A Congress Crippled

Prior to winter break, the United States had the chance to fully cement its position regarding the rights of disabled citizens worldwide. Amid intense negotiations concerning the “fiscal cliff,” the Senate had an opportunity to ratify the UN’s Convention on Persons with Disabilities. The treaty, while general in nature, attempts to protect the rights of disabled people around the world by enforcing bans on discrimination, similar to those that have existed in the United States for more than 20 years. However, illogical fears motivated 38 Republicans to vote against it, leaving the treaty a mere five votes short of ratification. This latest defiance of the American ideal that “all men are created equal” excludes the U.S. from the list of 127 nations that have already ratified the treaty. Moreover, the accord’s very origins derive from the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which was spurred along by former Republican President George H.W. Bush ’42. One of the treaty’s opponents, former Senator Rick Santorum, Republican from Pennsylvania, fears that the treaty “gives too much power to the UN… while taking power and responsibility away from our elected representatives and, more important, from parents and caregivers of disabled persons.” Senator Mike Lee of Utah, also a Republican, agreed and told the Senate that the Convention’s recommendations “often fall well beyond the treaty’s goals.” Despite these fears, the Convention would have no such influence. The agreement would allow a special committee to merely offer countries suggestions regarding the rights of each country’s disabled citizens. To that end, the Convention would encourage countless other nations to enact regulations similar to those created in the United States by the ADA. Senator John Kerry, Democrat from Massachusetts, also noted that by having a representative for the United States on said committee, the rights of U.S. citizens with disabilities living or traveling abroad could be further protected. In an alleged attempt to prevent the United Nations from amassing any sort of power over the issue, members of the GOP single handedly halted one of the most important processes in American ideology today—the spread of republican ideals in a developing world. What these politicians fail to realize is that they are preserving an absolutely irrational fear of the United Nations at the expense of countless people across the globe. The treaty will undoubtedly cause countries to reexamine the ways in which they treat disabled citizens, and the support of the U.S. could have convinced other nations to ratify the document. By voting against the treaty, the 38 Republicans essentially denied a set of regulations that the U.S. has operated with for almost 23 years under the Disabilities Act. This rejection brilliantly exhibits the willingness of some party members to make partisan issues out of any legislation, even on human rights, and it stifles the progress of true American and republican ideology in the modern world. These politicians present a problem through their illogical actions, but we citizens are also to blame. After all, these politicians are our elected representatives, and, through our consistent inaction, we enable them to make such choices. Uppers and Seniors, please do your country and planet a favor and vote these men out of office during the next election cycle. The U.S. deserves leaders who put the rights of others above personal, irrational fears, and who understand that meaningful progress is only possible through cooperation. Anthony D’Ambrosio is a three-year Upper from Boxford, MA.