The Right Stuff

04Sep15

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Wakefield’s long human rights nightmare is over.

No more need to tell your stockbroker to divest from companies doing business in Wakefield, Massachusetts.

Last week, the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee voted to endorse the establishment of a “Wakefield Human Rights Commission.”

You didn’t know that human rights abuses were rampant in Wakefield? Clearly you haven’t been attending ZBA meetings.
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Forming a Human Rights Commission is a great way for a community to demonstrate how virtuous and compassionate it is. But why stop there? Are humans the only beings that have rights?

What about the rights of the Canada geese on the Common? Who are we, as humans, to turn away these avian migrants seeking asylum in our parks and playgrounds?

And what of the blue–green algae in Lake Quannapowitt? Who will speak for these bacteria of color? We have even established a committee dedicated to their elimination from the Lake. What kind of microphobic maniacs are we?

Cyan lives matter!

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But there may be an explanation for this pro-human bias.

I did a little investigative journalism into the composition of this proposed Human Rights Commission. It turns out that this Commission on Human Rights will be made up of – that’s right – HUMANS! A commission of humans to look out for the rights of humans. How convenient.

It gets worse.

bayrd-smThe Human Rights Commission Proposal presented last week included a list of days throughout the year that could be used for community events to raise awareness. The list includes: Human Rights Day, Americans with Disabilities Day, Indigenous Peoples Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Cesar Chavez Day among others.
What do all of these days have in common? That’s right – they’re all focused on humans!
This blatant anthropocentrism is demeaning and hurtful to the non-human community.

Curiously, despite the fact that the proposal states that the commission would “Ensure the free exercise and enjoyment of any rights secured by the Constitutions of both the United States as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” the proposal does not contemplate celebrating the July 4th birthday of the country that gave us that Constitution and Bill of Rights.

An oversight, no doubt.

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Just by virtue of putting together a proposal to establish a Wakefield Human Rights Commission, it signals our town’s readiness to celebrate diversity. The seven-member “Human Rights Commission Action Team” that drew up the proposal consisted of six men and one woman. At least we know the issue of patriarchy is being tackled head on.

Exactly what have humans ever done to earn a special commission to protect their rights?

Check your privilege, people!

[The column originally appeared in the September 3, 2015 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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