One of the cornerstones of social interconnection and humanism that is foundational to the highest principles in philosophy and society is compassion, and as a virtue of empathy for the suffering of others is a fundamental aspect of human love. Over the past four years a large segment of the population has demonstrated their lack of compassion for their fellow citizens who, through no fault of their own, find themselves vulnerable to the machinations of conservative selfishness and greed. It is unclear why, or how, Republicans have incited pure hatred for the poor, infirm, or minorities, but it seems to be an affliction associated with misconceptions and conspiracy theories that anyone not adhering to conservative’s vision of an America that never existed, is intent on destabilizing the nation and controlling the population.
The hard-right fringe of the Republican and tea party has warned Americans that one of the biggest threats to America is a United Nations plot to take over America, and that sentiment played out on Tuesday in the Senate when 38 Republican senators voted against ratifying a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act. The treaty states that all nations should attempt to ensure that disabled people enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as every citizen, but the 38 Republicans warned the treaty poses a threat to America’s national sovereignty. Senator John Kerry explained that the treaty simply says “you can’t discriminate against the disabled. It says other countries have to do what we did 22 years ago when we set the example for the world and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Kerry also stressed that the treaty requires no change in U.S. law, cannot change U.S. law, or serve as a basis for lawsuits in U.S. courts, and that by encouraging other countries to emulate the rights and facilities for the disabled existing in the United States, it would benefit disabled Americans, particularly veterans, who want to work, travel or study abroad.
Opposition to the treaty was led by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) who said the nature of the treaty threatened American sovereignty that will lead the state, and not parents, to determine the best interest of disabled children in the area of home schooling, and because it gives equal rights to the disabled, would lead to abortions. Lee said, “Parents will raise the children with the constant looming threat of state interference.” The conservative Heritage Action for America warned senators that if they did not vote against the treaty, their votes would be recorded on their “conservative” scorecard and repeated the claim it “would erode the principle of American sovereignty and federalism.” Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe said “I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society.”
Not all Republicans fell for the ridiculous notion the treaty was a U.N. plot to take over America, or to subvert parental rights to home school their children, or impose abortions on the disabled. Prominent Republican veterans who supported the treaty were John McCain, and former Senator Bob Dole who both suffered disabling injuries in combat. Eight Republicans joined Democrats in voting to ratify the treaty, and President Obama, in a written tribute to Bob Dole said, “Disability rights should not stop at our nation’s shores.” Veterans groups and the disabilities community widely supported the treaty that was negotiated and completed by George W. Bush’s administration in 2006, and signed by President Obama in 2009.
Last month, former senator and evangelical fanatic Rick Santorum and Mike Lee announced they acquired signatures from 36 Republicans pledging to vote against the treaty that Santorum claimed had “darker and more troubling implications,” and suggested it would have meant the forced abortion of his daughter because she has a rare genetic disorder. Santorum wrote, “In the case of our 4-year-old daughter who has a condition medical literature says is ‘incompatible with life,’ would her ‘best interest’ be that she be allowed to die? Some would undoubtedly say so.” Conservative activist, confirmed conspiracy theorist, and raging lunatic Phyllis Schlafly wrote last month that the treaty’s proponents and “feminists are using this treaty as an opportunity to promote their abortion agenda.”
On the floor of the Senate, John McCain, who suffered disabilities while fighting in Viet Nam, insisted the treaty had no effect on American abortion laws and told his fellow Republicans that, “With respect to abortion, this is a disabilities treaty and has nothing to do with abortion. Trying to turn this into an abortion debate is bad politics and just wrong.”
It is difficult to comprehend how, as a party, Republicans have become so completely unhinged that they conflate a treaty on rights of the disabled with a bizarre notion that there is a one-world plot to rob Americans of their liberties, force an abortion agenda on the disabled, or prohibit parents from home schooling or sending their children to private religious schools. It is tragic that in Republican circles, a conspiracy-theory is driving how they govern, and that their hatred of President Obama coupled with their biases and paranoia over a non-existent United Nations plot has erased any compassion normal human beings have for the least fortunate among us, or that it prevented them from supporting a treaty based on a prime example of American equality and compassion.
What is astounding is how so-called “conservative experts” like Santorum, Lee, and Schlafly were able to convince 38 United States senators that a U. N. Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities would erode U.S. sovereignty, skew the constitutional boundaries between state and federal government, and cede authority to the UN to promote more liberal abortion laws. As usual, the religious right had a hand in promoting the conspiracy theory that ratifying the treaty would “set the nation on a march towards socialism and promote rights the government would be required, by treaty, to provide to individuals, because signatories would be forced to embrace ‘economic, social, and cultural rights’ imposed on Americans by unelected UN officials who have too much leeway to promote an agenda unrelated to the purpose of the ratified treaty.” A representative of the Home School Legal Defense Association weighed in and said “turning authority over any aspect of U.S. life to foreign bureaucrats goes against the grain of most Americans,” and that “Americans should make the law for America.”
There are always going to be lunatic fringes comprised of conspiracy theorists and mentally deranged religious fanatics, but when they influence over a third of the United States Senate to block a treaty emulating what many would call “American exceptionalism” in guaranteeing the disabled have equal rights, it portends dark times for America. Perhaps the senators who voted against the treaty lack basic comprehension of the Constitution and its blueprint for governing this country, or they are mentally deranged and see blue-helmeted U.N forces invading and seizing control of the government, but whatever their dysfunction, they allowed it to override any sense of compassion that was once a source of pride for Americans. Now, the country that passed landmark legislation guaranteeing disabled Americans enjoy the same rights, protections, and access every other American relishes should mourn that instead of compassion and equality, America opted for conspiracy theory and fears the U.N. is coming for disabled children, home schools, and to force abortions on the disabled. Apparently, Republicans cannot stand up against lunatics in the conservative movement because it is obvious that for the most part, lunatics are the conservative movement.