Friday, May 29, 2009

News and Human Rights 2: Aung San Suu Kyi and Guantanamo Bay

I haven't finished The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide yet, and so I have to blog out of order.
The reason that I haven't finished it yet is that I spent a five day weekend seeing all of my favorite people, which includes family, friends, friends' family, family friends, Billy Joel, and Elton John.
It's pretty hard to get any work done while this sort of stuff is going on. Especially when that work is purely optional.
In short, my next entry will be a discussion of the exploration of the infinite nature of the universe as discussed within Hitchhiker, but for now I'm going to talk about Aung San Suu Kyi.
What is it with me and wrongfully imprisoned people?

Aung San Suu Kyi is supposed to be the Prime Minister of Burma (or Myanmar, if you prefer to support the military government's name for the country.) Her party won the country's democratic election in 1990, but since the military government of Burma didn't want to give up power and are also, incidentally, completely insane, they put her under house arrest instead. You see, in Burma, you can imprison someone for up to five years without trial, so for 13 of the past 19 years Suu Kyi has been secluded in her home without the ability to contact her party supporters or have international visitors.
Now, two things are happening at the same time.
One is that an American man named John Yettaw decided it would be a really fantastic idea to go visit Suu Kyi, even though she is totally not allowed to have guests over at this particular point in her life. What he did, was swim across Inya Lake, on which Suu Kyi's house resides. Now, apparently this lake is pretty large, because when he arrived he was in pretty bad shape and allegedly pleaded exhaustion. And, since Suu Kyi is the Nobel Peace Prize winning champion of human rights that she is, she allowed Yettaw to stay in her house for two days before he made the return swim, at which time he was caught. Because of this, Suu Kyi was arrested, even though she was already under house arrest, and is going to be tried for breaking the terms of her house arrest. For this offense, she faces five years in Insein Prison, which I have seen called "the darkest hellhole in Burma."
Now, I don't know if you've heard much about Burma, but from what I can gather, it's a place with its fair share of hellholes.
The second thing that's happening is that Suu Kyi's health is rapidly declining and putting her into this darkest of hellholes, to which she will almost certainly go unless the government suddenly grows a heart Grinch-style, will almost certainly kill her.

Why am I telling you this? Is it so you can write a letter? Is it so you can join a facebook group? Is it so you can help and make a difference?
Nope. I'm telling you because it's the news and it's a violation of human rights.
It simply shouldn't be ignored.
And I'm also telling you because of all this business about her five year imprisonment with unlimited extensions and no trial.
"That sort of thing could never happen here," you say to yourself.
But then, oh wait, Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of men are being held without trial by the United States government in flat-out contradiction of the Constitution.
Oh yeah, that.
I want to come back to Gitmo in another entry, but for now I want to draw the connection between the military dictatorship of Burma and our own country's practices. Why? Because it makes me nervous, and it should make you nervous too.
A bill to eliminate Gitmo just lost the Senate vote at 90-6.
I've said before that I want this blog to help its readers keep things in perspective. Here's another shining example. We are not so civilized, or enlightened, or noble or peaceful or free. Our politics operate on fear (fear of terrorism at the moment, who knows what's next. Maybe communism will make a comeback) and we are still the kind of country which will contradict itself and use torture over trials.
Just keep that in mind.

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