Cruelty and inhumanity can best be defined as willfully causing pain and suffering to others and feeling no concern about it because the type of person creating hardship is motivated by malice toward other human beings. For most Americans, the idea of being labeled cruel and inhumane would be a humiliating accusation unless they are Republicans who have supported some of the most cruel and inhumane policies targeting poor and middle class Americans. Whether they are losing the pensions they paid into, struggle feeding and housing their families on poverty wages, or face certain death due to lack of medical care, tens-of-millions of Americans know for a fact that when Republicans are allowed to control government spending, America is cruel and inhumane to its own citizens. As of last Thursday, the entire world knows America is cruel, inhumane, and degrading to its poor because the United Nations Human Rights Committee condemned the wealthiest nation in the history of the world for mistreating its poor that is common knowledge in America.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee (HRC) condemned (Section 19) the “very exceptional” United States last week for criminalizing homelessness they called “cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment” and a violation of America’s obligation to adhere to international human rights treaties. The HRC conducted a review of America’s compliance with a treaty on human rights ratified in 1992 and called on the government to take corrective action to be in compliance. The Chairman of the committee, Sir Nigel Rodley, stated at the end of the review that “I’m just simply baffled by the idea that people can be without shelter in a country, and then be treated as criminals for being without shelter. The idea of criminalizing people who don’t have shelter is something that I think many of my colleagues might find as difficult as I do to even begin to comprehend.” Obviously, Sir Nigel has not spent much time in and around America, or paid any attention to Republicans’ crusade to incorporate cruel and inhumane into their permanent party platform as their distinguishing brand.
The HRC probably conducted its review on the plight of the homeless due to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) submitting a report about Republican cruelty due to the cruel and inhumane death of a mentally ill homeless Veteran last month in a New York jail. The homeless Veteran was escaping the bitter cold by taking refuge in a stairwell in a Harlem public housing project that got him arrested, arraigned, and a $2,500 bail he could never post. The 56-year old Veteran, Jerome Murdough, was sent to Riker’s Island jail where he was left unattended and, according to a prison official; “he basically baked to death” in his cell. The executive director of the NLCHP, Maria Foscarinis, said in a statement that “We welcome the (U.N.) Committee’s Concluding Observations and call on our government to take swift action to solve homelessness with homes, not jails and prisons.” Like the U.N.’s Sir Nigel, Foscarinis must never get out much or has not paid any attention to Republicans’ cruel and inhumane austerity measures responsible for the growing number of homeless Americans; many, many of them returning Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans who cannot find decent jobs.
In 2012 alone, Republican policies were responsible for keeping well over 640,000 American citizens without housing and their precious sequester will increase those pathetic numbers for nine more years. In Paul Ryan’s cruel and inhumane Path to Prosperity austerity budget released yesterday, those numbers will explode as domestic spending is set to take barbaric cuts to fund incredibly incomprehensible tax cuts for the rich and corporations Republicans claim will help the poor and middle class like they have since their man-god Ronald Reagan was president. Ryan and Senator Patty Murray just worked out a two-year budget the President signed into law, but as this column warned last December, Republicans were dissatisfied they had not wreaked enough havoc with Draconian austerity measures targeting the poor, seniors, children, Veterans, and the middle class. In Ryan’s latest budget obscenity, the wealthy elite and corporations are slated to get a 14.9% tax cut Republicans claim will “create jobs, grow our economy, and put more money back into people’s pockets.” Republicans are still selling the absurd concept that giving the richest 1% more money from 99% of population is going to put more money back into 99% of the population’s pockets.
One thing giving the rich greater tax cuts is not going to do is help the homeless find good jobs that pay them enough to afford permanent shelter or increase housing assistance funding for those earning poverty wages. Ryan’s budget is wrought with devastating domestic spending cuts that, if anything like the Republican sequester, will bring an abrupt end to assistance finding shelter for minimum wage full-time workers who cannot afford fair-market rent for an apartment anywhere in the U.S. according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The homeless Veteran who “basically baked to death” in a New York jail is one of 62,000 (13% of homeless Americans) homeless veterans who put their lives on the line for their country that men like compassionate conservative Paul Ryan calls “takers” and proposed a barbaric budget that will send more Americans, and Veterans, on the streets because they cannot find work, more than minimum wage jobs, affordable housing, or assistance finding shelter because funding has been slashed by Republicans.
America is supposed to be a world leader in human rights and regularly condemns violators as monsters and despots, but when the U.N. Human Rights Commission rightly condemned this cruel and inhumane nation for mistreating its own poor citizens, they exposed this country as anything but a human rights leader. Republicans driving America’s human rights violations began their crusade thirty years ago when their primary motivation became shrinking the government to prevent it from assisting people in need through no fault of their own. It is impossible to believe that even one locality will decriminalize homelessness, or petition their state or federal government representatives to appropriate funding for homeless shelters or expand access to housing assistance regardless the entire world now comprehends America is cruel and inhumane to its poor and not only because of homelessness.
Over the past five years leading up to today Republicans intend on increasing their assault on domestic programs despite the cost in Americans’ lives or condemnation of the world’s leading human rights watchdog. Republicans are not humiliated at the United Nations’ condemnation and it is highly likely that, like their racist supporters in the Southern United States, they consider being labeled “cruel, inhumane, and degrading to the poor” as a badge of honor and what it means to be a “real American.” There is nothing as really American as citizens in the richest country in the history of the world to be without a job, decent healthcare, or housing while Republicans kill jobs, affordable healthcare, and housing assistance to fund tax cuts for the rich. The U.N. condemnation makes official what tens-of-millions of poor Americans have known all along; real America with Republicans holding the nation’s purse strings is cruel and inhumane to every American who is not a member of the wealthy elite; not just the homeless.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.