Remember that I’m musing here, not preaching. The purpose of this blog, at least some of the time, is simply to incite discussion. That’s surely the case this time….
I’m driving up the writing cabin to work on my book project, listening to NPR as I park on the interstate during the end of rush hour. It’s here, about 30 miles north of Seattle, that I learn that November 19 is the 20th anniversary of “Convention on the Rights of the Child”, which is a UN declaration that seeks to hold nations accountable for providing fundamental rights to children. Child slavery, sexual exploitation, access to education, are a few of the named elements.
I didn’t even know about this Convention until I heard this piece. “Every nation in the UN has signed on” I hear. Then, before I have a chance to feel good, the commentator adds: “except two.” Then, while I’m wondering what kind of nations could possibly say no, I hear this: “The United States and Somalia are the only nations that have refused to ratify the convention.”
This morning, I decide to do a little research, and discover the following:
1. We’re in the company of a nation with one of the worst human rights records on the planets. That’s the fact. In my opinion, that we’re standing alone with Somalia should, at the very least, cause a little humble introspection. Maybe we should reconsider our position.
2. I discover that the US helped write the language for the charter, so isn’t necessarily opposed to the principles. Instead, there seems to be questions about whether the US would be sacrificing it’s sovereignty by allowing itself to be held accountable to other nations. My response: Isn’t this true of any treaty, signed at any time, with any nation? I know we sign other treaties, and certainly expect other nations to bow to our will (have you heard of our insistence that Iran release its nuclear waste? It’s in the news and their response is that this demand threatens their sovereignty). Do we expect others to sacrifice their sovereignty for the common good while we’re unwilling to do so? The sovereignty issue seems to me to be a ruse, though I’m open to further light.
3. Then I read this: Ratification of the UNCRC by the United States would require the U.S. governments to appear before the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, a panel of child rights experts from around the world, every 5 years to explain their implementation of such issues as universal health insurance for all American children, currently a human right in all other western industrialized nation (Wikipedia). “Hmmm” I say to myself. “It appears that today’s news about health care has collided with a twenty year old refusal to ratify this treaty. Of course we can’t ratify it. If we did, we’d need to obey it. If we obeyed it, we’d need to make sure every child has access to health care. And that, as we’ve all come to learn, is something that lots of Americans don’t want. Of course we’d never say it that way – we’d talk about how our system’s the best in the world, praise free markets, and point out our government’s failure to deliver mail without losing money. But blow away the smoke and people opposed to public health care are forced to this: if a child has no coverage, parents should need to choose between bankruptcy and care, if that’s even an option. For many, of course, they just won’t go… until they go to emergency room with pneumonia – and by then it will be too late. Deaths of children due to lack of health insurance number around 17000 a year according to conservative US News and World Report.
We Christians love protecting life in the womb. But as soon as you’re born, you’re on your own, or so it seems from my chair, as I observe the pro-life position. I’m pro-life myself, but happen to believe that it extends a bit further than a child’s day of birth, happen to believe, with the UN charter, that this child, who did nothing to inherit his/her parents wise or foolish choices, ought to have a chance to live by having education, water, and yes… even health care.
“Socialism!!” The cry is in my ears before I’ve even finished typing, let alone posting. So we, and our good friends in Somalia, refuse to sign the treaty, to which I say this:
“Happy Birthday Children’s Rights. I’m glad most of the world gets it. I hope someday we will too.”