My experience in this class was one of the more complicated ones that I have had here at Rhodes. Having my own fairly strong opinions about the who’s and what’s of human rights prior to the class, I can safely say that upon completion of the course, I may be a little less sure of myself. That is not to say that this class did not answer a lot of questions—it certainly did—but it more or less exemplified to me how difficult and complex the human rights discourse really is. To me, even the language of certain texts and documents was vague and, at times, even empty and rhetorical. However, that being the case actually led me to formulate my own definitions and interpretations, leading to a more personal journey through the material. While this may be good for my own individual and personal growth, I can see how, problematically, human rights for many people actually are more of an idealistic set of regulations that we strive for—rather than being actually guaranteed to all humans by virtue of their humanness. This issue of the unachievable ideal may indeed be the largest human rights violation of them all. To not see the validity and concreteness in guaranteeing those very basic, yet very foundational rights to all humans is the violation.
In dealing with human rights violations closely (re: the denial of homosexuals the right to marry), I was able to more clearly realize how involved I can and in fact should be. In creating a documentary film about these violations, I was forced to dive deep into human rights issues—why they exist, how people are really affected, and how other humans can step in to right these violations. Overall, the experience with becoming personally acquainted with real issues in real time helped me develop my personal views and morals more solidly. I have never been more awake to the issues of our world than today. I may not have all of the answers, but I certainly can point to places where we can begin to improve our world to become founded on a more humanly oriented principle.
As a closing blog-post for a humanism and human rights class, it would be hard not to bring up the recent, and undeniably controversial, dealings of the U.S. within Pakistan, specifically the killing of Osama bin Laden. While the ultimate symbolic meaning of bin Laden’s death is up for interpretation, it seems to me that, at least with my current understanding of the situation, there are certain issues relevant to human rights that need discussing. Chief of those issues are the invasion by U.S. forces of Pakistani borders as well as the assassination itself (in addition to the killing of five others). While there is no doubt to me that the world without Osama bin Laden is a better place, I am still unsure as to how much better. In addition, the breeching of borders will need to be addressed, and so will the reactions to the assassination. In my opinion, there is a difference between celebrating one’s death and celebrating the relief that one’s death brings. Seeing the reactions on the streets, college campuses, in front of the White House, and on various social media networks reminded me too much of the celebrations that were seen in parts of the Middle East when the twin towers collapsed in 2001 (as many have already pointed out). Perhaps I am bringing in too much perspective here, and not committing myself to the full meaning of bin Laden’s death, but that, to me, comes from my training in humanism—my training to do what it takes to grant humans the right to be human.