Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Being Judged By Our Political Silence

The United States likes to take the public position that we are better than those around us. We point to the atrocities of the world, and puff out our collective chest and say how we aren't like that, see?

We pontificate about being a Christian nation. It is from our perceived position of moral "higher ground" that we talk about things like making the world safe for democracy. That we dare to address human rights issues. That we base things like "family values" on when our politicians give speeches. We are, in general, a church-going nation that takes pride in being able to look in a mirror and be proud.

If we look in a mirror with pride, either the mirror or the viewer is a liar.

In Saudi Arabia, one of our strongest allies and a nation whose favor we court daily, the victim of a gang rape has been sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes. The 19 year old girl's crime was being in the company of an unrelated male. She was abducted, driven out into the countryside and raped by seven men. They were all convicted of this crime, but their ability to commit it was judged to be her fault because she made herself available for it by being out with a college friend. Not out on the town drinking and carousing, but out in a car with a college classmate trying to retrieve a picture of herself. She was sentenced to ninety lashes for being in a car with an unrelated male. Then she made the mistake of appealing.

The appeals court increased her sentence. The implied reason was that she had discussed the case in the media. "For whoever has an objection on verdicts issued, the system allows an appeal without resorting to the media," (Saudi Ministry of Justice, in a statement on the case) This is perfectly legal in Saudi Arabia.

I am not debating the sovereignty of the Saudi government. By definition, they have a right to make and enforce their own laws. Nor are their visions of what is moral and right they same as ours.

The announcement of the verdict created what the AP describes as an "international outcry." The response of our own state department was that the verdict "causes a fair degree of surprise and astonishment." Oh, and to note that the Saudi government could still overturn the sentence.

Thanks for taking a moral stand there, United States. After all, we'd better not criticize the people who just happen to be sitting on top of all that oil, no matter what they do. Canada's response was to call it "barbaric." Um, in case you haven't noticed, Canada gets cold. They need heating oil more than we do, but they had the guts to say that it was wrong, not just surprising.

Sure, we should respect the rights of other nations to follow their own laws and moral code. But we should also be steadfast in stating that we believe it to be wrong to further punish this woman. Be it 90 lashes, 200 and six months in jail or a literal slap on the wrist. Even if you are in a position where you feel what she did was wrong and needs to be punished... don't you feel that the seven men who raped her already accomplished punishing her?

I don't know why I would be surprised. We support torture. Our strongest voices about the supposed immorality of homosexuality keep getting caught waving their hands under other stalls in men's bathrooms. We have a large amount of people who think that lying about a blow job is equivalent or more wrong then manipulating facts so that we are justified in invading a country and killing thousands.

Would it have been so hard to stand up and say that, while we respect Saudi Arabia's right to rule it's own nation, we feel that these actions are unjustified? I'm not even asking that we call them the misogynistic, chauvinist, torturing bastards that they are. Just tell them we don't approve. Even that would be nice.

All I'm asking is that we tell them we don't like it.

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