No Human Left Behind!
Seth Berner for Maine Legislature in 2012

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   Seth Berner
   Maine Green Independent Party

   Candidate for Maine House of
   Representatives, District 115

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169 Clinton St.
Portland, Maine 04103

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Human Rights: What part of "all" are we not understanding?

Samuel Johnson famously said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Consider me a scoundrel but I have to quote one of those documents that makes America the best country on earth.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Here's another one a scoundrel might resort to.

    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

I know that the Declaration of Independence does not have the power of real law, though it is a document that is brought out every time someone wants to show why the US is more enlightened than other places. The Constitution, though, is the supreme law of the land. What both of these core documents speak to is the opportunities that should be available to "all persons." Not those who might be in power at the moment; not those who gave the most money to those in power; not just those who traditionally have held power; and not even just "citizens" - ALL. Unfortunately, this country has always had trouble with the "all" concept, and over the last few years in particular Maine has mistaken "all" for "some."


Though it is getting harder and harder to tell, this is a secular society. We do not have a state-sponsored or state-approved church, and in fact the First Amendment to the United States Constitution enshrines this concept in stone. We are each free to practice the religion of our choice; what we are not free to do is make our religious beliefs the law of the land. We are not going to make eating fish on Fridays mandatory for all people, or outlaw the eating of shellfish, or require women to have every inch of skin covered when out in public. Those who want to do such things are free to do so themselves, but doing so is by choice, not requirement.

One can believe that marriage is an act between one man and one woman, but until one can point to something other than a religious document as the basis for this belief it should not be the law of the land either. One can also protest loudly that marriage is not a “right,” but unless and until men and women who are attracted to each other are willing to give up that arrangement for themselves the discussion is not about whether marriage is or is not considered a cornerstone of our society, but about who gets to share in the act that defines a child as a bastard if the act is not formalized.

Look again at the Declaration of Independence: all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights. It can’t be any clearer than that. There are those who society may say can not marry - six year olds, for instance. But those exceptions are based on the incapacity of the individual, not the unworthiness of a group. Like voting, marriage is an inalienable right that should be available to all regardless of sexual orientation or self-definition. In my opinion Maine did not do itself proud by voting to repeal equality.

This is not a new issue for me. I've attended the Equality Maine dinners for years, marched in the Pride Parades, worked on many of the campaigns. (Click here to see a Portland Press Herald front page from November 9, 2005, following that successful vote. In the picture I'm the short guy in the front on the right.)

I am an Equality Maine endorsed candidate in 2012!

Racial Profiling

I would it were otherwise, but this is a country founded on scapegoats. We have always had a group or groups designated to be a target of discrimination. We are still deeply troubled with racism; most women know that over half the population do not enjoy equal treatment; if you don’t look “healthy” or attractive there is a good chance you won’t get a job. We’re a land of snobs, and we punish those who are different.

About the best that can be said about modern American society is that we don’t condone lynching, but even that taboo is giving way in the growing intolerance towards immigrants. As one who sees people as people I have a hard time understanding this escalating fear and hatred. It simply is not true that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes, would be more likely to refuse to look for work even if it were safe for them to do so; more likely to misperform in the workplace. Whatever the accusation, it is almost certainly unfounded.

Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation is as close to a legal witch hunt as this country has seen since slavery was abolished. What does it matter whether someone is in this country legally or illegally? This isn’t about jobs, or we would be demanding that auto manufacturers bring back to these shores the hundreds of thousands of jobs they “outsourced” as soon as they could. This isn’t about being philosophically opposed to hand outs, else we would be demanding that our government stop giving billions of dollars a year to countries with poor human rights records. This isn’t about being philosophically opposed to welfare, or we would be filing taxpayer suits against governments giving bailouts to corporate leaders going on vacation. (Aid to foreign countries for military purposes is both hand-outs AND welfare, since it is money being freely given to be spent on a particular private American-dominated industry.) This is about targeting dark-skinned people. And let us be clear - most of whom even in Arizona are there legally. But so deep-seated is the hatred that Arizona is willing to subject people to random searches and invasions of privacy on the off-chance that someone might be illegal.

Maine is unlikely to pass such a law, because we have few dark-skinned people within our borders. More significantly, were Maine to pass a similar bill we would authorize the stopping, searching and interrogation of anyone who might be here illegally from Canada or Eastern Europe. If you are light skinned that might be you. Think how a presumption that someone with light skin is here illegally until proven otherwise would affect you or your family.

Which is not to say that Maine is not targeting dark-skinned people in the criminal arena. Racial profiling is the stopping of people because they look “suspicious” or are someplace that people who look like them are not ordinarily found. Such as a dark-skinned person in Falmouth Foreside. This assumption that someone is suspicious mostly because of the color of the skin does not help us. It interferes with legitimate police investigative work, and adds to resentment and a feeling that one is not a valued part of a community. Racial profiling is lazy and based on meanness. A few years ago the Maine Legislature had a chance to do something about it, and declined. Governor Baldacci issued an executive order against profiling; Governor LePage rescinded it. The Legislature should look at this again. Because, again, just imagine how a light-skinned person would feel in a society in which dark-skin were both the norm and the powerful. No one should live in a society in which inequality is enforced.

I will not disagree that we have a population problem generally: it does not follow and it is not true that we have an immigrant population problem. With poverty comes a crime problem; but since numerically most of the poor are white profiling is not just unfair, it is bad police work.

Human Rights for “all” means human rights for all.

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Seth Berner for Maine Legislature - 169 Clinton Street, Portland, ME 04103 - (207) 775-2452 -

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