Chairman of the College philosophy and religion department, human rights activist and Amnesty International member Mort Winston spoke to a packed house Feb. 19 in the Social Sciences atrium about the disappearance of human rights as one of the failings of former President George W. Bush’s administration.
His lecture was titled “Why Human Rights Survived the War on Terror.”
“This is a great turnout,” Miriam Lowi, associate professor of political science and organizer of the politics forum, said.
Winston’s thesis on human rights argued that the Bush Administration did not delegitimize human rights, but that the necessity of human rights delegitimized the policies of the Bush administration.
He said the United States lost its credibility as being the champion for human rights and failed in comparison to Europe’s response to terrorism attacks.
“Europe did better because human rights were more deeply domesticated and institutionalized,” Winston said.
He said Europe’s identity is structured around a common commitment for human rights, while the United States is more focused on constitutional rights and laws.
“We have good laws but our laws are antiquated,” Winston said.
Winston’s enthusiasm for the subject matter continued as he said, “Shut up about human rights,” in respect to the United States’ hypocrisy for discussing human rights and doing nothing about it.
Despite all of the negativity surrounding the discussion, Winston ended on a good note.
“There was a moral slide and it was bad, but we stopped it,” he said.
Winston sees the failings of the Bush Administration as positive. The pushback against the corrupt policies exposed the practices of the administration and turned public opinion around, showing strong domesticity in the United States.
He asked students to look at European laws and compare them to our own.
“We’re behind,” Winston said, “because we are wedded to the constitution.”
Adam Morsy, freshman international studies major, agreed.
“We need to end (the war) and end it fast,” he said.