Surprise, surprise. Russia, China, Iran, Egypt and other nations with abysmal civil rights records have pounced on the shooting death by a police officer of an unarmed black teenager and the subsequent riots and police crackdown in Ferguson, Mo., as evidence of U.S. hypocrisy.
Russia’s foreign minister, for example, is quoted in USA Today as saying, “I would like to advise the American leaders to pay more attention to restoring order in their country before imposing its dubious experience on other states.”
Few nations have as much experience “restoring order” as Russia does. Even peaceful demonstrations in Russia against a government policy — or against government treatment of people arrested in previous peaceful demonstrations — can alter participants’ lives for the worse.
That’s a given in China as well, which has also slapped the United States for events in Ferguson. The Global Times, an organ of the Chinese Communist Party, writes, “It’s ironic that the U.S., with its brutal manner of assimilating minorities, never ceases to accuse China and countries like it of violating the rights of minorities.”
China, which bans media coverage of protests on its soil — and is often ruthless with protesters, not only allowed news coverage of the turmoil in Ferguson but sent reporters to cover it.
In Iran, the supreme leader and religious authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, took to Twitter to chastise the United States, saying, “The flag of #human rights is borne by enemies of human rights w/US leading them!” And Egypt, which not long ago condemned several hundred members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death after a show trial and whose prisons house untold numbers of peaceful demonstrators, urges the United States to respect the rights of peaceful demonstrators.
These international critics of the United States have a point. America does have a self-righteous streak; our country is not as pure as we often like to believe it is. We have a race problem, and discrimination exists here. But not only is that generally acknowledged instead of denied or ignored, a great many good people in communities from coast to coast strive to right those inequities. Also, when government brutality occurs here — and it does on occasion — it is the exception, not the rule, and it certainly isn’t policy.
Yes, we criticize other countries’ human rights violations, but in many ways we — not other nations — are also our own worst critics. It’s our ideals we fall short of, not theirs.