Woke up this morning, and I journeyed downstairs to make breakfast. Multitasking, I turned on the radio and grabbed yesterday’s paper to read during commercial breaks. From the radio I learned today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The radio played clips from President Donald Trump speeches as he honored our dead and thanked the French for caring for their graves. The radio show hosts marveled when Trump honored some of the veterans who still remain with us. How could 90-year old men, some seriously wounded during the war, still find the energy to return to Normandy?
Turning to the paper I read an article in the editorial section, China’s quest for human rights and democracy by Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the United States. What was Tiankai about? He was making excuses for the excesses of a brutal, authoritarian regime.
Since 1840, for more than a century, China was ravaged by the aggression of Western powers, warlord fighting, and a civil war. For a starving, downtrodden people in a war-torn country, “human rights” were a luxury. Seventy years ago, when the People’s Republic of China was founded, the average life expectancy in China was only 35. In such dire times, ensuring the survival of its people was China’s imperative, and this guided policy for the past 70 years. Without assuring the right to survival and development, other rights are castles in the air.
The results of our hard work are indisputable. China’s life expectancy reached 77 in 2018, higher than the world average of 72. In the last 40 years, over 740 million people have been lifted out of poverty, accounting for over 70% of the world’s total population lifted from poverty, an accomplishment applauded by the World Bank as “the fastest rate of poverty reduction ever recorded in human history.” Further, China has put in place the world’s largest networks of education, social security, medical care, and community-level democracy. (from here)
When the Allied forces finally forced the Nazis to surrender, did the Americans use the chaos of war as an excuse to deprive the people of Europe of their rights? No. Not even the Germans.
Some would have us equate material success with respect for human rights. Yet material success is actually just a measure of a society’s respect for justice, justice founded upon our respect for God-given rights. When the Chinese government tries to give the People rights, it first must decide what those rights must be, and government officials don’t have the wisdom to do that well. They want control. Thus, officials like Tiankai write clever articles praising the powers that be just for maintaining enough order so that some people live longer. Whether the statistics he cites are even true is speculative.
What about here in the USA? What about our own country? Well, Thomas Jefferson once made this observation.
Extract from Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith
Paris Nov. 13. 1787.
The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure. (from here (founders.archives.gov))
There will always be those among us who love themselves and hate their neighbors, perhaps all of us. There will always be people in powerful positions who serve themselves at everyone else’s expense. Do we have to take arms against them? No. Thanks to those who have fought life and death battles for our sake, we just have to take up our ballots and vote as wisely as we can. This is the least we can do. However, if we do not, then the tree of liberty will be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Unless we do our duty, this generation will condemn its children to the misery of war.