Last refuge of a scoundrel

May 2, 2011

It’s a bank holiday which looks set to break with tradition and provide some actual sun. It’s unpatriotic to talk about any serious topic on a day like this, but then again the US army inconsiderately chose a day when there’s not supposed to be any news to accomplish its decade-old goal of killing Osama Bin Laden.

My religious and personal views forbid me to rejoice in another person’s death. I suppose I am mildly pleased about Bin Laden because killing him slightly reduces the political inevitability of endless war. It may even slightly decrease the number of civilians who have to die because they had the misfortune to be born in Muslim-majority countries with more or less tenuous links to Al Qaida. It certainly won’t bring back the hundreds of thousands already killed, or even the three thousand Americans killed in the terrorist attack which formed the excuse for the last ten years of violence. Oops, it’s unpatriotic to have any qualms about the number of human lives considered acceptable “collateral damage” in the almighty quest to take revenge on Bin Laden.

Perhaps I should talk about the royal wedding instead. I suppose I’m mildly pleased that HRH has found a woman to marry who seems pleasant enough. A woman of his own choice, who has known him well for ten years, so perhaps we won’t see repeats of the mistakes his father’s generation made. Good for them. It’s unpatriotic to express doubts about the cost of such a huge, ostentatious wedding, though. And apparently it’s illegal to get together with a group of people and express unpatriotic opinions in public. Pre-emptive arrests of protesters who “might” breach the peace. Who am I to spoil the nation’s bank holiday fun by expressing negative thoughts about that?

So I’m not feeling the expected warm fuzzy thoughts about this weekend’s national knees-up and military success. In fact, my main reaction is to cement my intention to vote Yes to AV on Thursday. Not because I’m terribly proud of my cleverness in being able to follow sophisticated mathematical arguments about why AV is better than FPTP. Rather, because I want to cast a vote, however symbolic, for a party which is not willing to throw this country into the USA’s wars. I want to vote against our wealth being pawned, against the loss of lives of young people who don’t have any better alternatives than to join the army, and particularly against the destruction of several countries and the barely regretted deaths of more than half a million of their civilians, just so George W Bush can prove that he’s as much of a man as his daddy and Barack Obama can prove he’s as much of a man as the white guy. It’s unpatriotic of me to value foreign leaders’ machismo lower than the life of a child, but I want to vote my unpatriotism.

I want to cast a vote, however symbolic, for a party which will stand up against using this endless war as an excuse for appalling violations of civil liberties. Against arresting people for gathering together to express politically inconvenient opinions, against heavy-handed, violent and occasionally lethal policing methods, against imprisonment without trial and ministerial intervention in trials when they eventually do occur, against serious government intrusions on privacy, against cooperating with regimes which torture political prisoners and prisoners of war. It’s unpatriotic of me to want to safeguard political and personal freedom even when we are slightly more threatened by brown-skinned terrorists than white-skinned terrorists, but I want to vote my unpatriotism.

And I want to be able to vote without having to worry about helping to hand my city over to the racist BNP and their allies who are equally racist but too cowardly to admit their connections with a known racist party. The mainstream political parties are all too willing to throw my city to the wolves. It’s poor, it’s a historically safe Labour seat, it’s too far away from London and too unimportant to business issues for anyone to care. But it’s my door those wolves are slavering at, and AV will give me a slightly pointier stick to keep them from devouring me and mine. That’s what’s on my mind this sunny bank holiday Monday that happens to be, in the Jewish calendar, the day set aside for remembering the Holocaust.

Anyway. Enjoy the rest of the bank holiday. I am stuck inside with a pile of marking, but that’s a very minor rant compared to the one I ended up composing.

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