ByBee. Stanford University Press. 2016. Pp. 80. $12.99.