By Bill Mefford
Have you noticed that donald trump talks really tough about people when they aren't around and then becomes a sniveling suck-up once he comes face to face with them? He has spent his entire campaign demanding his stupid wall be built on the southern border and also making the ridiculous demand that Mexico will magically pay for it. Yet, when he met with the Mexican President last year during his campaign he never brought it up. Not even once. Yet, that night, in a rally in Arizona, safely surrounded by his rabid, mindless followers, he was right back to demonizing immigrants and demanding his stupid wall and that Mexico pay for it. Pathetic.
Another popular target for trump has been China who trump has accused of “raping” the United States through trade practices. Once again, his inflamed and tough-guy rhetoric has not been backed up by his actions. Though he was in China a few days and given the perfect setting for this tough guy to confront the supposed “rapists” personally, trump whiffed again and of course, blamed those not in the room – those who were president before him. Again, pathetic.
Why does this matter? Well, when you have a straw man in the Oval Office, there is no one in the world who can believe one word coming out of his mouth. He is an unrepentant and inveterate liar. These things matter in global matters that impact real peoples' lives.
Typically, the role the United States has tried to play in the world, though admittedly without consistency or authenticity much of the time, is to remind nations of their responsibility to uphold human rights. Of course, our commitment to human rights has been betrayed by our illegal invasion of Iraq, our use of drones for assassinations, our use of torture, and many more ways. But thanks to the leadership of many career servants in our State Department who actually believe in diplomacy and the importance of human rights (and who trump has cleared out through large scale firings), this issue has been raised by all presidents since President Jimmy Carter, who was the first to make it a centerpiece of his foreign policy. That is, until now.
As I have watched donald trump on his two major trips abroad there are two words that he has yet to mention: human rights. And look at where he has been most recently and who he has met with.
According to Human Rights watch, the 2017 report on China is chocked full of human rights concerns, including a lack of religious freedom, repression of the free press, a lack of women’s rights as well as rights for those who are disabled, and continued political oppression against anyone who dares question the regime. And I didn't even mention their continued oppressive hold on Tibet. Did trump bring up any of these issues in his meetings with President Xi Jinping? Not at all. He just complained about past US Presidents.
Look at what Human Rights Watch says about Vietnam, another stop on donald trump's Asian tour:
Vietnam’s human rights record remains dire in all areas. The Communist Party maintains a monopoly on political power and allows no challenge to its leadership. Basic rights, including freedom of speech, opinion, press, association, and religion, are restricted. Rights activists and bloggers face harassment, intimidation, physical assault, and imprisonment. Farmers continue to lose land to development projects without adequate compensation, and workers are not allowed to form independent unions. The police use torture and beatings to extract confessions. The criminal justice system lacks independence. State-run drug rehabilitation centers exploit detainees as laborers making goods for local markets and export.
More can be found here. Again, not a peep from trump about human rights.
And let's not forget about one of trump's favorite dictators-in-training: President Duterte of the Philippines. I have written previously about Duterte's murderous campaign against people suspected of using or dealing drugs. I have also shared the transcript of trump and Duterte's first conversation when trump first came into office where not a word was said to challenge Duterte's extrajudicial killings.
The two words missing in all of his visits and all of his meetings with world leaders (including Putin, whose ass trump continues to publicly kiss for helping him win the presidency) were human rights. Not one mention. Not one challenge to those who repeatedly oppress those who are vulnerable.
Now, I can hear many of my friends, and even myself, saying the United States has little to no room to lecture other countries when it comes to issues of human rights; not when we illegally invade other countries and cause hundreds of thousands of deaths, not when we practice the death penalty, not when have such an enormous chasm between the rich and the poor, and certainly, not when we lead the world - the entire world - in the number of people incarcerated.
I hear you. I say the exact same thing.
But this is precisely why we want the leader of the United States talking about human rights. It is in talking about human rights and being involved in the international discussions on human rights that we in the United States are able to advocate and remind our leaders, from the president on down, of the goal of actually living out what we proclaim. Besides, if we say that no one should speak of something until they practice it then none of us would ever mention the words justice and righteousness!
By not even mentioning human rights, trump abdicates not only his leadership, he betrays the calling that all nations should ascribe to: to treat all people with integrity and dignity and to uphold the rights of all people, no matter their status, race, ethnicity, gender identity, or economic status.
There are more and more reasons each day that show donald trump is utterly unfit for the position he holds. But his trip to Asia and his absolute refusal to even broach the subject of human rights shows that he has a ways to go before he even can ascribe to the basic ideals of even just being human.