I will admit it–I really like watching Bones, a TV show about a forensic anthropologist who solves murders by being smart and competent. The first week in DC, I found myself watching it on TV and on Hulu with more dedication than I usually show to TV shows. Thinking about it one morning on the Metro, I came up with a theory as to why.
I spent my first two weeks at Human Rights USA diving into the intense and graphic stories of asylum petitioners, with the goal of writing narratives of their life stories for the website. With so much horror on my hands, I was running at top speed to process it all.
Bones helped me do that, in an odd way. Just as I spent my days reading about the worst experiences of peoples’ lives to find the details I needed to tell their story, Bones, or Dr Temperance Brennan as the main character is properly named, spends her days sifting through human remains to tell that person’s story and solve their death.
When I write about what experiences made our clients come to us for help, I am trying to convince my audience that what happened to them was a violation of their human rights (we are the World Organization for Human Rights USA). When I first came to this job, I was not sure what human rights were or why non-activists should care them.
In watching Bones I found a quote which sums up why I now believe human rights are a vital issue.
Dr Brennan and her FBI partner Booth just spent a weekend trying to prove that a man (Howard Epps) who was scheduled to be executed for murder was innocent of that crime, using evidence which had not been fully explored in his initial trial. After a weekend of mad TV detecting, they proved Epps was a serial killer.
Booth: Epps was guilty. He was always guilty.
Brennan: There was doubt. We had an obligation to respect that doubt. We all share in the death of every human being.
Booth: Very poetic.
Brennan: No, very literal. We all share DNA. When I look at a bone it’s not some artifact that I can separate from myself. It’s a part of a person who got here the same way I did. It should never be easy to take someone’s life. I don’t care who it is.
Human rights are vital because we all share something of ourselves with other human beings–we all got here the same way. We are degraded when humans are degraded. This knowledge helps motivate me to write up the lives of our clients compellingly. It’s sort of a scientific “There but for the Grace of God go I”.
“Fear is not the natural state of civilized people.” Aung San Suu Kyi
PS: To make it even better, when Bones and Epps were talking in the prison he reached out to grab her–and she broke his wrist. Did I mention she has training in 3 kinds of martial arts? Cool stuff.