Friday, May 4, 2012

Do As I Say...Not As I Do!

The plight of Chinese activist Cheng Guancheng has been the lead news story for the past several days.  It is the tragic story of a man imprisoned for speaking out against China’s practice of implementing forced abortions and sterilizations as a means of family planning.  Cheng spent four years in prison for his activities followed by eighteen months of house arrest.  Cheng, who is blind, managed to escape his captors and find his way to the American embassy; where he sought protection.  After six days in the embassy Cheng asked to leave the embassy in order to be reunited with his wife and children.  US officials say they negotiated an agreement whereby Cheng would be granted freedom and safety for him and his family.  Now Cheng believes that he and his family are in danger and he wants to return to the protective custody of the American embassy and eventually relocate to the United States.  He has spoken by phone to a congressional committee investigating the matter and he has requested to speak to Secretary of State Clinton. 
Critics of the Obama administration have jumped all over the state department’s handling of the situation.  They say that the state department wanted the matter resolved quickly and quietly fearing that it would overshadow the upcoming summit meeting between Secretary of State Clinton and the Chinese government.  They say that the embassy staff cobbled together a loose, non-binding agreement with the Chinese just to get Cheng out of the embassy and out of their hair. 
Cheng’s ultimate fate remains undecided.
From our prospective the bigger story is the reaction to Cheng’s situation here in the states.  The outrage here over the perceived violation of Cheng’s civil rights is palpable.  And naturally Willard Mitt Romney is leading the criticism over the administration’s handling of the situation.  Romney said that the Obama administration failed to protect the Chinese dissident by factoring political considerations into the negotiations.  “If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom and it’s a day of shame for the Obama administration…We are a place of freedom here and around the world and we should stand up and defend freedom wherever it is under attack.”
The hypocrisy in Romney’s outrage would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad.  If Romney wants to “defend freedom wherever it is under attack” he need look no further than right under his own nose.   Romney is quick to point out the perceived failure of the Obama administration to protect the rights of a Chinese dissident.  But he is silent as a church mouse when it comes to violations of civil rights by his party and his own administration.
Where was Romney when the far right evangelical faction of his party demanded that his openly gay foreign policy spokesman, Richard Grinnell, be removed from the campaign?  Did he not “factor in political considerations”, when he refused to defend his choice of Grinnell?   In fact Romney remained silent, diminished Grinnell’s position within the campaign, and marginalized him until he eventually resigned.
Where was Romney’s outrage when members of his party were passing laws that mandated that women undergo invasive trans-vaginal ultrasounds before having a legal abortion?
Where was Romney’s outrage when members of his party were passing laws specifically designed to make it more difficult for African Americans and Hispanics to exercise their right to vote?
Where was Romney when his party was voting to overturn the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act…a bill which grants women the right to equal pay for equal work?
Where was Romney when members of his party were attempting to pass legislation that outlawed a woman’s right to obtain contraceptives?
Romney seems to be very concerned about the rights of Chinese dissidents; but not overly concerned about violating the rights of American citizens.
In fairness to Willard…he is not so different from most Americans when it comes to criticizing the activities of foreign governments while turning a blind eye to our own deficiencies.  We rail about the civil rights violations in China.  We cluck our tongue at the subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia.  We complain about treatment of young girls by the Taliban and we are revolted by the religious persecution that is rampant throughout the world. 
Yet racism is still prevalent in this country.  Women do not receive equal pay for their work or equal consideration for their efforts.  Many will not vote for Mitt Romney simply because he is a Mormon.  And the citizenship and religious beliefs of the President of the United States are questioned and demonized because of his “exotic” upbringing.  We are the proverbial pot calling the kettle black.
Make no mistake; we have come a long way to practicing the tolerance that we preach.  But we still have a long way to go.
So to those who would be quick to criticize the practices of other countries, institutions or individuals we would suggest that get they examine their own conscience first.
After all, we all live in a glass house.

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