Expanding Blessings of Liberty 75 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Happy Human Rights Day #75
Happy Human Rights Day to Pro-Empathy Freedom Voters are the Solution subscribers. Our 1st Trimester Zoom Forums begin the 2nd Monday of January. Enroll here. We will apply the empathy framing lessons we learn in the following two books: George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling’s bestselling book Your Brain’s Politics: How the Science of Mind Explains the Political Divide and David Fenton’s memoir The Activist’s Media Handbook. Also, consider becoming a co-proposer of the Empathy Surplus Network USA’s first model legislation for state legislators at the Ohio H.E.L.P. Bill link.
Subscribe for free to Pro-Empathy Freedom Voters Are the Solution. Your paid subscriptions of $10/mo fund our 501c3 Empathy Surplus Network USA, enable your comments and make you eligible to participate in our trimester Zoom forums. Free subscribers can always contact us with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Empathy is the soul of progressive democracy.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights envisions a strong, diverse world community of nurturing families caring for each other through education, business, and government to expand freedom and fairness for all. Dayton, Ohio’s Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first Americans of African descent to gain national recognition for his poetry. Here’s an excerpt from his poem entitled Frederick Douglass,1 written to commemorate Douglass’s passing and his empathic and nurturing vision:
A hush is over all the teeming lists, And there is pause, a breath-space in the strife; A spirit brave has passed beyond the mists And vapors that obscure the sun of life. And Ethiopia, with bosom torn, Laments the passing of her noblest born. She weeps for him a mother's burning tears— She loved him with a mother's deepest love. He was her champion thro' direful years, And held her weal all other ends above. When Bondage held her bleeding in the dust, He raised her up and whispered, "Hope and Trust."
Thanks to abolitionists like the Quakers and Frederick Douglass, we are blessed by their strong, empathic, and responsible commitment to protecting and empowering all the people.
The Blessings of Liberty FROM Social Workers and Allies Against Solitary Confinement - SWASC
Empathy Surplus Network USA is a 501c3 membership-driven, non-partisan human rights empathy education collective. We aspire to be one of many progressive alternatives to conservative cruelty education collectives. As a network, our object is to partner with hundreds of progressive organizations like SWASC to make empathy central to constant public debate about the many human rights silos that separate human rights advocates.
Recently, our organization was blessed by two new Pro-Empathy Freedom Voters Are the Solution subscribers, Sandy Bernabei and Robin Jerome Benton. Sandy was named one of the top 4 most influential social workers in America. Robin founded Capacity Builders to help individuals and organizations “build their anti-racist capacity.”
The USA ranks last in caring prisons.
Both Sandy and Robin are remarkable allies of the Social Workers and Allies Against Solitary Confinement, founded by Mary Buser in 2014. They are quick to tell you that solitary confinement is a human rights abuse. In 2017, PBS FrontLine reported that the USA was the world leader in cruelty in prisons. In 2020, the United Nations told the United States that solitary confinement amounts to psychological torture.
But in 2022, the 5th Circuit Court, in a 2-1 opinion over a dissent by Judge Haynes, held that solitary confinement cannot violate the Eighth Amendment, no matter how long it is imposed, its impact on a prisoner's mental and physical health, or the rationale for imposing it. That ruling is a reminder that the “Blessings of Liberty” proclaimed in the US Constitution were only for white, male, billionaire slave owners because those mortals ordained (defined) “The People” as white, male, billionaire slave owners.
America doesn’t care about human rights empathy.
Empathy is the soul of progressive democracy. However, America’s democracy was modeled after the democracy of the Venetian Doges. Our original document didn’t care about human rights empathy for all. If you own stock or mutual funds, you are familiar with receiving an annual request in the mail to vote for a corporate proxy. You get to vote because you own a share of the company, which is the model of the US Constitution - conservative democracy, which limits its empathy to billionaires. Conservatism’s limited government means limited empathy or governing by a few.
Sixty-three years after the ratification of the US Constitution that had NO BILL OF RIGHTS, Frederick Douglass reversed his criticism of the document. In Black Perspectives, Noelle Trent wrote, “In 1852, Douglass declared that the proper interpretation of the Constitution should always be construed toward freedom and natural rights despite the ambiguity of a particular situation. Douglass’s shift to the Constitution would inform the rest of his career." Likewise, we now know that freedom and natural rights are contested between two major worldviews - conservative cruelty and progressive care.
Human rights advocates must define the KIND of freedom and rights they want - pro-empathy freedom and pro-empathy human rights.
Empathy must become central to constant public discourse on any human rights issue silo.
Empathy Surplus Network USA is a 501c3 membership-driven human rights empathy education collective. Our object is to partner with hundreds of human rights empathy organizations and state legislators to make empathy central to constant public discourse on any human rights issue silo.
Our cognitive scientist and linguist mentor, George Lakoff, and others are clear - to build common sense on any particular issue, one must talk about the underlying values of that issue ALL THE TIME. Conservatives have a massive anti-empathy, cruelty communication system. Progressives don’t have such a system focused on making a politics of care central to effective government. And the jury is still out about whether we will ever have such a system.
Nevertheless, human rights empathy advocates would do well to re-commit themselves to the core values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights found in the Preamble and Articles 1, 2, 29, and 30 - empathy for and responsibility to humanity, i.e., everyone. Instead of culture warriors, we need strong culture diplomats to unify our various issue silos with our common core values of empathy and mutual responsibility.
I am personally grateful that Sandy and Robin have joined our Pro-Empathy Freedom Voters Are the Solution Substack. I hope they will also be Substack pro-empathy writers on Substack. Because although I am grateful for more pro-empathy readers, we’ll never make the idea of caring prisons common sense without pro-empathy writers from all walks of life. WELCOME.
Show up with empathy.
My prayer to you, dear reader, is that you persist in making Human Rights Day a recommitment day to the “progressive measures” called for in the Proclamation Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Let’s make empathy central to constant public discourse. As you consider Human Rights Day and the various holidays approaching, I pray that you consider putting on the SHOES of culture diplomacy:
S - Show up at public and private meetings to cultivate empathy
H - Help colleagues and neighbors cultivate empathy in civic tasks
O - Organize friends to cultivate empathy in civic tasks
E - Educate about human rights empathy, the soul of democracy
S - Start over each day to publicly cultivate empathy
Pro-empathy freedom voters in and out of office are the solution,
PS - Consider becoming a co-proposer of the Ohio H.E.L.P. Bill to enshrine cultivating empathy and teaching the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in grades K-12 in the Ohio Revised Code for Academic Standards.