Look at the person sitting next to you. Who are they? You question yourself: Are they different from you because of some physicality, some accent, or maybe they are just like you — human. That person might not be treated with the same respect and freedom as you. The year of 2016 has seen its fair share of human mistreatment — not just physically, but even verbally, considering our new president, Donald Trump, set his campaign platform on the misrepresentation of various minority groups. I can also say this as a student at the University of Michigan since I have seen the racist statements made about the Black and Muslim communities on campus.

On Oct. 11, Kathryn Sikkink, the Ryan family professor of human rights policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, spoke at the University, discussing the human rights retrogression in which certain areas of human rights violations are suffering more than others. Disappointingly, Ms. Sikkink focused more on developing countries such as Syria and Rwanda, whose governments commit human rights violations than on developed countries that commit such violations as well — including the United States and its lack of human sensitivity or empathy, which I attribute to post-9/11 paranoia. There is not enough focus on developed nations committing human rights violations even though their governments blatantly carry them out.

The United States is not the angelic nation of equal human rights that it is made out to be. If that were true, Amnesty International would not have urged President Obama to close Guantanamo Bay or even stop the arms supply to countries committing the human rights violations. One prisoner was held at Gitmo for 14 years without coviction. Further, some claim these prisoners have never been convicted because Congress has prohibited the White House from financing the trials of these prisoners.

While Obama issued an executive order back in 2009 directing that the prison be shut down within one year, the question of when it will actually close remains open. Though some or many of these prisoners could hold vital information about terrorism, the torture they endure can never be justified as humane. In the initial chapters of “Human Rights in World History,” Peter Stearns discusses the U.S. intervention in the Middle East after 9/11 and questions whether the interrogation tactic and prisoner treatment of suspects violates the Geneva Code. This is one human physically and emotionally attacking another human to receive information. Such coercion leads to torture and therefore should never be justified.

No matter what the suspected human being has done, how can you sit back in your chair and not even question their innocence? While the United States continues to keep these prisoners indefinitely — some of whom might be innocent — in what is considered the gutter of all prisons, the U.S. government continues to supply weapons to the Egyptian, Israeli, Saudi Arabian and other Middle Eastern governments.

In another Time article, Jared Malsin writes about how the Saudi Arabian military coalition has killed an estimated 10,000 Yemenis since the start of their intervention in Yemen in March 2015 using the $20 billion arms deal they signed with the United States the same year. However, while the United States is monetarily backing countries with little regard for human rights, the White House administration continues to state that they have had “serious concerns about the conflict in Yemen and how it has been waged.” This shows that the United States has also waged this war simply by supplying the weapons.

The focus of the American government and military cannot solely rely on extracting information to make the world a safer place. The government cannot strategize how to achieve its stated goals without considering how they treat the human beings. As individuals seek to educate themselves on current events, they must not look at a problem as solely happening in “another” part of the world. People must remember that the United States is a problem in foreign relations and the preservation of human rights, as exemplified in our country’s actions surrounding Gitmo. People living in this country must acknowledge its flaws.

So look back at that person next to you. Have they been denied basic human rights as a direct or indirect result of the United States’ actions? With Donald Trump holding executive decision, the person next to you and many others like him or her could possibly lose a chance to use and vocalize their basic rights when necessary. Hold this country accountable for selectively choosing who joins the American melting pot and selectively choosing who should receive what rights and when. Every human right should be a fixed one, not a conditional one.

Adithi Reddi is an LSA junior. 

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