From Toronto

 We  have been teaching various aspects of human rights at a summer program at St. Mike’s College at U of T, one a professor from Oxford, the other from Queens and myself, so it is not odd  to notice the language of human rights here. There’s a “human rights” commission rather than a “civil rights” commission. Posters tout human rights. This is a call for expanding our language to ensure a commitment to human rights by including it in our dialogue. Please don’t get me wrong.  I applaud our Constitutional Rights and well remember the ACLU cases won, as, for example, an injunction I won allowing a Christmas Eve candlelight vigil on the capitol lawn for the homeless. It is nevertheless clear we need more language choices in an international world. John Ibbitson writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail (07/28/07) criticized U.S. parochialism: “Exceptionalism is America’s defining characteristic. … Americans are often incurious about matters overseas and smugly confident of their own superiority.”  Ibbitson quotes as proof Arizona State Senator Ron Gould who recently, in turning down a bid for state international schools that would teach international cultures, said: “There are a lot of us here who are not internationalists. These schools actually have kind of a United Nations flavor to them, and we’re actually into educating Americans into Americanism, not internationalism.”  Will U.S. citizens  soon be encouraged to break their C.D.’s of Mozart  and Beethoven?  And, heavens forbid, will Gerard Mortier, from France, or Emir Kusturica, from Serbia not be allowed to have an influence on opera in America? This national blinding of rights except for ouselves is not new. In its own time it has been used against Irish, German, Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and on and on. It is hard to believe that it is not in evidence at Guantanamo.