Suffering for our Christmas!
(In response to https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2016/12/21/prison-laborers-in-china-endure-unimaginable-suffering-to-produce-holiday-lights/)
Reading this Washington Post opinion piece just before Christmas was shocking. Sure enough, looking at the printing on the box of the Christmas Lights I had just purchased, it said "Made in China". I strung them anyway. But this time, with a reverence for other human’s being strung up in violation of their most fundamental human rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I never about their suffering and I'd been working on human rights issues for decades.
I'm assuming the author's stories were not ‘fake news’. He is known to have suffered personally in China. But, even if some of his torture descriptions are not the norm I believe they happened, and likely still do, today somewhere. Other similar torture techniques have been performed by US military and/or intelligence personal in our War against terror. I’m confident it is no longer official US policy to torture or accept such practices anywhere else. But that could change in 2017. And, there should be no doubt that they are still occurring daily in far too many places globally.
Here’s the key thing for all Americans to know? Our ignoring human rights violations anywhere, or even our unawareness of them, does not serve us, or our long term interests well. In fact it can be downright deadly here at home. We may get cheaper products from slave or low cost laborers somewhere else, but know that some American jobs will be lost. That’s economically painful…but rarely deadly. That could change.
Trump’s recent tweet about reigniting the nuclear arms race will not end well for us or anyone. Not because of a nuclear war with China. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) is likely to remain a powerful deterrent to war between nuclear states. But upping the numbers of such weapons will put some major cities at an increasing risk of being vaporized by a lose nuke. Contamination for decades by a dirty bomb will always remain a threat as long as we use nuclear technology to better our lives in medicine or energy production. The really bad new however? We will be less secure as a nation from other forms of WMD. All the nuclear weapons in the world won't deter a rogue nation or extremist group from being using biological, chemical or conventional WMD (think Cargo vessel packed with fuel oil and fertilizer). Most of these dual use technologies will have no return address. Some could kill millions, or disrupt our agricultural system and/or economy. A cyber-attack could cripple any one (or all) of our systems (commutations, banking, transportation, energy, or essential public services like water and public medical/health services). And, even a single nuclear bomb detonated above the East coast delivered in the belly of a fake airliner scheduled to land in Dulles Airport in Virginia? It would fry much of our national infrastructure systems (the same ones vulnerable to a cyber-attack). Testimony in a 2004 report by a US House of Representatives EMP Commission said “90 percent of all Americans would die within 12-18 months of an EMP attack”!
But assuming no WMD is ever used, the US economy will continue to weaken. China's lack of human rights enforcement allows cheaper products to be sold globally at the expense of American jobs. US businesses squawk about this 'unfair' playing field but rarely have a true concern for human rights violations, especially those that profit by moving their production facilities to China.
In the long run Trump and his cronies would be far better off pushing for global justice than pushing to ‘up’ our already unmatched military capacity. If Congress agrees and funds such a push it will cost American taxpayers billions we don’t have. And, if other nations try to compete, more billions of dollars will be wasted globally making weapons that will most likely never be used in an all-out war. But that money will not be available for improving the overall human condition which has far more security implications that a nuclear war.
China has another economic advantage. It has a government that can turn on a dime. It easily and swiftly outmaneuvers any changes that our intentionally sclerotic government system and increasingly divided government can make. One thing that could help change that is for the angry middle class Trump voters should be urging our President Elect to strengthen every attempt to make human rights a higher global/UN priority. Increasing or even decreasing the number of nuclear weapons in the world isn’t going to make us any safer from the growing variety of threats all of humanity faces.
Today on C-Span an author on threats to our public health was talking about over use of antibiotics in large scale animal farms. She mentioned a recent discovery in China of a new pathogen strain of that gained resistant to the last antibiotic in our global antibiotic arsenal. Where? In a pig farm. China’s economically mixed population has been the source several global viral threats (Swine flu, Avian influenza, SARS…). It is inevitable that the world will experience another pandemic. It could come from anywhere. China’s one billion+ population of extreme rich, mobile middle class and significant number of poor, all mixing together with foreign visitors as well, and economic differences mixed with quality of life differences, should take on a new urgency. . Regardless of a pandemics source, it will likely spark a global economic recession. And economic pain and the hunger that comes with it remains a driving force for war, environmental degradation, and more infectious diseases.
The more we, China, and the world can target improving people’s lives as well as the health of the health of the world’s food supply instead of trying to improve nuclear weapons or other alternative weapons systems, the better off all humanity will be. In that light there can be no greater cause than fulfilling on all of the Sustainable Development Goals the nations of the world agreed to for the year 2030. They will require more than money. They will require a new look at the existing governing structures and systems that allow injustices anywhere to persist.
So enjoy your holidays! And as the New Year approaches, consider making AND keeping a resolution for ensuring a safe, free, secure and prosperous future for all our children. As well as generations to come. Commit to educating your Member of Congress on why global justice is good for our health, our economy, our environment and our individual and national safety, security and prosperity.
The 435 Campaign only has 63 Congressional Districts covered as we end 2016. Help us get to 435 before you string up your next set of Christmas lights. They will represent what Christmas is really about.