Following the attacks in Paris, Republican Presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich said that he wants to set up an agency with a “mandate” to promote what he calls “Judeo-Christian values” overseas to counter Islamic propaganda. He later likened his idea to the Cold War “Voice of America,” meaning that he wanted to combat propaganda with propaganda. Sure sounds like a great way to get to the truth of the matter.
In some ways, what made Kasich’s remarks so inflammatory were not the values that he wanted to promote, but the way in which he framed them.
Kasich says he would create the new agency to promote the values of human rights, democracy and the freedoms of speech, religion and association. Kasich says the information would be distributed in the Middle East, China, Iran and Russia, to compete with the propaganda and misinformation purveyed by Islamic militants.
Promoting human rights, democracy and freedoms of speech sounds very familiar to me. Oh yes, I think that I’ve read a great deal about them in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s remarkable how much is included in this document of less than two thousand words. The UDHR was the brainchild of Eleanor Roosevelt following World War II. Her thinking was that, just as the original U.S. Constitution was incomplete without the Bill of Rights, the recently-ratified Charter of the United Nations was not complete without a Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Roosevelt headed the UN Commission on Human Rights, which drafted the Declaration. This was not an easy task, especially since the just-concluded war was in some ways a conflict between fascism and democracy. What would Germany and Japan have to say about human rights? Additionally, the United Nations roster of members included a number of countries that had very little connection to or history with human rights as understood by western societies.
When the UDHR came up for a vote in December, 1948, it passed semi-unanimously. Forty-eight countries voted in favor, no countries voted no, and eight abstained (the Soviet Union, Ukrainian SSR, Byelorussian SSR, People’s Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, People’s Republic of Poland, Union of South Africa, Czechoslovakia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The defeated countries of World War II (specifically Germany, Japan and Italy) did not vote on the UDHR because they had not yet met the United Nations’ criteria of being a “peace-loving nation” for admission to the international organization.
But what is remarkable is the number of non-western countries that voted for the UDHR. Many of these were predominantly Muslim states. They included:
Imagine: had the United Nations offered a proposal to its member nations to adopt a document on human rights called “Judeo-Christian Values.” Consider how inflammatory that would have been. Besides being clearly objectionable to all religious other than Judaism and Christianity, it would have left out in the cold individuals who do not subscribe to any religion.
Eleanor Roosevelt knew how to build a coalition without throwing insults at others and by considering inclusiveness to be a primary value. She favored understanding over a propaganda machine.
John Kasich is considered by many to be the most well-grounded of the Republican candidates for president. But his views on an agency to promote Judeo-Christian values is not only removed from what Eleanor Roosevelt stood for, but also from recent Republican presidents. Can you imagine Dwight D. Eisenhower favoring such an exclusionary strategy? Richard Nixon knew a great deal about foreign affairs and did not want to be provocative where not necessary. Ronald Reagan never seemed like a religious crusader, and even George W. Bush complimented Islam in the days after 9-11.
Should John Kasich wind up getting the Republican nomination because he is the least distant from reality among his competitors, he must learn more about living in a multi-cultural world. A good place to start would be to drop the crusade and accept the principles of an already implemented document. Republicans complain that President Obama needed too much on-the-job training, but if their best candidate is so offensive to non-Jews and non-Christians (and actually quite a few Jews and Christians), then he will give the term “on-the-job” training a whole new meaning.