Week offers reminder to reflect, take action

By Gretchyn Lenger

Holidays, holidays, holidays. It’s that time of year again…first it’s Thanksgiving, then it’s Christmas. What’s next, I ask you?

There’s something about this time of year that seems to evoke the sentimental in most of us—and the opportunistic in others. Suddenly, everything on the common market turns to shades of red and green, and the voice of Burl Ives haunts us over crackly speakers everywhere.

Yes, it’s capitalism run wild. Our major holidays have become entrepreneurial wet dreams, so to speak, and amidst all the clutter, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason behind having holidays.

There are more special days, weeks and other assorted blocks of time set aside for more reasons than most of us—with the exception of Dave Bavido and his Wacky Almanac—can keep track of. The hope behind establishing these special days is that we will reflect, at least once, during that period of time on the event or person for whom it was set aside.

You know, I really hate to do this to you, knowing that this is a particularly stressful time of year—especially for the would-be graduates like myself—but, if I may interrupt your cramming for just a moment…

Forget the paganized festivities, forget shopping lists and tinfoil wrapped candies, and let me introduce to you another holiday of sorts that may otherwise pass unnoticed.

The first week of December is none other than Human Rights Week, with Dec. 10 being Human Rights Day. So what, you ask? Well, let me tell you.

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by governments in the United Nations. It offers a vision of a world without injustice, without discrimination, without cruelty. Guess what …it’s not working.

You see, it’s nice to declare things like this. I myself would like to declare Utopia and run naked on an endless beach with droves of beautiful people. But the point is, in order for ideals like this to see any glimmer of hope, people must be made aware of them and provoked into exploring the possibilities within their own minds.

We, as a nation, have become desensitized to the horrors of life for the less fortunate. We have seen so many pictures of starving third-world citizens that they no longer evoke the response they were intended to. This is why we have such a thing as Human Rights Week. Not only are basic rights to food, housing and security denied to millions, but in many countries people are being jailed, tortured and killed for their beliefs.

In a world as comparatively prosperous as our own, it’s difficult to relate to or even imagine the plights of these people. Even when we do manage to interrupt our daily tasks to notice TV commercials or organizational displays that expose these injustices, we don’t know what our role could possibly be to end them. Then we go back to doing what we were doing and nothing ever changes.

It simply is not enough to say that you believe everyone’s human rights should be respected, then to go back to typing your final papers and expect that somewhere, someone else will take care of it.

There are organizations that hope, through Human Rights Week, that people will take note of what is going on in the world and voice their support for the Declaration. By so doing, it is hoped that other nations will adopt these ideals in their constitutions.

I’ve talked about one of these organizations before. It’s Amnesty International, and, currently, members are circulating petitions that simply recognize the Declaration in the hope that the pressure of public opinion will force the UN not to lose sight of the goals it established 40 years ago. If none of these petitions reach you, you can get more info by writing to AIUSA, 322 Eighth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10001.

And finally, there are many other organizations that attempt to ease the pains of poverty right here at home during the Christmas season. These, too, should not be forgotten.