You know what they say, “Always be careful whose fingers you tread on as you climb up the ladder. They may be attached to the backsides you’ll have to kiss on the way down.”
American citizens look away now, a lot of this stuff is European and I’m not sure you’ll like it anyway.
You see, I’m a big supporter of democracy. Whatever collection of incompetent monkeys the people in their madness elect is the government. No whinging, no slagging them off with supposedly witty internet memes, period.
But democracy is not without its problems. Democracy can ride roughshod over the interests of real people who happen to be in a minority. This is especially true if that minority is unpopular, misunderstood or merely unfashionable.
You can get situations where one interest group has a virtually guaranteed majority. In these circumstances it seems to be very difficult for the majority not to use this to disadvantage, disenfranchise, or even actively oppress the minority.
And so here we come to the human rights acts. As far as I can make out, you can be a known terrorist and multiple rapist with a penchant for brutal honour killings who entered this country illegally, but because your ex-girlfriend’s grandmother’s cat was conceived in Peckham or something along those lines, kicking you out would be against your human rights. Or something like that anyway. Doubtless I exaggerate for comic effect but some of the real cases seem nearly as bizarre.
And I think the human rights act needs serious work to make it fit for purpose. But thanks to our Glorious American Allies, I’ve finally realised that it needs work, not scrapping.
Now there’s clerk in Kentucky who’s in jail because they couldn’t sack her seeing as how she’s an elected official who felt that her beliefs wouldn’t allow her to do something. Strangely enough we’ve had a similar sort of situation in the UK and eventually, after various court cases, it’s been decided that, fair enough, if that’s what you really believe, someone else in the department who doesn’t mind will do that stuff, and you’ll do the other stuff that’s never given you a problem.
But what has surprised me was not the case itself, US law is US law, and it’s different to ours. Also they elect clerks where we merely hire them. The individual involved is a person I’ve never met, I haven’t a clue whether I’d like her or find myself diving down side streets to avoid her when I saw her coming.
But that doesn’t matter, people’s rights don’t depend on whether I like or approve of them.
But what struck me first was the way this woman was ‘monstered.’ I saw this and sat waiting in anticipation for the vitriolic feminist backlash as the sisterhood piled in to defend a woman attacked for her appearance or her supposed sexuality. I’m still waiting.
But what also struck me was hearing Americans who call themselves Liberals stating that the will of the state overrides the individual conscience of the citizen and if the citizen doesn’t like it, tough, put up with it.
Hang on a minute, why was it the Founding Fathers left England again? What was it they believed?
Indeed I’m almost tempted to check there were Americans at Nuremburg where Nuremberg Principle IV states “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”
So if you have a moral choice, you may find yourself refusing to obey the orders of a government. So unless the American government is refusing to allow moral choice (sticking people in prison is probably getting close to this) then obeying a law which you cannot, in all conscience accept, is your duty.
I don’t want to get into detail of the Kentucky case, but if the individual was elected, then the obvious thing would be to wait until the next election and have the electorate solve your problem for you. The only trouble with this approach is where you suspect that actually the person is merely doing what their voters want and they could just re-elect her.
But the real surprise is that these people don’t appear to have any grasp of history. We have human rights for all sorts of reasons. Some are highfaluting and ethical; some are because they make us feel good. But when it boils down to it we have them because, at some point, we as individuals might need them. One unexpected election result and three unexpected deaths of Supreme Court judges and who is then throwing who into jail because they’re not obeying the legitimate orders of the state?
You might not like people, you might not agree with people, but you don’t monster them and you don’t slag them off or allow the state to dispose of them.
As Martin Niemoller wrote:
“When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then, Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church — and there was nobody left to be concerned.”