Thursday, July 29, 2004

John Kerry - a cut above the democratic convention

The conventions that pass for democracy in America shock and sadden me. Manicured men and women with fill-in-the-gap slogans. I learned quite early on that right answer was "John Kerry". Who's going to make everything wonderful? Who's got a wonderful war record? Who's a tremendously nice family man? It's quite an easy game - even if he was going to fly to the moon and bring back the green cheese, the answer would be John Kerry. Apparently this is what the TV loving American public wants most, and it's enough to make any thinking person consider the virtues of Plato's benevolent elitism very seriously.

That this recitation of conventional phrases about what a nice person someone is passes for democracy is a travesty, and a disgrace to the philosophical and literary giants who founded this country. It is a far cry from the British party conferences I'm used to watching, which dabate policies and make real decisions. The Labour Party Conference is probably the scariest week of the year for Tony Blair - in the USA it's more like a teenage cheerleading camp.

Thus it was with more of a sense of duty than of hope that I listened to John Kerry this evening. But he surprised me. He talked about real issues, including the ones that make me, an immigrant, committed to America. The value of the Constitution. Being repected by the world, not just feared. Those who preach family values should value families. A system where a mother with breast cancer is working while undergoing chemotherapy because she's terrified of losing her job and her children's healthcare isn't a system that values families. A system where elderly couples scrimp on their medication, and the profit margins for drug companies grow and grow, is no way to honour thy father and mother. A nation should only ever go to war because it has to, and never without first making a plan for winning the peace.

For me, Kerry's reference to faith, which he does not wear on his sleeve, was particularly moving. "I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side." To a lifelong Christian, there could be no more favourable contrast with the arrogant presumption that a vote for Bush is a vote for Jesus and the teachings "Be afraid, hate thine enemy and live by the sword!"

I don't think Kerry got full marks for body language, for fake smiles, for baby-hugging adorability and for all the plastic Hollywood rubbish that is supposed to count for more with many Americans than whether a president will do a truthful, intelligent and honorable job. But if he does become President then America will once again have a leader who will meet face to face with other international statesmen and women, to represent the world's most influential nation with the dignity it deserves.

You can read the speech here, at I recommend that you do - I haven't done it justice here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

We told you so!!!

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The mounting number of official reports, intelligence experts, former weapons inspectors have all confirmed - Blair and Bush were wrong. Ignorant, deceitful, wishful, putting the crusade before the evidence - whatever the reason, they were wrong.

And we were right. The peacenik, liberal, leftist, bury-the-head-in-the-sand appeasers were right. When we marched in the streets to say "we are being lied to," we were right. When we carried banners saying that the North Korea had WMD and Iraq had oil, therefore we'd go to war with Iraq, we were right. Even without access to all the intelligence reports that Bush and Blair saw but we didn't, we were right.

Why? How did this happen?

Simple. Blair and Bush wanted to go to war. They want to be Churchill, Eisenhower, George Washington and King Arthur all rolled into one grand world-saving extravganza. They want this so badly they believe that the world depends on it, and for them it does.

Why the desperation for Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Again, simple. It was the only way that the actions of Islamist terrorists could be used to justify war against an unrelated Arabist regime. The wave of fear and anger from the attacks on America of September 11th 2001 had to be turned into an excuse to wage war against a completely different enemy.

A brutal enemy, an oil-rich enemy, an evil man who Iraq and the world is better off without. No doubt. But it could have been done much more effectively. The aplomb with which the Allies (all two of us who are left, and a few hangers on) have squandered the goodwill of the whole world counts as one of the most tragic public relations fiascos of all time. If Bush was running a small company instead of the world's most influential nation, he'd have been fired long ago.

And we were lied to. They took our people into war in the cause of their grand plan for world salvation, and to get us poor sheep to follow along and cheer as the pretty orange colours on CNN bloomed on our TV screens, we had to be frightened into believing that without Big Brother Blair and Bush protecting us we'd have Saddam's chemical poison dropping on us in no time at all.

We knew. Millions of us all over the world. Stand up and be proud! Claim it long and claim it loud! Share your voice with the military, diplomatic and intelligence experts who knew as well. Never again let Fox News and the hawks of the Republican Guard tell us that they know best, that their militancy is vital to protect our happy bubble of liberal democracy. We know the world, and we know Blair and Bush better than they know themselves. And we knew it long before the official reports confirmed our every fear.

We told you so.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Protecting Marriage

Over the past weeks we have heard many times that those who wish to "Protect Marriage" should be acting forcefully to prevent the right to marry your loved one from being extended beyond heterosexual couples. In spite of the biblical norm of polygamy and Jesus' dismissive attitude both to marriage (Matthew 22:30) and to the ties of blood-relations (Mark 3:31-35), those who seek to limit freedom to choose and freedom to love have every reason to try to portray both Old and New Testaments as bastions of heterosexual monogamy.

The idea of protecting the sacred by limiting its freedom is of course not new. The Bible should be protected by preventing its translation into vernacular languages; the right to vote should be protected by preventing women from voting; the value of education should be protected by limiting its scope to the children of the rich. The early Church almost split because a few rebels refused to confine the Good News to the original Jewish congregation.

If you seek to protect institutions in this fashion, turn not to the words of Jesus - he was far too liberal in spreading the love of God to all people.

Fortunately, help is at hand from other quarters. For example, Lenin said "It is true that liberty is precious - so precious that it must be rationed."

He also said "A lie told often enough becomes the truth."