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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Inalienable RIGHTS not wedges: 1776, 1948 Declarations

13 Colonies' 
Declaration of Independence
Founding drafters
Circa 1776
Abortion and marriage DO NOT RISE to “inalienable rights”
Editing, excerpting, commentary by 
Carolyn Bennett

Universal Declaration of
Human Rights
Peoples of the United Nations (now 192 countries) in the Charter in 1948 reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of all human beings and in the equal rights of men and women; and determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom [Universal Declaration of Human Rights]. 

A hundred and seventy-two years earlier a smaller group of people comprising thirteen colonies declared “We hold these truths to be self-evident:

…all [people] are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable rights; among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

…to secure these rights, governments are instituted … deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

…Whenever any Form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effectuate the people’s safety and happiness.

Beyond personal wedge issues
Actual rights, liberty historically documented
…for common good
…for everyone everywhere

“Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family,” reads the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” [human family, society, not this or that person]

Reflecting on the era of the Second World War, the Declaration continues, “Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of [humankind]” and impelled urgent arrival of a

world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people

If human beings are not to be compelled to have recourse as a last resort to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, their human rights must be protected by the rule of law

[Too] It is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations. 

Universal Declaration of Human Rights 

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of [equality among equals].

Article 2: (1) Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (2) No distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 23: (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment; (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work; (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for self and family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection; (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24: Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay. 

Article 25: (1). Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of self and of family including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26: (1) Everyone has the right to [quality] education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and
…to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms

It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Article 29: (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (2) In the exercise of rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Declaration of 13 American colonies 
July 4, 1776

Reflecting on long-standing abuses of power, war against the people, the Declaration of Independence reads:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that [human beings] are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism ─ it is their right, it is their duty to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

The head of state is accused of

…refusing Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good

…obstructing the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers

…erecting a multitude of New Offices, and sending swarms of officers to harass our people and [devour] their substance

…depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury

…transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences

…taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the form of our government

…suspending [balance of powers and advice and consent of legislative branch] and declaring the executive invested with power to legislate in all cases whatsoever

…abdicating domestic governance by declaring [the people] outside government protection and waging war against [them]

…transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty and (deceit) ─ scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

In every stage of oppression, we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms but our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

“A [leader] whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

e hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, … endowed … with certain unalienable Rights ─ that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. 
… To secure these rights, Governments are instituted … deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed 
 Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to (effectuate) their Safety and Happiness. 

In my view
happiness is a shallow and overused construct. In contemporary times “marriage” and “abortion” (one or the other or both,  pro or con) might fall within the scope of someone’s notion of or in aid of one’s “happiness.” But these are individual and destructively-limiting wedge issues that drive fissures into society. They do not rise to the level of “inalienable rights” but instead constitute a trivializing of rights and liberty; and are often a denial of human rights and liberty. Narrowing leaves out far more.

I think our founding documents set out by the settlers, the founders, contain great promise and potential. But they were not the end-all or be-all any more than was the later Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Particularly because the United States of America ─ in 237 years since the Colonies’ Declaration (65 years since the UN UDHR) ─ has become an inordinately powerful and hostile nation, the people of America must establish for the first time a continuous and substantive  movement beyond tribal politics evidenced in  ─

…if “my” politician does it, it is okay;

…if “The President” does it, it’s legal;

…“my” personal issues take priority over issues for the public good: e.g., marriage, whether narrowed or broadened, v. abolition of human slavery or human rights for all people to shelter, work, education, security, speech

The American character often is oblivious to or deliberately ignorant of broader human contexts, even of the history of the United States and historical documents which have defined or sought to define the country and its character. Americans must develop an ethos and attitude intent continuously on advancing the public good.

To realize its promise and potential, I believe this country that I love needs a substantive progressivism ─ one that critically considers and incorporates elements of what are today Left-Right-Center ideological dichotomies.

Sources and notes

Universal Declaration of Human Rights [1948] Preamble

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America, Declaration of Independence United States [1776] In Congress, July 4, 1776


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