It Happened Last Night


copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or

It happened last night.  As I reflect, I realize it has happened all along.  Each day, in most every moment I have an opportunity to look at life and learn.  Yet I become consumed with more immediate concerns.  He said. She said.  The system, situation, or some other entity supplants a deeper assessment.  Years ago, I came to understand that I create my own chaos, calm, or shades of what will be.  As an Educator, I speak of this often.  My students often quote me on the subject of choices. Yet, until yesterday, I never fully grasped how true my words might be.  I am unsure why the events of the evening took me where they did. I share the story.

I received a mail from a magnificent man, someone who has achieved much and is well-known beyond the circle of my life.  This gent is a Scholar, an Educator, an esteemed and prolific Author, a Sage.

Indeed, over the years, Mister B’s published works have helped me grow by leaps and bounds.  I never imagined I might become acquainted with him as a person.   Yet, accidentally, we met.  Minutes after Michael presented as part an expert panel, he and his spouse made way for the auditorium exit.  I was on my way back into the lecture hall. Unexpectedly I had an opportunity to introduce myself, which I did.

His mention of a bad cold earlier, whilst he was on stage, led me thoughts on my miracle cure.  Delighted, he turned to his wondrous wife and asked her to take notes. The two he said would purchase the ingredients before the day was done.  It was obvious to me that Michael and Joslyn are quite close.  Caring exudes from each of them. Surprisingly to me, Michael hugged me for the help I offered.

Over the many months since, Michael and I have spoken, not often, but also, not infrequently.  The conversations are expansive.  Mostly we discuss personal philosophies, experiences, and just enjoy getting to know each other. Through electronic mail, at a distance, we have worked on a few endeavors together. Mister B has become more real to me.  His relationships with family, friends, life, and living are beautiful to behold.

Then it happened.  After weeks of unanswered calls and emails, I asked was there trouble. Unusual for Michael, he had not responded to my communications. He wrote back and said all was well.   Michael was and is rebuilding the front entrance to his home.

Once I learned that the lack of responsiveness was not a reaction to what I had said, done, or been, I was relieved. The real story led me to inquire.  Was Michael doing the work himself?  I discovered he was.  This spectacular specimen of a human being was not solely a Scribe, an Academic, an Educator, and an authority on pedagogy. Michael B is an Artisan, a Craftsman, a Draftsman, a Reformer, Dreamer, a Builder, Rebuilder, Mechanic, and a man who transforms what most think of as truth.

Mister B was kind enough to share a link to a webpage that showed his life’s less noticed path.  As I perused, my mouth was agape.  Thirty years earlier, Michael built his own home.  He used no sub-contractors or Contractors.  All the work was done with his own two hands, assisted only by a mind intent on a mission. That gray matter was also his own.

He and his wife Joslyn reside on a river. During the construction, the two lived in a small duplex, on the dock.  This dwelling today is attached to the main abode, and serves as a guest quarter.  The house that Michael built stands stately in a wooded region, overlooking the same waterway where he and his spouse watched him give rise to his vision.

The home is three-stories high.  Some of the windows are floor-to-ceiling. The rafters reach for the sky.  Balconies abound and surround the abode.  A very large round window appears in the uppermost floor.  In another photograph, an interior shot, Joslyn is comfortably seated.  Her body fits securely in the window frame.  Joslyn obviously has much room to move about.  The portal is huge!  It, the house as a whole, is beautiful; but the dwelling’s exquisiteness is nothing in contrast to the lesson I learned when I probed further.

Overwhelmed with this vision, initially, I did not do, as was my impulse and call Michael. Instead, I rushed about in an attempt to leave on time.  I prepared a hurried breakfast, inhaled my food, or began to, and then, I picked up the telephone. I dialed .with the expectation that I would speak to a voice mail machine.  Mister B was likely working and my being rushed, I thought that fine.  Much to my astonishment, Michael answered.  My words were as a white light.  All I said was uttered in haste.  In contrast, Michael’s voice was calm and reflective.  He shared stories.

The domicile took three years to complete.  Plumbing, masonry, milling, electrical jobs were all his, as were all other aspects involved in building.  As he worked on the edifice he also composed and published a book.  Michael kept a notepad close at-hand during the construction.  Prior to the actual endeavor he designed, plotted, planned and developed his thought.

When he felt overwhelmed, or stuck, Michael would step back and work on another undertaking.  He immersed himself in some effort that freed his mind for further reflection.  Mister B might fix a machine, or make one.  The possibilities are endless for someone such as he. Michael understood then, as he does at present, his own learning style, his likes, and all that he loathes for himself.  Idle hands or head, these are not habits Mister B embraces.

The circular window is but one example.  This porthole was once a Union 76 gas station sign. Michael asked if I was familiar with the expansive logo in the form of a light fixture that scrapes the sky in many a gas station.  I am.  Mister B found an old oversized signet on sale. He purchased it for $45 dollars.  Once hollowed out, the frame would serve as his window on the world. Plexiglas was also purchased for just over $100.  Michael fixed the two together and voilá.  A place to peer out was born.

The structure survived five bad storms over the three decades since its birth. One was directly overhead. Yet, the building stood the test of a tempest and time. As has Michael B.

Prior to our conversation, I knew that Michael began his career in 1952. This was near the same year my Dad started his. I had wondered in the past; were the two close in age.  I searched and found the answer.  Yes, they are, as are many men and women. All sorts of people are born within a generation. This truth does not deny that we are all unique.

Still, these two men, in many ways are identical. Daddy too is extremely precise. Just as Michael, he is an Artisan, a Craftsman, a Draftsman, a Reformer, Dreamer, a Builder, Rebuilder, Mechanic, and a man who transforms what most think of as truth. My Dad loves to build. He envisions what others do not and acts on his farsightedness, or did when I was younger.

“Logan” [my father] is a scholar. He received rewards for his brilliance when he attended school. In his professional calling, he was a Professor, a Lecturer, called upon to train Medical Practitioners, Lawyers, Social Workers, Preachers, and Teachers. My father wrote and spoke on Education as Mister B does, although never so broadly.

When  I was a teen, Daddy was on the School Board for an Independent School.  “Logan” was looked upon as a pillar in the community. My Dad worked as a Public Planner for a very respected worldwide Leadership and Support Organization. Later, respected in his field, Daddy established his own firm.  Up until a year ago, my Papa still worked each and every day.  He drove to his office and counseled others; however, he was never able to console himself.

Just as Michael B, “Logan” had big plans.  While he always worked to execute exactly and in a timely manner, much changed.  In retrospect, I understand that Daddy had hesitated even whilst he moved forward.  No one ever seemed to notice this.  My father kept any self-doubt well hidden. Indeed, he seemed quite confident in his every enterprise.

For all practical purposes and by appearances, Daddy was a success!  “Logan” was as Michael, he dreamed and then, built as he imagined. That is, until the day . . a turn of events did my Dad in.  What occurred all those decades ago, popped the bubble that was Daddy’s triumphant existence

Choices Create What Comes

It was Mother’s Day, near a score in the past.  While waiting for Daddy to return home from a day of fishing, the telephone rang.  It was  Logan. He did not call to say he would be late for dinner; he already was.  Instead, he asked, would we pick him up? My Dad was in jail!

In this exposé, I will not share the depth and details.  Suffice to say, murder, mayhem, and money played no role in the crimes. We arranged for his bail. Mommy, my beau Eric, and I drove miles to the Police station.  No one said a word.  I recall no conversation once we arrived either. From minds to mouths, all seemed frozen in time.  Perhaps, we each were numb with disbelief.  I know I was.

Indeed, I only remember a tall man with impeccable posture, a gent who normally stood six feet four inches tall, slumped over.  Daddy’s stared straight ahead as the four of us walked to the car. He was alive.  He looked as well as could be expected, but I could tell my Dad had died inside.  Never did I imagine that the death would be permanent. It was.

Certainly, everyone, at some time believes they have seen the end.  Frequently, a way of life, superficially  concludes.  This veracity was and is no less true for Mister B. I have heard him tell and seen . . .

While Professor B pursued his potential, he traveled down delicate paths that led to delicious delights and also his demise, of sorts.  As all human beings Michael had a number of serious falls. I smile and think of a tome Mister B published.

Just as Daddy had in the course of his life, Michael stood strong and spoke up when he felt policies were wrong.   For doing so, he was placed in precarious predicaments.  Finally, his own words and deeds strangled him.  In a teaching position, at a local College, after twenty-five years Professor B was handed a pink slip.  His contract was terminated.  The case went to court.  While the job was lost, Mister B was born once more.  His choices kept him alive.

Throughout the ordeal, the Scholar and Scribe never lost hope.  Guilt for compensation lost, a career, nay with his reputation in question Michael did not blame himself.  He did not allow himself to be consumed by what he could not change.  Professionally, Michael’s identity was transformed.  The agreement Professor B had with his family, friends, fellowship, and with himself remained solid.   He would be true.  His sense of strength could not be terminated. Then, and still today, Michael thrives.

“Logan,” on the other hand, found that task impossible to achieve.  Granted, the choice that led to his demise was one society could not accept.  More importantly, my Dad could not tolerate what he had done.  The question I now ask myself is would Michael ever have chosen to “commit” a professional, let alone  a physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual “suicide.”  My Dad chose each of these.  However, in practice, he decided to forego one of these self-destructive travels.  In a corporeal sense, Daddy lives.  Sadly it seems, life can be defined in many ways.  Not all are what we would think of as living.

Life Lessons, Losses Seen as Growth and Gains or Rain

As I recognized more than a decade ago in my own life, my or our choices create what comes.  My personal narrative and the lessons learned was nowhere near as profound as what I see in the lives of these two.  Perhaps, it is easier to understand what is separate from self.  I know not for sure.

I am only certain that the man I know as Daddy was replaced on the day of his arrest.  Ever since, a shell of himself stood in his shoes.  Outwardly, slowly, “Logan” regained respect.  A Governor’s pardon was awarded. He rebuilt his practice, and by appearances, his life.  However, he was never truly the same.  His relationships suffered. The man I was once so close to, for so very long, emotionally moved away from me.  Try as I might, and I did, and do, Daddy, only infrequently welcomes rapports with anyone.  In a meaningful manner, “Logan” separated himself from everyone, except perhaps, his wife.  

While his marriage to my Mom did not last long after the arrest; Daddy wed again. I had long believed that, his marriage would be as Michael’s and Joslyn’s is, a lifetime of love.  Better yet, my hope was the two liked each other.  They had been through more than most relationships endure.  Not in so many words, Daddy implied that my want for him was true.  However, in retrospect, that assumption seems an erroneous one.  From each of them, I heard. I saw.  In time, I began to question whether Daddy was authentically connected to his life partner, or more importantly, to himself.

Often, my Dad speaks of regrets, all he never accomplished and could have.  Manuscripts were  not published, though written.  Programs designed and developed were not implemented.  Post Graduate work woefully waned.  Daddy lost his will and his way when he was but a man in his forties.

Barely middle-aged “Logan” became his guilt.  For a very long time, this thought was but my theory.   I understood all I surmised was speculation.  We can only ask and hope the answer will serve as a window to the other’s soul.  Hence, months ago, I inquired.   I wondered aloud whether  “Logan” had reflected on what I observed, a change in his well-being.

Often, in conversation Daddy speaks of his physical health, or lack thereof.  For my father, it seems nothing compares with the agony that has been his corporeal existence.  Since, that dreaded day, “Logan’s” body has been racked with pain.  He has survived various  bouts of cancer, multiple heart attacks, permanent back injuries, and irreparable damage to his inner organs.  My Dad has struggled through physical miseries  He never had before.  

Mentally too, I detected a change.  Actually, he speaks of this often as well.  The person who taught me to live as Don Quixote, to never say die, to believe that in the next millisecond, it will be better only showed himself in rare moments, and only after he and I chatted alone for awhile.  A year ago, I mentioned what for me was this oddity to my Dad.  I asked him, how could this be.  Where had my Daddy gone?  

My Teacher, my Mentor, my Muse, was my Dad.   His truth was my truth.  In my experience, our shared philosophy has always proven itself accurate.  Today, I think of Michael B and trust he embraces as my Dad did and I do.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  Whence I forget, I realize I only need to only open my eyes.  I will see again; rainbows are a spectrum of colors.  Shades of pretty pink can be seen within the band of blood red.

One that day I proposed the question, what happened? Might it be that the fittest man, one whose health never faltered when I was younger changed the day he first chose to do what landed him in jail?  “Logan” admitted, indeed, he took his own life.  Verve, energy, an authentic excitement, all that he was and encouraged was gone. Yes, all those years ago, he killed himself in every way he could.  His chosen weapon was his woe.  Vigor was a void left behind near two score now.

Daddy said the only reason he remained on the planet was to take care of those who needed his physical presence. At the time he shared, I understood.  I could do nothing else. His pain, physical and emotional is palpable.  Yet, today, as I ruminate on the house that Michael built I realize there is much more to ponder.  Are any of us here or as is said, “there” for others when we are barely present.

It is vital that we give rise to the best of our being. Houses are not built on hurt.  Soreness does not allow our relationships or us to soar.  We must reach for the stars, our stars, and not the rays of light others think bright.  We cannot give what we do not have.  A window, round, large, or square is not constructed without a strong, preferably steel frame.  Beams able to withstand any storm, even one directly overhead, need to be sturdy, straight, and able to hold great weight.  

If love is not within us the gift of such a treasure cannot grow.  Dreams fulfilled or death delivered, each happens. My understanding of these  verities happened last night.  Today, I hold dear a broader belief; in every moment the choice is mine now and forever.


Utopia. Universal Declaration of Human Rights Lives and Dies ©

Written December 9, 2006
Yesterday was a day in memorial.  Many remembered and honored the life and passing of musician, composer John Lennon.  Throughout the day, I found myself singing the Lennon tune “Imagine.”  I often do “Imagine all the people living life in peace.”  I speak of this vision.  I write of it faithfully.  Many think my thoughts are silly and they say so.  I might remark as John Lennon himself did,  “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us,  and the world will be as one.” 

Today, I discovered others believed as I do long before I was born.  Many post-World War II people were impelled to reflect on human rights and the atrocities individuals and groups imposed on one another.  It was determined poverty, such as that found in Germany prior to Hitler’s rule, leaves people vulnerable and hurting.  In such a state, they are likely to aggress.  They recognized since we, worldwide live on one planet together, and with thanks to the advent of technological miracles we are no longer separate entities, the seas no longer divided us, we must work in unison to create global peace.  We as a civilization were mobile.  We were and are connected worldwide.  They concluded and I concur we must honor this reality. 

Thus, a committee was formed.  In 1946, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights composed of 18 Member States was developed.  Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the congregation.  This group of dignitaries set out to craft a doctrine that addressed human rights concerns.  Two years later, they completed and adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Mrs. Roosevelt stated, “It is not a treaty…[In the future, it] may well become the international Magna Carta.”  Ah, were this so.

Since its inception, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been in dispute.  The United States has been among its greatest critics.  This nation refuses to ratify this document.  American leaders resist the connection between rights and responsibilities.  The articles of this nonbinding “law” allow for the following provisions.  Actually, they offer more “power to the people.”  In this treatise, I will focus on the first articles of the declaration and contrast these with what is occurring in America.  There is so much more to assess; I could write a tomes.  There are volumes worthy of presenting.  However, in this essay I offer only a flavor.  Taste what we as a nation do, and ask yourself, are these deeds palatable.

  • Were The Universal Declaration of Human Rights globally endorsed and enacted upon . . .
    ~ The freedom of all.  Children are born as equals.  They are free and should be treated in the same way.  Humans have reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a friendly manner.
    U.S. gets poor grades for newborns’ survival. Associated Press.  MSNBC. May 9, 2006.  America may be the world’s superpower, but its survival rate for newborn babies ranks near the bottom among modern nations, better only than Latvia.

    Among 33 industrialized nations, the United States is tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with a death rate of nearly 5 per 1,000 babies, according to a new report. Latvia’s rate is 6 per 1,000.

    “We are the wealthiest country in the world, but there are still pockets of our population who are not getting the health care they need,” said Mary Beth Powers, a reproductive health adviser for the U.S.-based Save the Children, which compiled the rankings based on health data from countries and agencies worldwide.

    The U.S. ranking is driven partly by racial and income health care disparities. Among U.S. blacks, there are 9 deaths per 1,000 live births, closer to rates in developing nations than to those in the industrialized world.

    “Every time I see these kinds of statistics, I’m always amazed to see where the United States is because we are a country that prides itself on having such advanced medical care and developing new technology … and new approaches to treating illness. But at the same time not everybody has access to those new technologies,” said Dr. Mark Schuster, a Rand Co. researcher and pediatrician with the University of California, Los Angeles.

  • Were The Universal Declaration of Human Rights globally endorsed and enacted upon . . .
    ~ a different sex
    The wage gap. Why women are still paid less than men. By Evelyn Murphy and E.J. Graff.  Boston Globe.  October 9, 2005.  If you are a woman working full time, you will lose between $700,000 and $2 million over your working lifetime — just because of your sex.  Is that fair? No. Can it be stopped? Absolutely.

    In 1964, when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act that banned workplace discrimination based on race or sex, women working full time made 59 cents to a full-time working man’s dollar. That made sense at the time: As a group, women had less education, less experience, and less opportunity, in part because they were flatly banned from a wide range of occupations. At the time, many people thought the wage gap would close on its own, as the education, experience, and opportunity gaps went away.

    But today, 40 years later, the wage gap stands at 23 cents. Women working full time — not part-time, not on maternity leave, not as consultants — still earn only 77 cents to a full-time workingman’s dollar.  That’s an enormous gap, and it has been stalled in place for more than a decade. It’s not closing on its own.  It affects women at every economic level, from waitresses to lawyers, from cashiers to CEOs.

  • Were The Universal Declaration of Human Rights globally endorsed and enacted upon . . .
    ~ a different skin colour
    MLK Day Report Shows Greater Disparity Between Black and White.  ZNet Magazine. January 19, 2004.  Although the information, taken mostly from the US Census and the Federal Reserve, has been publicly available for years, few reports have pulled all the disparate pieces together.  “The State of the Dream 2004,” released last week by United for a Fair Economy, challenges traditional notions about the success of the civil rights movement in the past 30 years.  United for a Fair Economy is a nonprofit organization that focuses on highlighting income and other economic disparities in American society.

    “These findings contradict the basic values of our country,” said report co-author Betsy Leondar-Wright, who called the disparities “shocking and unacceptable.”

    Among the more disturbing findings: Unemployment among blacks is more than double that for whites, 10.8 percent versus 5.2 percent in 2003 — a wider gap than in 1972.  Black infant mortality is also greater today than in 1970.  In 2001, the black infant mortality rate was 14 deaths per 1,000 live births, 146 percent higher than the white rate.  The gap in infant mortality rates was 37 percent less in 1970.

    Black Americans have also made little progress compared to whites in terms of income.  According to the report, for every dollar of white income, African Americans had 55 cents in 1968.  Thirty-three years later, in 2001, the gap had only closed by two cents.  The report notes that, at this pace, it would take 581 years to achieve income parity.

    According to the report, the average black college graduate will earn $500,000 less in his or her lifetime than an average white college graduate.  Black high school graduates working full-time from age 25 to 64, will earn $300,000 less on average.

  • Were The Universal Declaration of Human Rights globally endorsed and enacted upon . . .
    ~ speaking a different language
    Language Legislation in the U.S.A.  Official English and anti-bilingual education bills introduced. By James Crawford.  November 11, 2006.  English Only legislation first appeared in 1981 as a constitutional English Language Amendment.  This proposal, if approved by a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate and ratified by three-quarters of state legislatures, would have banned virtually all uses of languages other than English by federal, state, and local governments.  But the measure has never come to a Congressional vote, even in committee.

    Since 1981, 22 states have adopted various forms of Official English legislation, in addition to four that had already done so.  Subtracting Hawaii’s (which is officially bilingual) and Alaska (whose English-only initiative has been declared unconstitutional) leaves a total of 24 states with active Official English laws. 

  • Were The Universal Declaration of Human Rights globally endorsed and enacted upon . . .
    ~ thinking different things
    Reform the Patriot Act to ensure civil liberties. Cable News Network.  April 20, 2005.  For example, under the act the government can monitor an individual’s Web surfing records.  It can use roving wiretaps to monitor phone calls made by individuals “proximate” to the primary person being tapped.  It can access Internet service provider records.  And it can even monitor the private records of people involved in legitimate protests.

    After September 11, 2001, when the act was passed, the executive argued that these broader powers would be used to put terrorists behind bars.  In fact, several of the act’s provisions can be used to gain information about Americans in the context of investigations with no demonstrated link to terrorism.

  • Were The Universal Declaration of Human Rights globally endorsed and enacted upon . . .
    ~ believing in another religion
    Religious Discrimination in U.S. State Constitutions. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.    May 11, 2006.  The Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution (Article I, Section 4) allows people to be excluded from holding office on religious grounds.  An official may be “excluded from holding office” if she/he does not “acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” 

  • Were The Universal Declaration of Human Rights globally endorsed and enacted upon . . .
    ~ owning more or less
    Human Rights Day Focuses On Poverty Eradication. By Lisa Schlein.  Voice of America. December 10, 2006  The United Nations chose poverty as this year’s theme for Human Rights day because, it says, poverty is both a cause and a product of human rights violations.  It says the poor are more likely to have their rights denied, and to be victims of discrimination and persecution.

    Mac Darrow, of the U.N. Human Rights Office, says that over the last decade, poverty has come to be seen as a human rights issue, rather than just an economic issue.  He says, research shows poor people suffer from a wide-range of civil and political rights violations.  “Lack of access to adequate schooling.  Lack of personal security.  Lack of ability to participate in public affairs or community level decision-making bodies – really, a very integrated and multi-faceted vision of dis-empowerment.  And, this and like research has driven international development agencies to understand poverty as precisely that, as about social exclusion, about issues of access to political power, economic power and discrimination,” he said.

  • Were The Universal Declaration of Human Rights globally endorsed and enacted upon . . .
    ~ being born in another social group
    A Touchy Subject.  Class: A Guide Through the American Status System.  By Paul Fussell.  Public Broadcasting Service [PBS].  Despite our public embraces of political and judicial equality, in individual perception and understanding – much of which we refrain from publicizing – we arrange things vertically and insist on crucial differences in value.  Regardless of what we say about equality, I think everyone at some point comes to feel like the Oscar Wilde who said, “The brotherhood of man is not a mere poet’s dream: it is a most depressing and humiliating reality.” It’s as if in our hear of hearts we don’t want agglomerations but distinctions. Analysis and separation we find interesting, synthesis boring.

    Although it is disinclined to designate a hierarchy of social classes, the federal government seems to admit that if in law we are all equal, in virtually all other ways we are not. Thus the eighteen grades into which it divides its civil-servant employees, from grade 1 at the bottom (messenger, etc.) up through 2 (mail clerk), 5 (secretary), 9 (chemist), to 14 (legal administrator), and finally 16, 17, and 18 (high level administrators). In the construction business there’s a social hierarchy of jobs, with “dirt work,” or mere excavation, at the bottom; the making of sewers, roads, and tunnels in the middle; and work on buildings (the taller, the higher) at the top. Those who sell “executive desks” and related office furniture know that they and their clients agree on a rigid “class” hierarchy. Desks made of oak are at the bottom, and those of walnut are next.  Then, moving up, mahogany is, if you like, “upper middle class,” until we arrive, finally, at the apex: teak. In the army, at ladies’ social functions, pouring the coffee is the prerogative of the senior officer’s wife because, as the ladies all know, coffee outranks tea.

  • Were The Universal Declaration of Human Rights globally endorsed and enacted upon . . .
    ~ coming from another country
    House passes bill to tighten immigration laws.  USA Today. December 15, 2005.  The House acted Friday to stem the tide of illegal immigration by taking steps to tighten border controls and stop unlawful immigrants from getting jobs.  But lawmakers left for next year the tougher issue of what to do with the 11 million undocumented people already in the country.

    The House legislation, billed as a border protection, anti-terrorism and illegal immigration control act, includes such measures as enlisting military and local law enforcement help in stopping illegal entrants and requiring employers to verify the legal status of their workers.  It authorizes the building of a fence along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Oh, I could go on.  Suffice to say America has problems endorsing what it chooses not to practice.  According to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is “a letter to Santa Claus.”

    Kirkpatrick states, “Neither nature, experience, nor probability informs these lists of ‘entitlements’, which are subject to no constraints except those of the mind and appetite of their authors.”  Apparently to her and to many, preventing illness by providing preventative medicine is not a universal responsibility.  Medical services are not a right.  In a world, or a nation of equals, we are not.  Affluent persons such as Kirkpatrick claim, a person either has the means to fend for him or herself, or they do not.  This former Socialist has concluded we each need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, whether we can afford them or not.

    She, in the Reagan tradition, ignores that people are not treated equally and therefore do not have equal opportunities.

    For me, Former Attorney General, Ramsey Clark said it well.  As you read of Iraq, please notice, Ramsey Clark is not discussing our more recent decision to obliterate this nation with bombs.  He is speaking of the period prior to our unilateral attack.  When evaluating The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Clark declared,

    The United States government pays lip service to the Declaration, but its courts have consistently refused to enforce its provisions reasoning it is not a legally binding treaty, or contract, but only a declaration.  This ignores the fact that international law recognizes the provisions of the Declaration as being incorporated into customary international law, which is binding on all nations.

    The most fundamental, dangerous, and harmful violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on its fifteenth birthday is economic sanctions imposed on entire populations.  The United States alone blockades eleven million Cubans in the face of the most recent General Assembly resolution approved by 157 nations condemning the blockade, with only the United States and Israel in opposition.  The entire population of Cuba and every Cuban has had the “right to a standard of living adequate for health and well being… including food, clothing, housing and medical care” deliberately violated by the United States blockade.

    Security Council sanctions against Iraq, which are forced by the United States, have devastated the entire nation, taking the lives of more than 1,500,000 people, mostly infants, children, chronically ill and elderly, and harming millions more by hunger, sickness and sorrow.  The sanctions destroy the “dignity and rights” of the people of Iraq and are the most extreme form of “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” which are prohibited by the Declaration.

    Despite the cruelest destruction of the most basic human rights and liberties of all the people in Iraq, including rights to medicine, safe drinking water and sufficient food, the United States government, with the major mass media in near perfect harmony, proclaims itself the world’s champion of liberty and human rights.  The problem as Lincoln surely knew is not merely one of definitions.  It is a problem of power, will, and accountability.  The United States intends to have its way and serve its own interests, with Iraq, Cuba, Libya, Iran, the Sudan and many other countries whatever the consequences to the liberties and rights of those who live there.

    The United States control over and its concerted action with the mass media enables it to demonize such countries, its victims, for “terrorism,” threats to world peace and human rights violations at the very time it rains Tomahawk cruise missiles on them and motivates and finances armed insurrections and violence against them.

    At the same time, the United States increases its own staggeringly large prison industry, more than a million persons confined, including 40% of all African American males between 17 and 27 years old in the State of California.  Simultaneously the U.S. spends more on its military than the ten largest military budgets of other nations combined, sells most of the arms and sophisticated weapons still increasing worldwide while rejecting an international convention to prohibit land mines and an international court of criminal justice.  And the U.S. maintains and deploys the great majority of all weapons of mass destruction existent on earth, nuclear, chemical, biological and the most deadly of all — economic sanctions.

    For me, my Mom practiced the philosophy of Universal Human Rights best.  A woman that did not yell or scream would raise her voice in frustration when she felt violated.  We knew she was hurting when she declared, “I have rights!”  Numerous individuals do.  When we do not honor human rights, reactive behaviors persist.

    Thus, I invite us to consider as my Mom lived.  She professed, “No one has the right to tell you what you should think, say, do, feel, or be;” and “Do what ever makes you happen as long as it does not hurt another.”  These principles work in tandem.  They allow for a sense of community and connection.  There is an understanding that we are one; yet separate.  The philosophy establishes an authentic equality.  Our household beliefs bestow reciprocal reverence.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does the same.  This document affords all beings in America and elsewhere what the Constitution and the courts do not.  Unless or until we, the people, take an active stand.  Therefore, I invite you to consider what was novel to me, a canon of unity.  Please consider that crime comes from chaos.  People that are tired, hungry, ill, and hurting lash out.  They, just as my Mom did, seek the rights and privileges other have.

    I propose that if we practice what we preach strength, solidarity, safety, security, and sanity will exist for everyone on Earth.

    I invite you to envision as experts once did, a world where all people are truly equal and treated as such.  Please contemplate a planet where the principle of free speech, due process, economic, and social rights are honored.  Conceive of a global village where the right to health care and housing are realities, not for a select few but for every human being.  Visualize a place where the ability to organize is not shunned, but welcomed.  Imagine receiving a living wage, no matter your race, religion, gender, educational expertise, or station in life.  It is possible to dream the impossible dream and then act on it?  I think it is!

    May We Unite and Universally Honor Human Rights . . .

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • U.S. gets poor grades for newborns’ survival. Associated Press.  MSNBC. May 9, 2006
  • The wage gap. Why women are still paid less than men. By Evelyn Murphy and E.J. Graff.  Boston Globe. October 9, 2005
  • MLK Day Report Shows Greater Disparity Between Black and White.  ZNet Magazine. January 19, 2004
  • Language Legislation in the U.S.A.  Official English and anti-bilingual education bills introduced. By James Crawford.  November 11, 2006
  • Reform the Patriot Act to ensure civil liberties. Cable News Network.  April 20, 2005
  • Religious Discrimination in U.S. State Constitutions. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.    May 11, 2006. 
  • Human Rights Day Focuses On Poverty Eradication. By Lisa Schlein.  Voice of America. December 10, 2006
  • A Touchy Subject. Class: A Guide Through the American Status System.  By Paul Fussell.  Public Broadcasting Service [PBS].
  • House passes bill to tighten immigration laws.  USA Today. December 15, 2005.
  • Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ex – Ambassador, Dies. By The Associated Press.  New York Times. December 9, 2006
  • Jeane Kirkpatrick. Wikipedia.
  • Ramsey Clark on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights The World Traveler. December 2, 1998
  • Is the United States a party to any international human rights treaties? National Coordinating Committee for UDHR50. Copyright © Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.
  • Dreams Live and Die


    Another Student, Similar Vision or Lack Thereof. Matt Belin in Iowa. Photographer, Chris Coudron

    &copy copyright 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    He was young, relatively speaking, and old, so old, he had already given up on his future. Nevertheless, the flame flickered brightly as he shared what he wished it would be with me.  He stood close.  He was turning in his project.  He was not the first to complete his work. Actually, he was among the last. The students had been working on this assignment for days. It was due in ten minutes.  Work not turned in on time, would be considered late.  Grades could drop.  Yet, that was not his deepest concern.  In that moment, he worried about my future.

    This gentle man was housed within a class that had been a thorn in their teacher’s side.  I was sitting in for the regular classroom Instructor on that day, the last day to complete the project.  During this final workday, students had  an opportunity to dream.  If the work was done, they could watch a video, an adventure film, and immerse them selves in a world of fantasy.  If the task was not yet finished, work, work, work would be the agenda.  However, the Teacher had said to me, that once most were done, the video could be played.  The others would be required to continue their endeavor while the hum  was heard in the background.

    In this group, none of the options was appreciated.  They wanted to walk, to talk, and to play; however, this was not in my plan.  Commotion is not my vision for a classroom.  Nor was chaos what I needed.

    I wanted quiet order.  I stated this aloud before class began.  For me, active, productive, and creative minds are as I crave.  I give pupils the time and space to flow, to self-actualize, as Social Scientists’ might say.  they can gel in the inner sanctums of their minds.  I shared with the students, though they personally may not wish to excel, there are those that do.  I want to ensure that they can.  In harmony, the class grumbled.

    This crowd voiced no desire to shine.  Should one exist, it was well hidden.

    Since these students were not ones I had a lasting relationship with, I felt that I had very little time to influence what was in their minds.  I could only guide behaviors and introduce possibilities.

    It was the last period of the day.  As the movie played, I quietly did my own work.  I brought my power-book from home.  I watched the pupils, not the pulp-fiction, as I typed away.  I did interact, though there was little to interact with.  Some students were, finally, working.  Others were indeed viewing.  The room, at last was void of noise, with the exception of the sounds coming from the screen.  Time passed and then it occurred.

    The period was coming to a close.  Learners turned their projects in slowly yet surely.

    He approached.  He handed me his papers and I offered my thanks.  He stayed close for a while and then said, “I like your computer.”  His words did not seem as envy, as much as understanding.  I told him of how I had wanted this laptop for more than a decade.  I could not spend the money, or would not.  Then circumstances demanded the purchase.  A long distance move had necessitated and my arrival in town after a tumultuous storm had postponed the possibility of my move into a home I purchased months earlier.   I took up occupancy in a hotel and would reside there for two and one-half months.  My life was in boxes, in storage.  Me, without a computer to meet my daily needs was unthinkable, not do-able.

    He said that he could relate. We chatted. I shared my dream and why the workstation seemed a must to me.  I told him of my passion for writing and my dream to do this exclusively.  I shared my fears.  He smiled.  Apparently, he had the same.  He told me of how his words could and did bring readers to tears.  He had scored among the best in the writing portion of the Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test [FCAT.]  I asked; what was he planning to pursue in college to make his dream come true.

    He responded quickly, with little thought. He had already thoroughly assessed this decision.  He said, “I am not college material.”  He continued, “Possibly, I will to attend the community college and learn a trade.”  Then shyly he added, “I may work for the school newspaper.  I would like to do some sports writing  . . . and maybe more.”

    Not college material?  I expressed my doubt of that.  There was a quizzical look; it disappeared.  He became animated though still certain that furthering his education was not in the plans.  His eyes lit the room.  His skin sparkled.  His voice reverberated.  He began to tell me how much he loved to read.  He was working on a paper for one of his classes.  He researched much.  He was writing on the career of J.K. Rowlings’.  He recounted her life story, in depth and detail.  He spoke of the hard times she faced, her divorce, her children, and that she had been on welfare, all the time working on her books.  He was joyous for her success.  He read each of her books.

    He continued discussing her trials, tribulations, and tales.  The rejection she received, her perseverance, and his thrill that she thrived.  He was living her life as he told her story.  This sweet man was absorbed in his loves, his reading, and his writing.  Yet, he had no hopes, or at least he was told by some older and wiser adults not to.

    I was sad and happy.  I attempted to encourage him.  The irony is, earlier, he was cheering me on, telling me to believe in my dream and myself.  He wanted me to pursue my passion; perhaps he wanted this for each of us.  He and I were together, fearful, while willing and wanting to take on the world.  However, we both had been wounded by the words of others.  What people had said to us then and now advanced our uncertainties, quelled, or delayed our desires.  Those doubting statements were once or twice said to us; now, they were the ones we told ourselves.

    “Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”~ James Langston Hughes

    References for shared realities . . .