Thursday, November 06, 2008

We the people...

I don't think I've ever seen a newsroom so quiet. The phone didn't ring. There wasn't a keyboard clacking anywhere. A hundred or more people downed tools to watch Barack Obama's acceptance speech on the dozens of televisions throughout the newsroom.
It was good. So good.
I wanted to cry. (I didn't, because it is unseemly in a newsroom, but I wanted to).
My friend Nick in New York, who has seen Tina Fey play Sarah Palin in those infamous sketches live live live, sent me messages saying he had been crying. And that there had been spontaneous dancing in the streets of the Big Apple.
Yesterday we got to watch a moment of history. It doesn't happen that often - when you are watching something unfold and know that it is truly a momentous occasion for the planet, the people, the country.
I had the feeling earlier in the year when Prime Minister Rudd gave an apology to the Stolen Generation - which was made all the more momentous because it had been delayed so long and was such a break with the past.
And I had it again yesterday when Obama made his acceptance speech. Such a good speech. Such a worldly man, so inclusive, so educated, so insightful, so erudite. And it was made all the more special because he happens to be African American. Perhaps not a descendant of the slaves, but certainly still a symbol of how far the nation has come.
I am so proud of the American people. So proud of Barack Obama. It was a red letter day. Now we just have to wait until January 20, when the man takes the reigns in his own right.
This next few months is, traditionally, the time when outgoing presidents feather their nests, pardon people, sign off on terrible deals and assorted dodgy things. Okay, maybe I read too much Michael Moore after Bush got elected... I was just so angry at the time. Ok?
Anyway, this is a happy time.
Fuck you California. Fuck you Arizona. Fuck you Florida.
The Presidential election also included ballot papers in these states for a referendum on the issue of gay marriage. These states have now voted to change their constitutions to define marriage as a heterosexuals-only institution.
Even in a new Obama-led America gay people are denied the basic right to equality in their personal relationships.
I'm not personally likely to get married - gay, straight or brindle - but to deny that opportunity to people who love each other is cruel and unfair. And to remove that ability in a state where it was previously allowable is so retrograde as to be both disgusting and insulting.
I repeat my previous thoughts on this matter: How can two men or two women who love each other and want to express that in the form of marriage possibly EVER cause any more damage to the institution of marriage than Britney Spears has? Or anyone who gets married in a Las Vegas "drive-thru" church? Or the fact that the US divorce rate is between 65 and 75 per cent?
Or this idiotic couple who despite not being well off and having to feed five sons, donated US$50,000 to the campaign against gay marriage in the believe it would make the world better for their children.
How a less tolerant, less equal society is better for your children is beyond me.

Monday, November 03, 2008

On politics

On Bali
There is a double standard in Australia that I do not like. I hear in the voxpops popping up on our radios and televisions, I hear it in the survivors and relatives of the dead, I even hear it from our Prime Minister. The last one concerns me most of all.
Some time this week, or next week, or almost certainly some time this month, the "Bali Bombers" will be put to death.
We do not have the death penalty in this country. We're very civilised about punishment, in actual fact. Deprivation of liberty, for life, is sufficient punishment. What life is a life lead in a cage, surrounded by hardened criminals?
I do not buy this argument that it is okay for the "Bali Bombers" to be put to death.
Yes, they have admitted their crimes. No they are not remorseful. And yes, they might not ever be remorseful if they were serve out their life in a cell.
What really disturbs me, makes me feel sick to the pit of my stomach about my own countrymen, is this notion that we should support the death penalty for these men.
"But they killed 202 people including 88 Australians, Datchy," I hear you say? And our response is to kill them? An eye for an eye? Try explaining this to your children, should you have them. Sit there and justify murder, in response to murder.
I'm not some rampant right-to-lifer. I'm pro-choice, actually. I realise the irony in saying I'd kill a fetus but not a murderer, but I don't think a civilised society endorses killing people by firing squad, hanging, or lethal injection, any more than we'd set up the guillotine on the Supreme Court steps.
I also don't buy this "but it's Indonesian law" argument. Why don't we want Indonesian law applied just as strictly on Schapelle Corby, Michelle Leslie, Renae Lawrence et al?
Then there is also the issue of these men, who are let's face it, not healthy, wanting to become martyrs and inspiring other not-quite-right-in-the-head people (dare I call them "extremists") to do the same?
Animals might kill other animals if they think those animals would harm them. We're meant to be above that.
On America
During the last US presidential election, I was in Dubbo and out of contact with the real world entirely. When I heard George W Bush had been re-elected I was unsurprised, but very disappointed. This administration has been an abomination. Unwelcome wars, bullshit economics, zero leadership. Americans were embarrassed. Some of them posted photos of themselves on the internet with signs saying "sorry".
But Barack Obama has given many Americans hope. They're hurting in a lot of ways and they will vote for Mr Obama, I believe, as they look for a way out of the mire. Voting for Obama is also to reapply for admission for the western world. The US's reputation has taken a massive battering and Obama, to steal his line, actually offers "change".
I desperately hope that tomorrow, he will be elected president of the United States. More than that, I hope he can deliver on his promises. For the good of the poor, the homeless, the unemployed, those who have had their mortgages foreclosed, the working poor, the first generations immigrants, the ill, the disabled. And frankly, for the good of the world.
As an aside, when the fuck did "spreading the wealth around" as promised by Obama equate to "raising taxes and closet socialism"? The screams of support at the McCain rallies seem to suggest a vote for Obama is a vote for Soviet-style communism.
There are people in the US earning $2.50 an hour and raising families on it.. and somehow even suggesting the minimum wage might be increased it tantamount to suggesting Stalin is about to take over. Get some fucking perspective.