Friday, April 24, 2015

American Exceptionalism: Part III

In Parts I & II of this series on international aspects of American exceptionalism, I dealt with America's failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and its failure to ratify the UN Arms Trade Treaty. As it happens, America is even more exceptional than that.

As it happens, America feels about United Nations treaties the way the National Rifle Association feels about measures to control gun violence -- they're an "infringement." Like the NRA, America believes it has a god-given right to do whatever the hell it feels like, because, damn it... the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, the Free Market, the Bible, sovereignty, enhanced interrogation (shh!).

But surely America would have no problem ratifying a treaty protecting the rights of children. Oh yeah?!

Although Presidents Clinton and Obama have supported ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), its ratification has been opposed by Senate Republicans. They say it would usurp American sovereignty. For example, the treaty prohibits, "cruel and degrading punishment of children." Opponents say that overrides a parent’s decision on how to raise their children -- 'spare the rod, spoil the child,' sort of thing. That may seem a stretch, but remember until 2005, America permitted people under the age of 18, that is, 'children,' to be sentenced to death. The CRC was perhaps a bridge too far for such a country.

America is not alone in its failure to ratify the treaty, however. South Sudan, a nation that gained its independence only four years ago, hasn't yet ratified it. They are about to. That will ensure America is exceptional in every sense of the word.

What about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)? That has to be a treaty America can get behind, right, especially since it's based on our own Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by the first George Bush, and supported overwhelmingly by Republicans. But here's the thing, this is a very different Republican Party. Today's freedom loving, faith-based, anti-government (except where government controls women's reproductive rights), anti-science, and, clearly, anti-United Nations GOP is an animal of a different stripe.

Republicans in today’s strange witches brew of a political party see the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” in the CRPD (Article 25) and jump to the conclusion that the UN is covertly promoting an unfettered global right to abortion. What this portion of the treaty actually says is that persons with disabilities should be provided with, "the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes."

Ironically, this provision probably stemmed from the practice in many countries of involuntarily sterilizing persons considered deformed, demented, developmentally disabled, or in some manner, undesirable (e.g., homosexuals, like Alan Turing). To our shame, America was the first country to concertedly undertake compulsory sterilization programs. The targets of the program were ostensibly the intellectually disabled or mentally ill, but in many states the deaf, blind, and physically deformed were also targeted. Many women were sent to institutions on the pretext of being “feeble-minded,” because they were promiscuous or became pregnant while unmarried. African-American and Native American women were frequent unknowing targets of the program, while being hospitalized for other reasons.

Given their ignorance of this historical artifact of America's record on "sexual and reproductive health," perhaps a quick history lesson would change Republican minds on ratifying the treaty -- you think? Me neither. Because Republicans seem to object to UN treaties on principle. Here's a brief list on other treaties they oppose:

Mine Ban Treaty
Convention on the Law of the Sea
Convention on Cluster Munitions

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance


Given America's record on "enhanced interrogation," and "extraordinary rendition," it's easy to see why we wouldn't ratify those treaties. But the others? I suppose Republicans feel they'd be an intrusion on our right to plant mines wherever we see fit, use the sea for whatever purposes we deem necessary, maintain full employment for the manufacturers of cluster munitions, and pay women lower wages than men for the same work. Who knows what today's batshit crazy, "end of times" Republicans are thinking? Whatever it is, I'm sure it's exceptional.
Rapturous Michele Bachmann former member of the House of Representatives and U.S. Presidential Candidate



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