Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Friday, November 02, 2007

This Is Not Who We Are

I recently had the privilege of attending an event where I was able to see, in person, the next President of the United States (if we have the good sense to elect him), Barack Obama. In discussing why we all need to get motivated to take back our country and restore our national values, Senator Obama spoke about the disregard for human rights shown by a government that sees nothing wrong with torture. This is not what America stands for, he said. This is not who we are.

Although he was talking about the mistreatment of terror suspects by the Bush administration, those words are equally applicable to the Judge Rotenberg Center, a Massachusetts institution that routinely uses electric shock on children with developmental disabilities. There have been several administrative and legislative attempts to put an end to this heinous abuse of our society's most vulnerable children, but so far, the place is still in business.

Many bloggers and human rights groups have asked why the State of Massachusetts can't shut down the Judge Rotenberg Center. It's for the same reason, as I see it, why the people of America haven't yet shut down Guantanamo Bay—too much apathy among the voters and too little insistence on demanding accountability from our elected officials. We lack full awareness of our personal power as citizens of a democratic nation to force our government to conduct itself in a decent manner. People talk to each other about such things and say, this is terrible, or that is awful; but then we just sit back and wait for someone else to deal with it.

Ultimately, it is our responsibility as citizens and as human beings to ensure that those who represent us in government will never commit, or allow others to commit, human rights abuses. If you live in Massachusetts, contact your state legislators and ask them if, like Barack Obama and Gov. Deval Patrick, they are ready to turn the page on this shameful era in American history and to take an unequivocal stand against government-sanctioned torture under any circumstances. Ask them if they will firmly commit themselves to enacting legislation to outlaw the use of electric shock and other abusive behavior modification practices.

If the answer is anything other than yes, GET YOUR BUTT TO THE POLLS AND VOTE THEM OUT! There is no excuse for politicians authorizing the torture of children with developmental disabilities. None. Zero. Ever. And there is no excuse for voters being so apathetic as to let them stay in office when they do.

This is not who we are.

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  • Excellent post, ABFH, and a most powerful statement from Obama. I do hope it is true and that we can show that "this is not who we are."

    By Blogger Bev, at 12:14 PM  

  • This is probably a long shot, but for those of us who don't live in the USA, would Amnesty International or a similar organisation be able to help?

    By Anonymous bullet, at 2:48 PM  

  • Thanks, AB, for keeping a spotlight on this.

    I think that Guantanemo and the JRC share some common qualities, but in some ways are different.

    They are similar in that both are "out of sight, and out of mind", and "hey, they don't apply to me, so why should I worry about it?"

    But I think where they are different is in that Guantanemo is allowed to continue because of people's fears of terrorism, and willingness to trade civil rights for safety. I think the JRC is allowed to exist because those that are abused are dehumanized, and thus are not deserving of any rights.


    By Blogger Club 166, at 4:56 PM  

  • Thanks ABFH,
    It really is good that you are continuing to mention these things.

    I agree with Club 166 in the ways these two things share common qualities but are in some ways different.

    One thing that I also see that they have in common is that both claim to have already been invetigated but with little or no results.

    What I'd like to see Obama do is create some kind of investigation process that would allow for the results that can only be arrived at from people with some kind of independance from those who have an invested interest in either keeping the truth hidden from the public or finding ways to justify these acts of cruelty to the public because that is encouraging apathy.

    The publics right to know is becoming more stiffled all the time because of matters that we are told don't concern us.

    By Blogger Ed, at 8:37 PM  

  • Bev: Yes, it's a very powerful statement, and from what I've seen so far, it seems to be resonating with Democrats and Republicans alike.

    Bullet: I'm pretty sure Amnesty International is already aware of it, but sending them more letters couldn't hurt.

    Club 166: I believe the Guantanamo detainees also are being dehumanized because they're Muslims and dark-skinned foreigners. I certainly can't picture any US president opening a similar camp for conservative Christians suspected of anti-abortion terrorist bombings, can you?

    Ed: I'd like to see that too. Obama has an impressive record as a reformer who has been able to get laws passed, both at the state and federal level, to bring about more transparency and accountability in government; it's certainly the sort of investigation he would support.

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:51 PM  

  • I recently found you blog and wanted to comment. I've seen several other blogs mention this place and I honestly didn't know a place like this existed, or even how it still can. Thank you for posting what is a very powerful statement. And the more I read about the JRC the more it completely disgusts me.

    By Blogger misha_k, at 3:07 AM  

  • I believe the Guantanamo detainees also are being dehumanized because they're Muslims and dark-skinned foreigners. ...

    I see your point, to a certain extent. Certainly some amount of dehumanization occurs in both instances. But for the most part I think that the fact that the Guantanamo detainees are dark skinned Muslims makes it easier for them to be perceived as "bad people", whereas those in the JRC are seen as "not people".


    By Blogger Club 166, at 8:14 AM  

  • If you think giving electric shocks to autistic kiddies is a bit rough, what about this bright spark's idea for a "treatment" of autism?

    I'm wondering how this person proposes to treat "the early stages of" autism with ECT. Zapping babies who are a bit late in speaking their first words?

    It could only happen in Mississippi.

    By Blogger Lili Marlene, at 10:44 AM  

  • Oh my God! What horror!

    By Blogger A Bishops wife, at 5:49 AM  

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