Friday, 23 January 2009

Obama day 2, down with the ‘global gag rule’

President Obama is a clever man.
He knows those of us who supported him and those of you who voted for him have managed to work ourselves up into a frenzy of dream and expectation. And days before his inauguration we started worrying about whether he can live up to everything we want him to be.
Well, so far so good.

In with Reagan, out with Clinton, back in with Bush (there’s a surprise) and out with Obama – hopefully, this time for good – the ‘global gag rule’ bans US aid funds from being spent on doctors or clinics that as much as mention abortion to their patients. The rule flies in the face of medical ethics as well as individual freedoms upheld on US soil, of government staying out of the private domain, of a woman’s control over her reproductive system guaranteed under the landmark case of Roe v Wade.

Abortion is a highly contentious issue in America. Don’t we know that?
But the right to choose is upheld on US soil. And what the conservative anti-abortion lobby failed to do to their own women, for years they’ve been doing to women in the poorest corners of the world. Until now.

Removing the global gag rule allows aid money to flow to clinics that provide desperately needed health care, it allows for honest medical advice to be given to those who need it, it accepts that women in America and women in Africa do, actually, have the same rights over their bodies.

"On the 36th anniversary of Roe v Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women's health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters," Obama said.

Now I don't generally have much faith in professional politicians.
But against my better judgment, Obama got me hoping. And now he’s got me believing. That a determined group of people can always make a difference. That a determined group of people is the only thing that can ever make a difference.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Obama day 1, down with Guantánamo

I will not lie. The announcement that the Guantánamo 'correctional facility' will be closed within the year made my week.
What are you so happy about, someone asked me today, closing down Guantánamo is purely symbolic.
I would disagree.
On two counts.
It is not just symbolic. And symbols matter.
Empires rise and fall by their symbols. People fight and die for them.

Guantánamo has become a symbol. A symbol of everything the neo-con Bush regime stood for, a symbol of the assumption that liberty and security are mutually exclusive. Guantánamo is to many a symbol of everything that was wrong with the Bush era.
And Obama is using this very symbol to tell us that era is over.
Now let the real work begin.