Donald Trump truly believes in privilege and it’s very possible that the intent of his Inalienable Rights Commission is to replace human rights with a hierarchy of privileges. The higher you are on Trump’s organization chart of human beings, the more privileges you get.
Even if that isn’t his objective, Donald Trump is the last living person who should be anywhere near interpreting or writing human rights law. He doesn’t know what law is and doesn’t care about it. He doesn’t understand that the definition of a human is far broader than his assorted bigotries allow him to comprehend. But armed with his ignorance and bigotry, Trump wants to rewrite human rights law and possibly rewrite humans.
It’s possible that Melania told him that human rights only apply to minorities if the majority allows it via referendum – as is the case in Slovenia.
That’s how privilege is done. Human rights are the rights all of us have based solely on the fact that we are human. These rights are not “granted” by governments or by the majority population. They just are.
They are subject to interpretation- but that goes to how widely the right applies – and that depends on politics. Once a law excludes categories of people, it’s no longer a right. It’s a privilege.
If you believe in human rights, you accept that all human beings are equal under that area of law and all human beings are entitled to the right being interpreted the same way regardless of who they are. Odds are if you don’t believe all human beings are or should be equal under the law, you also don’t believe in human rights.
There are traces of what became human rights law dating back to 539 BC. As noted in a brief history on human rights law by Youth For Human Rights.
In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great, after conquering the city of Babylon, did something totally unexpected—he freed all slaves to return home. Moreover, he declared people should choose their own religion. The Cyrus Cylinder, a clay tablet containing his statements, is the first human rights declaration in history.
So when Trump says he wants to rewrite human rights, which includes the right to freedom of religion, he’s talking about wiping out thousands of years of legal, cultural and moral norms.
There were several other notable periods in which human rights grew both in the sort of rights we have and how they are interpreted.
The Magna Carta I, established in 1215 gave us more rights and held that the monarch is as accountable under the law as his or her subjects. The Petition of Right in 1628 established a catalogue of rights.
In 1776, our Declaration of Independence recognized the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It also rejected everything Donald Trump stands for as symbolized by his white trash hootenanny on July 4th, this year.
In 1789, France’s The Declaration of the rights of Man and of the Citizen was born. Following World War II, the United Nations was born and shortly thereafter, the body established The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It identifies 30 rights to which every single human being is entitled.
I’m not going to pretend that human rights have had an easy time of it. There are high and low moments throughout history. And we can see that after serious conflict, there was a concerted effort to do better in the way we treat each other. After a time, memories fade and perhaps the people who were mistreated are no longer here to remind us of what we’re capable of doing to one another.
Trump is hardly the most compassionate and caring man in the world. You don’t admire people like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un if you believe in the rights and dignity of all human beings. On some level you’ve got to believe that some people are entitled and others have no rights or protections at all.
The man who threw rolls of paper towels at Americans in Puerto Rico and complained about having to help them after natural disaster is unlikely to be someone who believes in human rights. If the same man also believes white Christians are being persecuted in America, you don’t want him anywhere near deciding your human rights – especially if you are not white and male. But even if you are white and male, Trump’s views of the world tell us that there is a hierarchy among the most privileged.
The man who believes junk insurance is something wonderful to replace Obamacare with is unlikely to see people with less money than he has, as equal to him. So even if you meet the criteria of being white, male and Christian, unless you can afford to pay thousands upon thousands of dollars for healthcare, Trump thinks you shouldn’t have healthcare if you have a pre-existing condition like motherhood or acne.
I’d venture Trump doesn’t see women, religious minorities, the LGBTQ community or anyone who doesn’t share his world view as entitled to freedom of thought, association, expression and religion. There’s no point in “allowing” people in these categories to think, or even speak unless granted permission.
Since Trump believes that seeking asylum is a crime and a con, it’s a safe bet his catalogue of human rights would exclude the right to asylum.
Trump regularly bullies and humiliates his real or imagined enemies so it’s pretty certain that the right to freedom from degrading and dehumanizing treatment will be gone too. Anyone who Trump defines as a foe is automatically vulnerable to abuse by his followers and subject to politically motivated investigation by his always obedient Attorney-General.
Trump’s catalogue of rights could reflect his very public biases, such as his belief that brown people live in cages, eat junk food, never bath, brush their teeth or sleep on a bed. Ok he didn’t exactly say that. But what else can one conclude from what he did say about conditions at concentration camps where multiple sources, including his own officials saw traumatized, dirty, sick and tired children sleeping on the floor, in cages and living on junk food.
“I’ve seen some of those places and they are run beautifully,” Trump said from the White House ahead of his weekend departure to his property in New Jersey. “They’re clean. They’re good, they do a great job.”
He also said “many of them — not all of them — they’re incredible. Really well run” and praised US Border Patrol for doing “a phenomenal job,” even though “they’re not trained to be doctors or nurses or janitors.”
Trump believes that rape victims lie, A women’s credibility when accusing a man of rape is directly proportional to her physical beauty as determined by Trump. If she’s “not his type” , Trump says the rape didn’t happen.
He also believes men are entitled to grab women by the private parts. It doesn’t take much to conclude that Trump’s catalogue of human rights as they pertain to women would be based on if the woman is attractive enough to have the limited rights he would grant even the most beautiful.
It’s pretty obvious he believes a woman’s only place in politics is on a dictator’s lap – or as arm candy for photo ops. But, leave the thinking to the men, as we see from his cabinet, Republican members of congress and witnesses for Republican committee discussions on matters like women’s reproductive health; the only voices that matter are rich, white and male.
Trump introduced use to his views on trans people when he banned them from the military and his views on Muslims when he tried to ban them from America. He’s okay with Jews named Jared and those he lets into the counting house to count up his money.
We’ve already seen Trump’s views on religious freedom, Any religion that shares his political views is free to discriminate against anyone it wants under the pretense that bigotry is a religious value. Trump approved churches would retain their tax exempt status while being politically active and, in fact, using the pulpit to bully parishioners into voting for Trump.
And even if you are someone who looks, sounds, loves and prays exactly the way Trump thinks you should, it’s pretty obvious that Trump’s catalogue of human rights would be nothing like the ones we have now. The press would be free to photograph Melania for a fee, write the stories Trump assigns them and tell the world how wonderful the first couple is.
The right to vote would be limited to Republican men, maybe Republican women too.
Trump’s contempt for voting rights suggests voting would be a privilege. That means mostly white, be they rich or “poorly educated”. After all, we saw how hard Trump worked to prove that “illegal aliens” jumped the southern border and spread out across the country, voting several times in several places, establishing a new identity with a new hat. We’ve seen from his party’s views on racial and partisan gerrymandering (which today amount to the same thing) or the opposition to re-enfranchising ex-cons upon completion of their sentences. We know Trump believes voting should be a privilege, with no rules if your name is Trump.
Indeed, the Trump catalogue of human rights wouldn’t be human rights at all. But then, that’s the point.
Trump and his alliance of dictators don’t believe in human rights. They believe in a hierarchy of privileges, most of which belong to those at the top of the hierarchy. Trump is fine with dictators killing journalists whose reporting doesn’t sufficiently praise the dictator. He’s okay with genocide against children when his good buddies in Syra and Saudi Arabia are responsible for the genocide. He’s fine with torture, and with dehumanizing treatment when the victims are people whose religion or skin color don’t meet with his approval.
The very idea of Trump setting up an inalienable rights commission is offensive to anyone who understand who Trump is, how he looks upon the law and how he looks upon his fellow humans.
Ms. Woodbury has a graduate degree in political science, with a minor in law. She is a qualified expert on political theory with a specific interest in the nexus between political theories and models and human rights.
Based on her interest in human rights and the threats that authoritarian regimes are to them, Ms. Woodbury’s masters thesis examined the influence of politics on the enforcement of international criminal law was cited in several academic studies.
Published work includes case summaries for the War Crimes Research Office.
She has an extensive background doing legal research in international and domestic law.
Ms. Woodbury’s work for politicusUSA includes articles on voting rights, the right to asylum and other civil/human rights.