Poor human rights standards give US an edge

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By Li Haidong Source: Global Times

Healthcare workers bring a patient into the emergency room at Maimonides Medical Center during the coronavirus pandemic in the Brooklyn borough in New York, the United States, April 8.File photo:Xinhua

Even though the US has launched its vaccine rollout, it is still a “bittersweet” movement for the country, said top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci on Tuesday, as the US has witnessed more than 300,000 coronavirus deaths. “Three hundred thousand is more than the number of Americans who died fighting in World War II,” said The New York Times.

Over 3,500 coronavirus-related deaths were reported in the US on Wednesday, which is a new record. The figure is more than the death toll from the September 11 attacks, when 2,977 people lost their lives, and the attacks on Pearl Harbor during the World War II, when 2,403 died. As a matter of fact, daily deaths from the virus in the country have topped 3,000 for a while. It means the US is going through a September 11 or a Pearl Harbor attack almost every day lately. But US society is still functioning relatively stable despite this.

One of the reasons that explain the situation is that US political and public opinion elites are more enthusiastic about seeking enemies. When tragedies like September 11 or Pearl Harbor attacks occurred, they found definite enemies, so they could further hype up the disasters to cause an explosive sensation. But when it comes to the tragedy of the US epidemic response, it is exactly the political elites who should shoulder their responsibilities.

Because these people failed to handle the public health crisis well, they could be argued to be the enemy of people. At this point, they tend to protect themselves by creating new enemies, diverting Americans’ discontent to the outside. This is a disgraceful move.

Apart from seeking a scapegoat, the US federal government also misled its people, such as calling the epidemic “a flu” which was “very much under control.” In addition, despite the fact that US economy has been badly hit by COVID-19, its aggregate economic volume is still strong. Americans believe the country has enough resources to handle the ongoing crisis. So no major chaos has been triggered by the epidemic.

But the situation has totally turned peoples’ view of the superpower upside down. A country that calls itself the beacon of human rights does no self-examination at all when facing so much loss of life. At this point, US politicians still believe human life is separate from human rights, and the epidemic is a public health issue, which has nothing to do with Americans’ human rights. They have ignored the most essential meaning of human rights.

The US-style human rights can be thus argued as being quite low. Because of its staggering death toll, the country is actually facing a large-scale human rights crisis.

Social Darwinism, which focuses on natural selection and survival of the fittest in human society, has been dominating American elites’ mentality since the founding of the country. It gives priority to freedom while neglecting equality. To cap it call, the “freedom” is only for stronger forces – the strong see their wealth and power increase while the weak see their wealth and power decrease until it is eliminated. This is what the notion of US-style human rights stands for when it comes to its own people.

Americans are surely dissatisfied with the status quo. The result of the presidential election is a sign they want to make a difference.

Will Joe Biden bring any major changes after assuming office? The answers could be quite uncertain. The political system of the US has so far proved that the federal government can only play a limited role in addressing the puzzle. This has led to the inaction of state governments. Moreover, political infighting is too fierce. Republican-led state governments may resist Biden’s future requests in fighting the virus.

This may leave the American people further helpless. The gap between the US ultra-rich and the grassroots are simply too wide to bridge. This is a serious challenge confronting the country that does not have any easy course of action ahead.

The author is professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University. [email protected]

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