France and the US both get something right in the same weekPosted: May 14, 2012 | |
First: my computer is fixed! At great personal cost (I had to fight seven dragons and save seventy handsome princes(ess)), but it is fixed. Hurrah! I now have over eight hundred unread emails (and that’s in my primary inbox – I can’t even look at the other one). Less hurrah!
So now that my computer is fixed, I shall attempt to get back onto a regular blog-schedule. I.E: More than once a week.
(Don’t get too excited, interwebs! Wouldn’t want anyone fainting! (and by “anyone,” I mean my favorite regular readers: the CIA. Keep protecting the world, gentlepeoples!))
Second: Politics are culture, right? Kind of? Well, they are now, because I’m going to talk about them! I was going to stuff these tidbits in other posts, but then I realized… my posts are already the length of a short Tolstoy novel. Adding my political freakouts will not help that situation.
Anyways! Politics! Why am I talking about them instead of talking about American Idol or the Hunger Games?
In the past week (week-and-a-half), both countries that count me as a citizen have done me a solid by taking major steps down the path of Progressivism (Alliteration!). And I am EXCITED, because usually, the news out of all my countries of citizenship and residence is less than good. For example, my current state of residence… is having issues. Issues like “women don’t care about money like men do”. We also may re-elect the Arch-Douche of Jackassery* (i.e.: Scott Walker), a fact that fills me with joy (not). But none of this matters now! Because France and the USA have, for once, done Good Things!
And yes, I am coming out of the progressive closet. I know this may be a shock to my regular readers. Apologies, apologies.
Country #1: Socialism and Sarkozy (ie: France)
For the first time in OVER FIFTEEN YEARS (yes, fifteen years) France has a Socialist President. *insert massive freakout here*
Most of my readers are American (according to wordpress stats) so I’m going to clear this one up: in France, the Socialist party is the (main) leftist party. It’s our “center-left” party. They’re like France’s Democrats (except much, much, much more liberal). And yes, we call them Socialists and it’s not an insult. France also has an official communist party! And there are some Trotskyists and Marxists running around. It’s okay! I promise! We’re not all living in communist gulags. We’re not crushed under the weight of an oppressive bureaucracy. We eat fine, sleep fine, and we have universal health care and nearly universal pre-K… and no one has exploded yet. Incredible, I know.
Our current president is Nicholas Sarkozy, a center-right gentlemen who enjoys pandering to the far-far-right section of French society. Or, as I like to call the far right: the anti-immigrant, anti-muslim, racist, sexist, homophobic wing of French society (hey, every country has their problems *cough* Tea Party *cough*). Sarkozy is the President who decreed that public schools must teach children the good effects of French colonialism (at least they got to eat baguette while we were taking over their countries, am I right? Right?). He’s proposed stripping foreign-born French citizens of their citizenship if they commit certain crimes. He’s been (correctly) accused of nepotism. He also made a horrifically racist and ignorant speech in Dakar a few years ago. I’m… not a fan.
[Although to be fair, Sarkozy doesn't believe in laissez-faire capitalism, and he has been at the forefront of fighting against climate change. In the United States, he'd probably be a democrat. A liberal democrat. Which says more about America's political system than it does about Sarkozy]
I ended up watching the results live by total accident – my mother and I went into a coffeeshop in Quebec to get a snack, and the French election was on the restaurant’s TV on mute. Now France, unlike the USA, does these things in a civilized manner: they have a countdown and tell you the results all at once. Countdowns are great if you want to get the results over with… and less good for people like me, who have absolutely no nerves to speak of.
Mom: Francois Holland [the Socialist candidate] looks unhappy. He must have the results. Bad sign.
Me: Oh no. Oh no. I can’t believe it. I thought we were finally rid of Sarkozy. Can’t ONE country I live in have some good news? One out of three! That’s all I ask for.
Mom: Yeah, he looks really unhappy. And the people around the Bastille are pretty glum…
Me: I can’t watch. I can’t watch. I can’t watch.
Mom: Calm down. Oh, look, there’s Holland’s ex-partner, Segolene Royale. Well, she looks happy. That’s a bad sign too.
Me: I can’t watch. I can’t watch. I’m going to take a walk.
Me: *run around neighborhood*
Mom: It’s over! Holland won!
And then me and my mother were all:
The couple sitting next to us thought we were pretty hilarious.
We followed our high-five up with a massive freakout after realizing there hadn’t been a Socialist president of France since 1995. I remember growing up in Paris (wow, that sounds pretentious – in my defense, I actually did grow up in Paris) watching massive demonstrations in the street, with people shouting: “Chirac, t’es foutu! Tout Paris est dans la rue!”
(Chirac, you’re screwed! All of Paris is in the Street! (it’s more poetic in French, trust me))
President Chirac was Sarkozy’s predecessor (and another French conservative). Francois Holland’s election thus represents the first time a Socialist has entered the Elysee in my personal memory. It’s a big deal for me, is all I’m saying. So can you blame me and my mother if we walked home like this:
No. You can’t.
That was HURRAH Political News update #1.
Country #2: Gays and the Glory
But then! Just as I re-entered the USA (my other country of citizenship)… President Obama endorsed Same-Sex Marriage!
ON THE EVE OF THE NATIONAL FREAKIN’ ELECTION!
…I can’t even.
A sitting US President endorsed gay marriage. A sitting – Holy mother of -
I mean, yes, I know. It wasn’t enough. Obama very explicitly said that he would leave the decision to legalize Gay Marriage up to the states which… no. Not. Okay. As someone from a state that has banned gay marriage at the polls… No. No, no, no. Absolutely not.
[To quote someone whose name I can't remember: The vote of the majority should never determine the rights of the minority]**
But still. Obama endorsed gay marriage. He is the first American president to ever say that same-sex couples should enjoy the same rights as opposite-sex couples (great for me, since I may be able to marry the Russian bride of my dreams).
Is it sad that he’s the first American president to do it?
But is it a meaningless gesture? Absolutely not. For the first time, the President of the United States said that citizens’ rights should not be predicated on their sexuality. He said, implicitly, that gay couples are no different or less important than straight couples. That they deserve the same recognition and status in society as straight couples. And yes, that does mean something.
There’s a lot to do yet; Obama has a lot of actions to take. But I can’t be mad at him for taking that first step. I honestly thought it would take another two or three presidents to get there. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the news.
I also think it took real courage to do it right before the national election, because the Gay Rights issue has often been used as a “swing” issue to defeat Democrats.
The election could get very ugly, very quickly.
But this? This is the good fight, and I, for one, will fight it with him.
As the great CJ Cregg once said:
And that’s all for “Good News in the Political Sphere”! I shall return shortly with more posts… but probably not political ones.
Any other good political news I should know about?
*All credit for the name “Archedouche of Jackassery” goes to my friend RB, who comes up with The Best in Insults.
** Do you know who said it? Because I seriously can’t remember.
***This post was particularly hard to write because my brother spent his time reading it over my shoulder and demanding explanations… or commenting on the book he’s reading (which is Liar by Justine Larbalestier). Perfect work environment!
(and now my brother is punching the book yelling “What? What? I HATE YOU!” He’s discovering the joys of unreliable narrators…)