(Warning: This article contains graphic detail)
Imagine this news headline: Over 1.5 million Christians slaughtered by jihadists. Eye witness reports from survivors detail gruesome torture of men, women, and children, but Western lawmakers refuse to declare this a genocide.
What would be your reaction? Mine was one of horror as I was made aware of the Armenian genocide which occurred at two intervals in history: between the years of 1915 and 1916, as well as 20 years prior. Some of the torture involved the nailing of horseshoes to the feet of the Christians; ripping off men’s fingernails and toenails, then pulling off pieces of flesh with red hot pincers, followed by the pouring of boiling butter into the wounds; infants and children impaled on bayonets; pregnant women’s stomachs being ripped open; women and girls being raped and then horrifically crucified (I can’t even bear to write the details of that). Read for yourself and an eyewitness account. But what caused me even greater revulsion was the sudden juxtaposition of this startling historical truth with our current headlines. With just a moment’s brief skimming, from memory, these were some of the top news stories over the past few weeks and months: Ferguson, MO; a pool party gone wrong in Texas; Bruce Jenner’s sex change; the Duggar scandal; Rachel Dolezal pretends to be black, the SCOTUS ruling considered a great victory for civil and human rights, etc. These topics, and others like them, are the topics of our Facebook feeds, our Twittering, our grocery check-out browsing.
I want to suggest that our sense of injustice has become skewed by the hyper-politicization of every issue that seems wrong or unfair in this country. Everything, from the sale of plastic shopping bags to taxing rain to leashing your pet to buckling up while driving to sex ed curriculum in schools to the definition of marriage to abortion, has to have its day in court or at least at the state capital. Because our news is so narrow and so shallow, the smallest injustice becomes exaggerated. “But these are real issues!” you might be spluttering. “These things matter! ” I am not saying otherwise; I believe we should care for environment, for safety, and for quality education; I believe that we are endowed with certain inalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am saying, however, that in order for us to grasp the essence of these certain rights we need to hold them in proper perspective.
Perhaps it would be better to consider the difference between rights and privileges. Our founding documents detail the civil rights that belong to every American, the Bill of Rights consisting of the first 10 amendments to our Constitution, and the human rights that belong to every human being: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe that the debate is generated when we seek to define the pursuit of happiness. Suddenly, everything that makes an individual happy becomes an inalienable right; yet, when considering the overall well being of our society, we realize that such a classification must be an impossibility. I will save discussion of the unintended consequences of such a claim for a later blog. However, we can classify those desires for happiness as civil privileges. Living in such a rich nation as the United States of America has provided us with the privileges of healthcare, education, employment opportunities, and much more. It is true that the access and quality are not equal for all, but there is assistance for those who wish to better themselves and improve their quality of life. For those with dissenting opinions to my previous statement, consider viewing your arguments in light of the following examples of human rights, or lack thereof:
When we start debating about whether or not our kids should be taught about oral or anal sex in elementary school, perhaps we should consider the great lengths kids go to in developing countries in order to get to school to learn how to read and write. Images of children going to school Let’s ask them about what the pursuit of happiness really means.
When we start to equate gay rights with human rights, perhaps we should remember the Armenian genocide or the brutal rampage of ISIS that is occurring at this very moment. Let’s ask the refugees who have survived the pillaging, the decapitating, the raping, the crucifying, the murder of loved ones before their very eyes about what liberty really means. Genocide report here and Washington Post article on ISIS here
When we start declaring that denying the right of marriage to homosexuals is a violation of civil rights because everyone has the right to be with someone they love, perhaps we should consider the tiny abortion survivors who are murdered because of their survival. Let’s ask them about what the right to life really means. News story here
Life is complicated and messy; unfortunately, one blog post is not going to clear it all up and provide the answers we are all looking for. Honestly, I wish I could provide satisfactory answers, at least for myself. As I cook, clean, walk, or shop, my mind is almost continually wrestling with global, national, and local events. I want to be the best individual and citizen that I can be; I want to encourage my fellow citizens and Christians to live fully and honorably; I want to reconcile life with faith. Sometimes that is easier said than done. But perhaps one of the best attempts we can make at doing the right thing is by living currently with history’s perspective. Perhaps doing so may prompt us to make our big deals a little smaller and our insignificant ones a little more important. Perhaps it will make all the difference in the world.