Tea Party activists have always raised their fist against the pesky intrusions of the federal government. But these days, they are turning their eyes toward a far more insidious threat: the United Nations.
If you weren’t aware of this looming danger, let me explain: Two weeks ago, activists helped derail a UN treaty to regulate international weapons transfers, based on rumors that it threatens gun ownership in the United States.
Never mind that the treaty focused solely on the international sale of tanks, missiles, and other military-style weaponry, which the United States already heavily regulates.
Never mind that its purpose was to ensure that such weapons, produced in Russia and China, don’t go to terrorists and genocide perpetrators.
Tea Party activists can read between the lines — even lines that aren’t there.
“The UN Arms Trade Treaty should alarm any liberty-loving citizen,” wrote KrisAnne Hall, a blogger for Tea Party Nation.
It’s not just that treaty that the Tea Party fears. Every international agreement is seen as a threat to US sovereignty.
“We generally frown on all treaties from the UN,” Jane Aitken of the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition explained in an e-mail. “They have no business telling us what to do.”
But can we really expect to solve global problems — like terrorism and piracy — if we don’t agree on any common rules? How can Americans continue to lead the world if so many of us are so consumed with fear of it? Tea Partiers even reject treaties aimed at bringing international standards up to what we already have in the United States.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child encourages countries to pass laws protecting children, especially in places where kids as young as 12 work as soldiers, prostitutes, and factory laborers.
The treaty gives wide leeway for countries to decide how to safeguard children’s rights. After signing, China outlawed factory labor for youth under age 16, Yemen increased the number of years of compulsory education, and Scotland gave children under age 16 the right to hire an attorney.
The treaty is so flexible that every country has ratified it, except for Somalia and the United States.
But Tea Party activists warn that the treaty would bar home-schooling and spankings. While the treaty mandates that countries educate children and protect them from torture, violence, and degrading treatment, it makes no reference to home-schooling or corporal punishment by parents. Only about two dozen countries have outlawed spanking, while 193 have ratified the treaty.
And it’s not just treaties that spark paranoia. Agenda 21, a nonbinding declaration that encourages local governments to take environmental impact into account in planning is also a seen as a grave danger.
Never mind that Agenda 21 was adopted unanimously by 178 world leaders, including then-President George H. W. Bush. Tea Party activists from Arizona to Virginia are protesting environmentally sustainable planning as a Trojan horse that contains the hidden germ of world government.
I’m not kidding. After Alabama passed a law denouncing Agenda 21, a county zoning plan was thrown in doubt because it was deemed too sustainable. New Hamphire faced a bid to cancel participation in a regional greenhouse gas emissions reduction program, spearheaded by a lawmaker who is fixated on Agenda 21. And 25 local governments have pulled out of the International Council for Local Environmental Initatives, which helps implement cost-effective green projects, due to the conspiracy theory.
“Most Americans are unaware that one of the greatest threats to their freedom may be a United Nations program known as Agenda 21,” asserts the North Shore Tea Party’s web site.
An ad for an “educational seminar” warns, “Sustainable development, smart growth and stretch energy are poisoning our property rights. Learn how to fight this in your town.”
Never mind that fighting “smart growth” is something only a comic-book villain would do. Never mind that it is in our own interests to safeguard our world for our children’s future.
But for everyone out there who is still scared of the United Nations, I’ll let you in on a little secret: They tend to take Friday afternoons off. It takes them forever to agree on anything, let alone find funding for it. Stealing America’s freedom would be a serious full-time job. Far too grueling for a UN diplomat.
Farah Stockman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @fstockman.