Oh well, I seem to end the year on a series of pontificating stories and here’s another one.
I believe myself to be on the left. My views have changed from when I also believed myself to be on the left twenty or thirty years ago. I hope so, otherwise what’s the point in living, having experiences and learning? Previously I shared the knee-jerk anti-Americanism that is too prevalent on the left. A readiness to quickly condemn America for failing to hold to the high standards it sets itself, often condemning America for things other nations didn’t even set out to do. Coming to an understanding of the centrality of human rights, democracy and the Rule of Law for anyone calling themself a Democratic Socialist has helped me grow away from that knee-jerk anti-Americanism of my youth. There are two things I want to celebrate and America has been central to the good news in both cases.
First, a little late I’ll grant you, I want to celebrate the vote in the Senate last week to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell‘.(wiki) The law will be signed by President Obama today and he’ll be joined at the signing by one of the nurses, Major Margaret Witt (pictured) whose sacking under the earlier legislation played a part in the change in the law. Of course there are now lots of questions about how this change in the law will be implemented, for example;
will gay troops have their own showers and accommodation? Will same-sex partners get military health benefits? What happens to a military chaplain who says he can’t minister to someone who is gay?
but there’s time to work through the issues. We see another centre-left government introducing a significant step-forward for human rights, as a previous Labour administration was able to introduce civil partnership rights, change the age of consent and roll back homophobic legislation from the 1980’s. The important thing is the changes in the UK and America only happened because the left was in government, you can’t change much from opposition.
The second three cheers for the US took place at the United Nations, where the US campaigned to reinstate sexual orientation as a category of vulnerable people for unjustified killing. A number of Middle East, Asian and African countries had succeeded in the UN HUman Rights Committee in removing from the resolution a reference to killings for reasons of sexual orientation, which was included along with killings for racial, national, ethnic, religious, or linguistic reasons, and killings of refugees, indigenous people, and other groups. It is reported the US succeeded in persuading some countries including South Africa, Rwanda and Albania who hadn’t voted on the earlier motion to vote in support this time and with the new motion passing the UN General Assembly by 122 votes to 0 with 59 abstentions it was a good result.
The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice (pictured above) said, “Laws that criminalize gay relationships don’t just violate human rights, they hinder social cohesion, economic development, and public health,” whilst a spokesperson for President Obama said, “Protecting gays and lesbians from state-sponsored discrimination is not a special right, it is a human right.”
General progress and improvement does not mean there are not worrying things happening at the same time. For example the refusal of the defeated candidate in Côte d’Ivoire(wiki) to accept their defeat and have himself sworn in as President, risking restarting the civil war which the elections were meant to see an end to. The UN has demanded an end to provocations and human rights violations. Whilst not in the same league I was also going to point to the high cost of onions in India but the government has done something about it.
I don’t know why a White Christmas should be so good. The snow we’ve had so far this month hasn’t been a bringer of much joy, or engenderer of much Christmas feeling here. The forecasts predict a 60% chance of precipitation with temperatures between -2 and -9 so it’s no surprise they are forecasting snow for the morning on 25th December. Anyway as the next part of the campaign to try to engender the Christmas spirit in me here’s Bing with a medley of videos and films for possibly his most famous song: