Let’s all reflect on the great institution of the United Nations (Gurr)

Anti-United Nations conservatives maintain that the U.N. is making the United States a slave by seizing American sovereignty and working toward one big, brutal world government. In fact, in LaVerkin, Utah, opponents of the U.N. were so aggressive that they passed an ordinance declaring the city a “United Nations-free zone.” Convinced that the U.N. is out to take their guns, children, money, religion and freedom, many conservatives were in no mood to celebrate United Nations Day last week.

But wait-the United Nations has no control over any of those issues. The U.N. exists to foster international peace and security, not to snatch southern Utah’s weapons. Contrary to popular conservative belief, its purpose is not to force the world into socialism but to develop friendly international relations. Better living standards and human rights are reasonable, commendable goals for any organization, especially one with a global scope. Overcoming hunger and poverty while promoting peace is hardly a threat to freedom.

With a population of less than 3,500 and a struggling economy, you’d expect LaVerkin to be worried about its schools, its police force-anything germane to residents’ everyday lives, anything they can actually impact-instead of fighting against aid to Africa or against peace in Eastern Europe. Yet, based on a false image of a powerful, ruthless “global government,” supporters of the U.N.-free city ordinance foster a climate of fear that makes many residents cling to their civil rights instead of facts.

If civil rights concern conservatives, they might find more success examining the Patriot Act instead of dwelling on irrational conspiracy theories about a nonexistent global government trying to take away their guns and kids. It’s just not true. An examination of the U.N.’s effectiveness shows surprising results. In the last decade, the U.N. has provided an unparalleled forum for open international dialogue about poverty, hunger, human rights, the rights of women and children, war and global warming. It sounds like the United Nations is more worried about the world and its common concerns than it is about taking away southern Utah’s rights.

We are human beings first and citizens of our respective countries second. That doesn’t mean the United Nations can confiscate guns or take away American civil liberties, it means that to work toward a stable international climate and help make the world a more peaceful place, the United States should cooperate with other countries. Many on the political right become furious when they hear those two words in the same sentence-international and cooperate-because they imagine a sinister global dictatorship intent on destroying the United States as we know it.

That’s not what cooperation is about. It means teamwork, not submissive obedience. Unfortunately for many isolationists, we share the planet and some problems are global, including population control, fighting for basic human rights, stopping genocide, avoiding war and disease prevention. Problems like these are decent, humane concerns that also directly impact the United States. Whether LaVerkin and its archconservative supporters believe it or not, the rest of the world affects us.

A burgeoning world population will strain the United States by increasing immigration, straining resources and the planet. The U.S. was founded on basic human rights (life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness) so it follows to fight for the same rights internationally. World War II taught the world the horrors of genocide, and many Americans had ancestors and have loved ones in war ravaged countries. Reasonable people agree that war should be avoided whenever possible, and obviously controlling diseases in lesser-developed countries helps make sure they don’t spread to the United States. Cooperation is in everyone’s best interest.

Does the United Nations have its weaknesses? Absolutely. But getting out is not the answer. Strengthening its legitimacy is the best way to improve the international community. The United States can impact the power and direction of the U.N. more dramatically as an active, vocal member than it can as a resentful, paranoid onlooker.

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