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June 04, 1981 - Image 8

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1981-06-04

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Opinion
Page 8 Thursday, June 4, 1981 The Michigan Daily

4

The Michigan Daily
Vol. XCI, No. 21-S
Ninety Years of Editorial Freedom
Edited and managed by students
at the University of Michigan
A fitting result
A T TIMES THERE seems a lot of truth t
the old adage that people end up wit
precisely the kind of government they deserve.
The current Teamster convention in La
Vegas is a sorry spectacle for anyone commit
ted to the principles of organized labor i
America. The Teamsters' leadership ha
cavalierly squashed all attempts at intra-unio
reform while engineering the coronation of in
terim President Roy Williams. Williams
alleged life-long Mafia ties and current indic
tment for bribing a U.S. senator cast grievou
doubts upon his fitness merely to be a member
much less president, of the nation's larges
union.
Adding financial insult to ethical injury
Williams also rammed through a conventio
proposal hiking his own salary a whopping 4'
percent to $225,000 a year-more than twice th
salary of Ronald Reagan, three times the pay o
George Bush, Alexander Haig, or UAW
President Douglas Fraser. The move is a
arrogant display of greed and hypocrisy
coming from the first major union to swea
fealty to Ronald Reagan and his economic
austerity.
Efforts by dissident teamsters at Las Vegas
to dislodge the Williams steamroller have been
embarrassingly feeble. The will of the myopic
majority was summed up in the words of a
Chicago delegate, who proclaimed: "This is the
greatest organization in the world ... and cer
tainly our officers should be compensated bet-
ter than anybody else in the world."
With such logic, who needs reform?
(OSTS A
A Met
SPRAL. STAIRCASE

Rights
By Richard Barnet
The controversy over whether
Ernest W. Lefever is to be con-
firmed as Assistant Secretary of
State for Human Rights has
produced a surprise for the
Reagan Administration
o something far more important
h than whether the gentleman in
question is to expound his
peculiar brand of ethics at the
S State Department or return to his
- think tank. The people of the U.S.
n actually care about human
S rights.
n No political issue has been
handled with greater cynicism in
- Washington than human rights.
' Conservatives are right to note
the sanctimoniousness of some
s liberals: The Carter Ad-
ministration achieved notable
' success in saving some lives -
t that of Jacobo Timmerman, the
distinguished Argentine
publisher, for one - but there
n were scandalous compromises in
4the Carter era as well.
Humanitarian concern for the
e victims of President Ferinand
f Marcos' "martial law" in the
Philippines was sacrificed for air
and naval bases. For Zbigniew
Hrzezinski, the human rights
issue was an "ideological
r weapon" to be wielded against
'the Soviet Union.
THE PRESENT ad-
ministration seeks to distinguish
right-wing dictatorships, which
are designated as "moderately
repressive" and accepted as
"civilized" countries, from left-
wing "totalitarian regimes"
which must be treated as
pariahs.
The issue for government, it
seems, is not so much who gets
killed but the politics of the
killing.
The outpouring of letters over
the Lefever nomination suggests
that many Americans do not buy
this sort of cynicism. Human
rights, as Timmerman eloquen-
tly put it outside the Senate
hearing room where Lefever was
being examined, is a matter of
saving lives. The American
people do not like the idea of their
government actively supporting
regimes which rule by torture
and murder. "Quiet
diplomacy," - the official
euphenism for looking the other
way when we like the politics of
the killers-is, as Timmerman put
it, a way of acquiescing to mur-
der.
THE REAGAN Administration
apparently believes the fear of
communism is so strong that any
sacrifice of humanitarian princi-
ples can be justified in the name
of anti-communism. But however
many outrages the Soviet regime
commits against its artists, in-
tellectuals, Jews, and other
dissidents, they do not make the

torch still burns

I

crimes in Argentina any easier to
accept. Political idealogues, left
and right, are predictably selec-
tive in their concerns for human
rights. ,
Yet is it possible that the
American people are more sen-
sitive to the need to promote true
human rights than their gover-
nment is? The Right-to-Life
movement - which has also been
cynically used in the political
arena - is one expression of a
deep concern that human life
isn't worth much if the helpless
can be snuffed out with little
thought. Yet surely the right to
life cannot be said to end at birth.
All around us we see signs of a
more comprehensive cheapening
of life: random, motiveless
killings on the streets, business-
like arson, the abandonment in
our cities of large numbers of the
very young and the very old.
There is a connection between
our government's willingness to
look the other way when people
are victimized . abroad, and its
willingness to acquiesce to suf-
fering at home.
POPULAR CONCERN with
the right to life is a healthy
protective reaction - to, the
awesome modern array of-
threats against human existence
itself. Traditional sources of
protection for human beings are
collapsing. Once, the family

played the role of a mutual
protection society, but families
are no longer strong in many
places. So also, villages and other
face-to-face communities where
citizens could count on one
another for help have waned.
In the past, governments were
limited in making war on their
own people, because men and
women were needed to grow
crops and work in the factories.
Now, hundreds of millions of

people are "unnecessary" in an
economic sense. They are regar-
ded by government as nuisances
and targets.
It is exactly because of this
crisis in social institutions that
the moral and political reaffir-
mation of the sanctity of life is so
critical. The Roman Catholic
Church in Latin America has
been notable in rising to that
challenge. A broad human rights
movement that will similarly
proclaim and defend basic stan-
dards of decency - irrespective
of political ideology - is now in-
creasingly crucial to the very
survival of civilization.
And the American people seem
to know it.
Richard Barnet, a senior
fellow at the Institute for
Policy Studies, wrote this
story for Pacific News Service.

E
y
THE S t1L3 C)S-- Et. SAL-VArXX->, GOATE"Aws.. "COE AZA5 .

I

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