October 31, 2004

Cocker Hoop

Another day, another step nearer the end of the world. There's scaffolding all around our house, but no-one appears to be doing anything with it. Apparently the building is going to be painted, and apparently the guttering and drainpipes are going to be cleared out and jet-sprayed and replaced. We were told the roof was being patched up, and there was a lot of noise up there for a week or so, but there isn't any noise anymore, and I'm not bloody going up there to see if anything's been done. So I'm going to assume it's done and leave it at that. Our backyard looks like someone let loose a deranged hammer-fisted goat with a bucket of moss. Not particularly pleasant, and except for letting in a whiff of air when the kitchen gets a bit steamed up, the back door hasn't been opened and we haven't been out there. It's scary.
Anyway, it's getting closer to this election thingummy, and lots of Americans seem to think that it only matters to them who wins it. There are lots who don't think like that. But the stupid people always seem to be the most vocal. If anyone saw Question Time last Thursday you'll know what I mean. You can't just boo and jeer at someone whom you don't agree with - booing isn't a viewpoint, it's just a sign of ignorance. If anyone wants to watch the programme and see what I mean, go here. If you can't find it just type Miami into the Question Time search engine. It's an hour long, but worth it for David Dimbleby trying to keep the audience in check, and trying (in vain) to get some of the panel to answer the questions.
There is also a really good piece in The Guardian this week in the editorials. I really liked putting the whole of that last article in this journal, so I'm going to do the same with this one. It's for all those Americans who think everyone else in the world should sod off and leave them alone, despite the fact that their leaders seem so obsessed with telling the rest of the world how to go about their business. You can go about your business. Move along.

Plenty of Americans believe it is none of our business whom they elect as their leader on Tuesday. But there are two underlying reasons why any presidential election matters to the rest of the world. The first concerns America's power. There is no nation in the history of the planet whose strength and actions more directly affect the whole human race than the United States. To an unprecedented degree, America makes the world's weather. Its economic, military and cultural might shapes our lives. If America goes to war, we are all embroiled, as the events of the past three years have certainly shown. If the American economy booms or busts, then ours follows suit. If America spurns global agreements on climate change, the whole planet is more vulnerable. Even our domestic politics are shaped by theirs, as the last three years have again dramatically proved. We may not have a vote, but our interests are at stake on November 2, as surely as if we lived in Ohio, Oklahoma or Oregon ourselves.

The second reason, more controversially for some, concerns America's example. There has never been a nation like the United States. Its creation was, at least arguably, the single greatest constitutional achievement of mankind in the last millennium. From the earliest days until now, the eyes of all people have indeed been upon America, just as John Winthrop claimed four centuries ago. We can debate whether the greatest of all US presidents was right to see America as "the last best hope of mankind". But it is a matter of fact that successive generations on every continent have shared Abraham Lincoln's optimism about his homeland, that they have been inspired by American opportunity and freedom, and that new generations continue to be so. Few nations may have been so fundamentally shaped by racial injustice as the US was, but none in the history of the world has ultimately made a greater success of mass migration and of multi-cultural life either. Anti-Americanism may be more rife than ever in many parts of our world, but even where it is strongest it is a matter of record that millions of people in these very same societies admire America above all other nations.

Since at least 1945, when the United States played the decisive role in creating the United Nations, an American presidential election has always been the single most influential event in the global political cycle. No such election, though, has mattered as overwhelmingly and urgently as this one. Four years ago, George Bush was beaten in the popular vote nationwide, yet captured the presidency because of electoral abuse in Florida and a shoddy legal judgment by the nation's highest court. Ever since, far from governing in the unifying manner that would have been appropriate in the circumstances (and that he briefly promised), he has done the opposite. But if Mr Bush has been partisan and confrontational at home - over the federal budget, education, race, civil liberty, the environment and a host of other social and cultural issues - he has been every bit as partisan and confrontational abroad. The attack of September 11 2001, an event of historic seriousness, created an unprecedented outpouring of solidarity worldwide. Three years later, much of that solidarity has been squandered. This has happened largely as a result of a war on Iraq that was not just ill-prepared and ill-executed in its own terms but that also exemplified the administration's aggressive contempt towards other nations, with disastrous consequences that continue to this day.

To adapt the words of Talleyrand, the Bush presidency has been not merely a crime but a mistake. Mr Bush has proved a terrifying failure in the world's most powerful office. He has made the world more angry, more dangerous and more divided - not less. This, above all, is why it matters to us, as it should to Americans, that John Kerry is elected on Tuesday. A safer world requires not just the example of American power but the power of American example. Mr Bush has done more to destroy America's good name in the world than any president in memory. Mr Kerry provides an opportunity to begin to repair the damage. It is as simple - and as important - as that.

Good, that. Okay, Jarvis Cocker is on telly wandering around a gallery with a bunch of poncey know-nothings. It's rubbish. We saw him once while walking home to our flat in Hackney through Tescos car park. It wasn't an earth-shattering event, but I thought I'd mention it. I once sold Roger Moore a Sex and The City boxset. He had a cravat on and looked utterly ridiculous for half eight in the morning. And I sold him the wrong one! Hehe.
I'm going to have some chicken soup.
Ps. Sorry for the crap resolution of that picture, but you've got to see him big to feel the full force of the JARVIS EFFECT.
PPs. I made it small again cos it looked shit. Sod the JARVIS EFFECT.


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