Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Spark of Wisdom: Rights: You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means

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 This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.

There are many things that the extreme right wingers, the bigots, the desperate conformists, whatever you want to call the people who give us all a collected headache, do that annoy me in the extreme. In fact, I couldn't even begin to make a list because collecting so much wrongness together in one document would enrage me past reason (well, even further past reason than I like to play)

But I have to say one of their many many many habits that I find objectionable is their appropriation of the language of rights and oppression. It is grossly offensive to me to see some of the most privileged people imaginable - often the most privileged people possible - to appropriate the words of oppression and marginalisation

I've seen some pretty awful ones out there. There's the use of "Christian Bashing" to appropriate the term gay-bashing. And while that may be the one that hit's closest to me, I've also seen appropriation of the civil rights movement, segregation, apartheid, the holocaust - gods you name it, nothing's untouchable. Some people have no shame and they sure don't have any respect.

And one of the appropriations that annoys me greatly is the appropriation of Human Rights.

I'm a lawyer. I like the law. I have a lot of respect for the law. I am genuinely and legitimately interested in my work - I love it dearly. I also have a, sometimes naive, desperate hope for the law. When I wrote about why I vote I said it was because, as a marginalised person, my well being is very dependent on government policy - and most certainly law. And definitely Rights.

The law (and most certainly its agents) is frequently - very frequently - used to abuse the marginalised. But law, and human rights particularly, are also our biggest shield against persecution.

Without Rights enshrined in law my life would be very different. In fact, there's a very good chance I wouldn't even be alive. More and more I am still horrified by how much people hate us, how little our lives are worth and how much so many people would cheer and fight to see my life ruined.

I like my life. It's a good life - a damned good life. But it exists only because of the shield that Rights have given me.

Rights are important. It seems so infantile to say it that way, but people forget. People whine about them. People neglect them and people abuse them. And the latter annoys me - to twist and maul something so essential and - on a selfish note - so very necessary to me, galls me a great deal.

So, I'm in the mood to grab the haddock and do some important slapping on people who appropriate the language of human rights to try and destroy them