Monday, March 12, 2007

Reflections and comments from a law student.

Studying International Law, and specifically Human Rights law at that, in another country has been more than a unique experience. It should be no surprise that the United States comes up quite often within class discussions and relevant readings in books, journal articles and court cases. This has put me in an interesting position – feelings wise. I am an American, for better or worse. There is nothing I can do about it and on a good day I might even be proud of that fact. After all, in my country woman can vote, hold public office, become ministers, there are child labor laws, social services, widely entertaining tv shows and movies, a free independent media (for the most part, Fox news being the exception and according to J.S. CNN as well), the rule of law and an independent judiciary among other things. However, compare us with Europe’s social net and the millions of Americans living without medical care/insurance suddenly looks more than disconcerting. Then examine the legal black hole that the U.S. has created- better known as Guantánamo Bay, as well as the fact that we have yet to sign or resign our names to the International Criminal Court (nevermind that we thought it was a great idea and even were large participators in the drafting of the Rome Statute), or the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Those minor details coupled with the fact that we have had significant questionable participation in coups around the world in the form of arming, training and funding. The other obvious examples of clear negligence and questionability would also be Darfur, Rwanda, and Iraq (again to only name a few).

I do not think that my nationality should be something to be ashamed of yet I do find myself a little embarrassed at times. I hope if anything though, that my studying abroad, pursuing Human Rights and not looking nor acting (I hope) as though I just walked out of some Hollywood movie set will give some indication to those I meet and encounter that not all Americans are the ones they see portrayed on TV or read about in the news. There are people back home, as well as all around the world, who do not fit into that stereotype of a loud mouthed, ignorant, gun toting, hypocritical American. So this leaves me with an awkward feeling when in classes someone brings up yet another example of American influence gone awry. I should mention that Europe has its own list of dark deeds. Yes, my country isn’t great. But it is my home, it’s the culture that has raised me for better or worse and it is where I place my allegiance and hope to return one day to make the slightest of impacts for a better future for each citizen of humanity.


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