Cian Murphy: Human Rights in the Time of Trump – The Need for Political Love

17 November 2016 by

640px-0620trumppolicies01

The election of Donald Trump as the next US President has shaken our faith in democracy and is a serious blow to the cause of human rights in the US and around the world. President-elect Trump’s campaign was a repudiation of the political and social progress made under his predecessor. It was an explicit threat to those who are vulnerable – whether because of their religion, race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, or physical abilities. Trump’s election, an ‘American tragedy’, comes at the end of a year in which the values that are said to underpin civic society in the US and Europe have come under significant threat.

When President-elect Trump’s inauguration takes place early next year he will seek to set the tone in the Western hemisphere, and across the globe, for the rest of this decade. It is clear, even before we address specific policies or world-views, that we will miss the grace and poise of President Obama. These are qualities that President-elect Trump revels to reject. We are unlikely to hear an affirmation of rights such as that President Obama made with the alliterative triad of Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall.

What then, for human rights, in the time of Trump? Last week’s remarks from President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton were reminiscent of those of Edward Kennedy over thirty years ago. Kennedy spoke to the Democratic Convention after an unsuccessful campaign. In closing he said that “for all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die”. At the core of this philosophy was the idea which lies at the heart of human rights: a commitment to the equality of esteem of human beings.

The commitment is under threat today. To those who are vulnerable in America – and around the world – this has been perhaps the darkest moment in a dark year. It is a year in which it is difficult, as Yeats wrote, to hold in a single thought reality and justice. The temptation is to fire off a hundred-and-forty-character riposte, to turn inwards, to close off. But such reflexes do not exercise our intellectual and emotional muscles – they cause them to atrophy. And such muscles are essential to the necessary response to the Trump presidency.

For, vital to the work of human rights in the next decade will be the cultivation of political emotions. In 2008 Barack Obama made hope the watchword of his presidential campaign. In 2016, it is fear and anger, even rage, that is to the fore. There has been the fear and anger of Trump supporters. In the face of twenty-first century uncertainty they have held culpable the political system itself – but also those who, under that political system, suffer the greatest disempowerment.

And now, in response, there is the fear and anger of those for whom four years under President Trump could be four years of the loss of hard-won rights, of the evisceration of public welfare, even of their incarceration, deportation, or execution. This fear and anger arises in a country wherein progressive Democratic candidates have won the popular vote in four of the last five presidential elections but have seen only one of four nominees win the office (albeit he did so twice). In a country whose leadership swings – from George W. Bush to Barack Obama and then to Donald Trump – the fear and anger of progressives is understandable and even necessary.

Such fear and anger does have its uses. It can drive both demonstrations and litigation. But it is unlikely to be enough. It stokes further fears and further anger. And it consumes the fearful and the angry. What the cause of human rights needs most of all in this moment is not just the furious energy of angry activism – but the ferocious power of political love. Political love, as Martha Nussbaum has written, was important to both Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. It is also to be found, I venture, in the words of Harvey Milk and President Obama.

Political love, and its public expression in empathy and compassion, is what is necessary today. A call for empathy and compassion is not a call to accept abuse, bigotry, callousness, or discrimination. Any language or behaviour, and of course any policies, to such effect should be subject to vociferous opposition. The marches across America last week are such opposition. The ACLU’s bold website banner, See You In Court, is the promise of more. But the response to President-elect Trump’s dehumanisation of the vulnerable cannot only be in claims for the protection of human rights as a matter of law.

Because the fight for human rights is a good one not just because of what is fought for but because of why we fight – and how. It is vital to remember the commitment to equality of esteem that lies at the core of the ideal. It is a struggle to do so, a struggle that cannot be overcome in its entirety, but it is in the struggle itself that the victory lies. The struggle tempers our ferocity not with timidity but with a certainty that there is no ‘Us v Them’. Rather there are infinite varieties, as Milk put it, of ‘Uses’.

We need to embrace that certainty today. The twenty-first century has been, thus far, a century of uncertainty. The uncertainty has shocked national institutions and coincides with an erosion of international institutions. Those institutions, and their commitment to multi-lateralism, are necessary for the work of human rights. They are key forums for the response to the challenges we all face. They are spaces in which the ‘Uses’ can come together. And they are in trouble.

The solutions are not obvious or easy. And yet there is much we can all do. Human rights begin, as another New Yorker put it, in small places. They begin in homes and neighbourhoods, in schools and workplaces, in clubs and communities. This is where, Eleanor Roosevelt said, we can all act. She was right. The most resolute rejection of Trumpish divisiveness is a commitment to solidarity – a mentality of empathy and compassion – in short: a declaration of political love.

Cian C. Murphy is senior lecturer in public international law at Bristol Law School and tweets @cianmurf

8 comments


  1. Casual Intruder says:

    “The election of Donald Trump as the next US President has shaken our faith in democracy”

    This is the forlorn cry of the liberal left elite who are not the least bit interested in democracy should it impinge on their world view and order of priorities.

    The people of the US voted and they chose Trump, which seems to have sent the liberal establishment, who garner their news from the BBC and Guardian, into some kind of hyperbolic hysteria.

    The UKHRB usually has some insightful pieces, but this I’m afraid is just emotional drivel.

  2. Some interesting perspectives in all of the above, but let’s not forget that Trump did not force anyone to vote for him, the electorate chose to vote for him instead of Hillary or any of the independents. There’s no need for this type of apprehension, Trump will be fine as a President and his record on human rights will not be any worse than previous Presidents or other G20 leaders.

  3. Barbara S says:

    this is only one small voice and not an attempt at any systemic insight. What saddens me here is the impression that barristers behind UHRB don’t ever seem to be far away from aiming for big successful business. (read: lucrative cases) to be credible. I long to be disproved.

    1. Fascinating to know why, with such a variety of posts expressing different opinions on different subjects, you feel able to infer this. That said, delighted you are reading us.

  4. unakroll says:

    Excellent article and will act on it. Una Kroll in England

  5. Miro says:

    I fully disagree with your comment. It is totally unbalanced and superficial. You should really check the statistics in terms of social and racial composition of voter attitude in these elections. It would be grotesque to argue that human rights would be championed and developed further by Hillary Clinton after well know disasters and crimes committed against civilians in more than 10 countries under the current administration. No need also to remind the readership of Albright’s statement that “500.000 child deaths in Iraq was a price worth paying”; she was forced to withdraw this monstrous statement but it can still be accessed on YouTube. The woman was Foreign Secretary under Hillary’s husband’s presidency. The president elect has indeed said many unacceptable things, but governing a country is very much different from campaigning. In terms of international peace and security he said he would pursue “cooperation rather than hostility and confrontation”. Anything wrong with this? The president elect has probably realised that the UN Security Council was more or less completely paralysed by constant disagreement and confrontation between the two major powers in the last 27 years and any change in that respect should at least be given a chance I would suggest.
    Finally, the bit that “the election of Donald Trump as the next US President shaken our faith in democracy and is a serious blow to the cause of human rights in the US and around the world” I also find puzzling; on what grounds would we question other peoples’ right to freely choose their president at a democratic elections?!

    1. Barbara S says:

      while I agree with some of the critical questions and the suggestions that it is at least naive to state a faith in Human Rights being shaken’, I don’t see how the election be described as democratic -?

  6. Good old Donald Trump ! He and Nigel Farage have both given the political establishment a hard kicking just where and when it was needed ! What a great performance from both !
    Critics should read what they actually say in context rather than draw rash conclusions in anticipation of what they may or may not do in the future .
    No coincidence that trump passed an hour with Farage before even considering arranging meetings in order to listen to the tired jargon spouted by most of the stale politicians who rule most of Europe and N.America today.

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the UKHRB


This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.

Subscribe

Categories


Tags


7/7 Bombings 9/11 A1P1 Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology birds directive blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity circumcision citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Cologne Commission on a Bill of Rights common buzzard common law communications competition confidentiality confiscation order conscientious objection consent conservation constitution contact order contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs costs budgets Court of Protection crime criminal law Criminal Legal Aid criminal records Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty declaration of incompatibility defamation DEFRA Democracy village deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention devolution Dignitas dignity Dignity in Dying diplomacy director of public prosecutions disability Disability-related harassment disciplinary hearing disclosure Discrimination Discrimination law disease divorce DNA doctors does it matter? domestic violence Dominic Grieve don't ask don't ask don't tell don't tell Doogan and Wood double conviction DPP guidelines drones duty of care ECHR economic and social rights economic loss ECtHR Education election Employment Environment environmental information Equality Act Equality Act 2010 ethics Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice european disability forum European Sanctions Blog Eurozone euthanasia evidence Exclusion extra-jurisdictional reach of ECHR extra-territoriality extradition extradition act extradition procedures extradition review extraordinary rendition Facebook Facebook contempt facial recognition fair procedures Fair Trial faith courts fake news Family family courts family law family legal aid Family life fatal accidents act Fertility fertility treatment FGM fisheries fishing rights foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Association Freedom of Expression freedom of information Freedom of Information Act 2000 freedom of movement freedom of speech free speech game birds gangbo gang injunctions Garry Mann gary dobson Gary McFarlane gay discrimination Gay marriage gay rights gay soldiers Gaza Gaza conflict Gender General Dental Council General Election General Medical Council genetic discrimination genetic engineering genetic information genetics genetic testing Google government Grenfell grooming Gun Control gwyneth paltrow gypsies habitats habitats protection Halsbury's Law Exchange hammerton v uk happy new year harassment Hardeep Singh Haringey Council Harkins and Edwards Health healthcare health insurance Heathrow heist heightened scrutiny Henry VII Henry VIII herd immunity hereditary disorder High Court of Justiciary Hirst v UK HIV HJ Iran HM (Iraq) v The Secretary of state for the home department [2010] EWCA Civ 1322 Holder holkham beach holocaust homelessness Home Office Home Office v Tariq homeopathy hooding Hounslow v Powell House of Commons Housing housing benefits Howard League for Penal Reform how judges decide cases hra damages claim Hrant Dink HRLA HS2 hs2 challenge hts http://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2011/04/11/us-state-department-reports-on-uk-human-rights/ Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority human genome human rights Human Rights Act Human Rights Act 1998 human rights advocacy Human rights and the UK constitution human rights commission human rights conventions human rights damages Human Rights Day human rights decisions Human Rights Information Project human rights news Human Rights Watch human right to education human trafficking hunting Huntington's Disease HXA hyper injunctions Igor Sutyagin illegality defence immigration Immigration/Extradition Immigration Act 2014 immigration appeals immigration detention immigration judge immigration rules immunity increase of sanction India Indonesia Infrastructure Planning Committee inherent jurisdiction inherited disease Inhuman and degrading treatment injunction Inquest Inquests insult insurance insurmountable obstacles intelligence services act intercept evidence interception interests of the child interim remedies international international conflict international criminal court international humanitarian law international human rights international human rights law international law international treaty obligations internet internet service providers internment internship inuit investigation investigative duty in vitro fertilisation Iran iranian bank sanctions Iranian nuclear program Iraq Iraqi asylum seeker Iraq War Ireland irrationality islam Israel Italy iTunes IVF ivory ban jackson reforms Janowiec and Others v Russia ( Japan Jason Smith Jeet Singh Jefferies Jeremy Corbyn jeremy hunt job Jogee John Hemming John Terry joint enterprise joint tenancy Jon Guant Joseph v Spiller journalism judaism judges Judges and Juries judging Judicial activism judicial brevity judicial deference judicial review Judicial Review reform judiciary Julian Assange jurisdiction jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Act Justice and Security Bill Justice and Security Green Paper Justice Human Rights Awards JUSTICE Human Rights Awards 2010 just satisfaction Katyn Massacre Kay v Lambeth Kay v UK Ken Clarke Ken Pease Kerry McCarthy Kettling Kings College Klimas koran burning Labour Lady Hale lansley NHS reforms LASPO Law Commission Law Pod UK Law Society Law Society of Scotland leave to enter leave to remain legal aid legal aid cuts Legal Aid desert Legal Aid Reforms legal blogs Legal Certainty legal naughty step Legal Ombudsman legal representation legitimate expectation let as a dwelling Leveson Inquiry Levi Bellfield lewisham hospital closure lgbtq liability Libel libel reform Liberal Democrat Conference Liberty libraries closure library closures Libya licence conditions licence to shoot life insurance life sentence life support limestone pavements limitation lisbon treaty Lithuania Litigation litvinenko live exports local authorities locked in syndrome london borough of merton London Legal Walk London Probation Trust Lord Bingham Lord Bingham of Cornhill Lord Blair Lord Goldsmith lord irvine Lord Judge speech Lord Kerr Lord Lester Lord Neuberger Lord Phillips Lord Rodger Lord Sumption Lord Taylor LSC tender luftur rahman machine learning MAGA Magna Carta mail on sunday Majority Verdict Malcolm Kennedy malice Margaret Thatcher Margin of Appreciation margin of discretion Maria Gallastegui marriage material support maternity pay Matthew Woods Mattu v The University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust [2011] EWHC 2068 (QB) Maya the Cat Mba v London Borough Of Merton McKenzie friend Media and Censorship Medical medical liability medical negligence medical qualifications medical records medicine mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Capacity Act 2005 Mental Health mental health act mental health advocacy mental health awareness Mental Health Courts Mental illness merits review MGN v UK michael gove Midwives migrant crisis Milly Dowler Ministerial Code Ministry of Justice Ministry of Justice cuts misfeasance in public office modern slavery morality morocco mortuaries motherhood Motor Neurone disease Moulton Mousa MP expenses Mr Gul Mr Justice Eady MS (Palestinian Territories) (FC) (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department murder murder reform Musician's Union Muslim NADA v. SWITZERLAND - 10593/08 - HEJUD [2012] ECHR 1691 naked rambler Naomi Campbell nationality National Pro Bono Week national security Natural England nature conservation naturism Nazi negligence Neuberger neuroscience Newcastle university news News of the World new Supreme Court President NHS NHS Risk Register Nick Clegg Nicklinson Niqaab Noise Regulations 2005 Northern Ireland nuclear challenges nuisance nursing nursing home Obituary Occupy London offensive jokes Offensive Speech offensive t shirt oil spill olympics open justice oppress OPQ v BJM orchestra Osama Bin Laden Oxford University paramountcy principle parental rights parenthood parking spaces parliamentary expenses parliamentary expenses scandal Parliamentary sovereignty Parliament square parole board passive smoking pastor Terry Jones patents Pathway Students Patrick Quinn murder Pensions persecution personal data Personal Injury personality rights perversity Peter and Hazelmary Bull PF and EF v UK Phil Woolas phone hacking phone taps physical and mental disabilities physician assisted death Pinnock Piracy Plagiarism planning planning human rights planning system plebgate POCA podcast points Poland Police police investigations police liability police misconduct police powers police surveillance Policy Exchange report political judges Politics Politics/Public Order poor reporting Pope Pope's visit Pope Benedict portal possession proceedings power of attorney PoW letters to ministers pre-nup pre-nuptial Pre-trial detention predator control pregnancy press press briefing press freedom Prince Charles prince of wales princess caroline of monaco principle of subsidiarity prior restraint prison Prisoners prisoners rights prisoners voting prisoner vote prisoner votes prisoner voting prison numbers Prisons prison vote privacy privacy injunction privacy law through the front door Private life private nuisance private use proceeds of crime Professional Discipline Property proportionality prosecution Protection of Freedoms Act Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest protest camp protest rights Protocol 15 psychiatric hospitals Public/Private public access publication public authorities Public Bodies Bill public inquiries public interest public interest environmental litigation public interest immunity Public Order Public Sector Equality Duty putting the past behind quango quantum quarantine Queen's Speech queer in the 21st century R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department & Ors [2011] EWCA Civ 895 R (on the application of) v The General Medical Council [2013] EWHC 2839 (Admin) R (on the application of EH) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2012] EWHC 2569 (Admin) R (on the application of G) v The Governors of X School Rabone and another v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust [2012] UKSC 2 race relations Rachel Corrie Radmacher Raed Salah Mahajna Raed Saleh Ramsgate raptors rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion resuscitation RightsInfo right to die right to family life right to life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials security services sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa south african constitution Spain special advocates spending cuts Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance swine flu Syria Tax Taxi technology Terrorism terrorism act tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine unfair consultation universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vaccination vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe

Disclaimer


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: