"In order to know your name you've got to know mine." -- James Baldwin in an interview with Studs Terkel (1961)
We are all dynamically interrelated on this small planet called Earth, and yet many of our actions, both individually and collectively, are indifferent to this truth. This was clear to me as I sat in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Thursday morning for the hearing on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
I found it hard to understand why there would still be any opposition to the ratification of this treaty after there was such eloquent and clear testimonies rendered by supporters including Judith Heumann, the State Department’s Special Adviser for International Disability Rights; Richard Thornburgh, former Attorney General of the United States; and John Lancaster, retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant and USICD Board Member. It seems clear to me that the CRPD would help American citizens with disabilities who travel abroad, and it is the invitation for our nation to contribute to the discussion of disability rights across the globe.
Some opponents of the treaty suggested that America has already created the “gold standard” on disability rights, and that we should not “submit” ourselves, as a nation, to international laws. It was mentioned several times, though, that the ADA meets the standards in the treaty, and that we would not be “submitting” ourselves to anything. It was difficult to sit silently in the midst of such great spin and rhetoric.
Next week, I will attend the 2012 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability in Chicago. I was informed recently that over six nations will be present. This level of international participation is unprecedented for this institute, which is in its third and final year. I think this is yet another example of how citizens across the world are coming together to advance the cause of disability rights.
Ultimately, I think the CRPD exemplifies the wisdom in the paraphrase words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “A threat to the livelihood of people with disabilities anywhere, is a threat to the livelihood of people with disabilities everywhere,” and because American citizens do not live in silos we would do well to participate as the global citizens that we truly are.