Enough Tupperware
by Leslie Lawrence '72


Tappan Square


Amnesty Director Talks Torment and Tyranny
by Gail Taylor
A staunch defense of human rights is in the U.S. national interest, an impassioned Dr. William Schulz told a rapt OC audience in October.

Schultz  TapponSchulz '71, executive director of Amnesty International USA, decried a waning of American public support for human rights as a foreign policy objective. Fifteen years ago, he said, most Americans would have named containing communism or, "perhaps more positively," promoting democracy, as the chief goal of U.S. foreign policy. Today, most people view stemming drug traffic or protecting American jobs as the chief goals.

Schultz's lecture on "Torture, Torment and Tyranny--the State of Human Rights" was the first of two fall semester talks supported by the Richard R. Hallock Foundation and sponsored by the politics department in conjunction with associate professor Eve Sandberg's course, U.S. Foreign Policy Making.

A key challenge for the human rights movement is "simply to re-enliven among Americans a sense that the world beyond our borders matters," Schulz said. Seasoned with poignancy and humor, but punctuated with disquieting details of human suffering, his talk was well-suited to enlivening his Oberlin audience's concern.

Amnesty deals with "the worst kinds of troubles that the world can throw at us," he said--troubles like those of a 9-year-old sold into slavery by his parents to weave carpets when he was 3, and blinded in his left eye by a foreman when he failed to work hard enough; or, like those of women in Afghanistan who, if they appear on the streets with a wedding ring, are in danger of having their fingers chopped off.

To its original mission of freeing prisoners of conscience, the 39-year-old organization has added campaigns against such abuses as political killings, torture, unfair trials, and execution--including police brutality and the death penalty in the U.S.

A minister and former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association before taking his post at Amnesty in 1994, Schulz condemned excessive U.S. reliance on the export of capitalism to enhance human rights. Economic development may have some positive effect, he said. "The problem is that capitalism, investment, and economic growth alone are not sufficient to guarantee human rights, for if they were, South Africa...would have been emblematic of human rights."

Regimes that ignore human rights are ultimately unstable and therefore "bad for business," he contended. The U.S. ultimately suffers when governments silence such dissidents as environmental crusaders.

But Amnesty's arguments go beyond invoking enlightened self-interest. The organization tries to "break down the defenses of a Henry Kissinger or a James Baker or a Madeleine Albright" by telling victims' stories--showing them "that battered body lying before them, bleeding, bleeding.

"Every single one of us," he said, "knows what it is to bleed."