Let Americans reflect upon a passage in a book many of our elected officials claim to have read. From Matthew chapter 7:
“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
There’s a striking contradiction between what the U.S. claims to value and the actions it takes, both upon its own citizens and those abroad. We hear so much talk from President Biden and other officials of “democracy” and “human rights,” almost always from a position of exceptionalism, never failing to contrast “democratic” America with its “authoritarian” enemies.
This message somehow resonates with many Americans. It’s other countries, like China or Cuba, that are corrupt and “totalitarian.” It’s those Iranians who oppress their people who are villains, and those Russian imperialists. Don’t misunderstand me – none of these countries are perfect, some very far from it, and many of these criticisms are accurate.
But to hear these criticisms come from the U.S.? The U.S., with the beam in its own eye, criticizing others?
“They tell us that we live in a great free republic; that our institutions are democratic; that we are a free and self-governing people,” the socialist Eugene Debs said. “This is too much, even for a joke.”
America has the highest incarceration rates in the world, more than “totalitarian” China. The U.S. strips convicted felons of the right to vote, but democracy tried to restore this right in Florida. Democracy was stifled. The police in Florida have arrested 20 individuals simply for voting. They’ve been charged with “voter fraud.”
See, some felons haven’t had their voting rights restored. Those arrested argued this wasn’t clear to them, and even some Florida Republicans have expressed reservations at arresting law-abiding citizens for voting. And they are law-abiding citizens – they served their time. Why should they be punished forever?
But the U.S. has more issues to deal with than this. Take women’s and LGBTQ rights. America is backsliding on both fronts, as women in many states lose access to abortion care, and the rights of gay and transgender people are under constant threat.
Contrast this with Cuba. In September, a new Family Code was approved by referendum, with over two-thirds of the population voting in support. It not only codified into law gay marriage (something the U.S. has failed to do), it’s also been called “the most progressive Family Code in the world.”
On top of this, transgender people in Cuba have been able to medically transition for free since 2008. In Cuba, trans healthcare is a human right. In America, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to medically transition, which prevents some people from getting the care they need.
But countries like Cuba and other socialist states are corrupt, some argue. I won’t deny the existence of corruption in these countries.
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However, from an American, this criticism is unserious. The American government is as corrupt as any other. Dozens of members of Congress have violated insider trading laws with impunity, to name just one example.
And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is grossly immoral, truly. But America doesn’t try to broker peace, it sends Ukraine billions of dollars for weapons. This is because the U.S. isn’t a peaceful country. Our “democracy” pays for Saudi Arabian war crimes upon Yemeni civilians. It pays for Israel to force Palestinians from their homes and into caves in the occupied West Bank.
Look at our friends! A monarchy wreaking havoc upon its neighbors and an apartheid state routinely criticized by the United Nations for violating international law.
Open your eyes America. You aren’t what you claim. You’re not democratic, nor do you care about human rights. I would love more than anything for you to be the “shining city upon a hill” you’ve always claimed to be, but you’re not that. You’re just a hypocrite.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a junior studying journalism and political science.
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