Article 14

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) this right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. 

I grew up in the ’80s, and if there is one thing you knew growing up in the ’80s in the good old United States of America, it is that we are the place everyone wanted to escape to. Your government got you down? Hey that’s OK, come here and we will protect you (results may vary according to skin color or need for natural resources from your homeland.) Seriously, though, we did a pretty good job on that count. Sure there were countries that we were far more likely to accept asylum seekers. Oh how we loved to wax romantic about Russian defectors coming over here.

In all honesty, why wouldn’t they? Sure we have our problems, and we should work tirelessly to fix them. Still, we have it a lot better here than in many places in the world. In many places, you can be killed, on the spot, for speaking out against the government, and not a single soul will speak up on your behalf, at least not in your own country.

I worry about the state of asylum in our country in the near future. With so many politicians willing to pander to those fighting the “culture war” (ie, fighting for their right to oppress others based on their religion) I see asylum seekers being turned away to appease them. I see gay people seeking to escape persecution in Uganda being denied asylum because certain bigoted members of our society will claim we are interfering with Uganda’s right to deal with “those” people how they see fit, and I see politicians caving into those claims. It is too bad, because if there is one thing we have had every right to be proud of the last 50 years or so, it is our willingness to shelter the frightened, sometimes even when they were afraid of our “allies.”

Other countries will pick up the slack. Many of them have pretty severe economic problems now, though, and it will be difficult. It’s kind of embarrassing to think that gay people seeking refuge from persecution would be better off in a country like Spain, steeped as it is in its Catholic traditions and all the difficulties that means for LGBTQ folk, than here.

I hope I am wrong. Not just because of the sad shift in our political culture that it signifies, but because the weak need as many shields from the bullies of the world as they can get. I know much of the rest of the world views the US as bullies, and in some ways, they are right. There are, however, whether you believe it or not, worse bullies out there. Bullies that, as bullies are wont to do, shrink in the presence of someone bigger and tougher than they are. I hope we keep them shrinking away, and giving their victims someone to run to.


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