As the yelps of outrage about the Nigella thing are still pouring in I’m tempted to discuss the topic yet again. But to be honest, if I have to write about the two multi-millionaires and their quarrel again, I don’t know if I’ll have the will to live afterwards. (And don't say you can help me on that front - join the queue),
So instead let me write briefly about a topic I was discussing on BBC Raidio Uladh/Radio Ulster this morning with two people for whom I have a high regard: Nick Garbutt (even though he once was editor of the VO) and Catherine Clinton, ex-staff member at Harvard and currently at Queen’s. Both of them are delightful people and I think we disagreed on nearly everything.
The topic was Obama’s Waterfront speech. I desperately wanted to like it but it was too full of ‘hope’ s and ‘dream’ s and other such for me. Ten out of ten for form, three out of ten for content.
What was wrong with it? Where to start. Take education: he told us that we had a choice - go with integrated education and make for real peace and a cohesive society, stay with separate schools and go downhill. Well thanks, Barack, but I know the schools here. I spent my working life in and out of them. They don’t promote sectarianism or division or any other such. Quite the reverse. In our discussion, Nick Garbutt pointed out that it wasn’t the teaching of sectarianism that was the problem, it was the separateness. A good point, except of course you’d have to think about all-girls’ or all-boys’ schools, you’d certainly have to think about secondary and grammar school education, you’d even have to think about streaming classes within a school. You’d also have to say that parents who send their children to a Catholic school (or a Protestant one, or a Jewish or Muslim or whatever faith) were doing those children a disservice. I disagree. If a religious faith is real it’s an extremely important part of people’s lives, and naturally they’d want to hand that important thing on to their children. Does bunging kids into one school out-balance that? Not in my book.
Besides which, most of us didn’t go to integrated school. Most of us here went to a Catholic or state (effectively Protestant) school: so do we consider ourselves bigots? I think not. It’s always somebody else we see being made more bigoted by separate education, not us.
Last point (I have to clear out the garage): are we a client state of the US? There’s no doubt the Americans, especially Bill Clinton, were vital to the success of the peace talks leading to the Good Friday Agreement. Plus there’s always been a very strong emotional and even financial tie between Ireland and the US. That said, is this how the deal works - that they help us and that gives them the right to come in and explain what’s wrong with the way we’re doing things and tell us how we should do them? Imagine that on a personal basis. Your friend helps you out when you’re in trouble and you’re truly grateful. But then the friend drops in from time to time and tells you and your family how to organise your lives. EH?
Or put the boot on the other foot: Peter Robinson /Martin McGuinness pop over to the States, say a few funny things about the weather there, then tell the assembled Americans they’ll really have to stop torturing and detaining without trial people in Guantanamo Bay. And those drone-bombs that kill fifty innocent people for every suspected ‘terrorist’ it blows up: you really should stop that, guys. Uncivilized. And by the way, what about the proportion of blacks and Hispanics in jail in the US (51%) compared to the proportion of blacks and Hispanics in the general population (25%)? Not good enough, guys.
Can you see it? Can you imagine the onslaught of the American media if Robinson or McGuinness tried any such thing? So what gives Obama the right to come and lecture us on morality? The answer is simple: power. If you’re big and powerful enough, you can tell anyone you choose what they should do. You can even force them to do it, kill their leader and put in place ‘regime change’ in the name of democracy or some suchlike hypocrisy.
I’m told Obama’s done good things in his domestic policy. Terrific. About time US citizens got a decent healthcare system. But there’s little doubt that Obama’s foreign policy has been a huge disappointment to many people. And even at home, as someone pointed out, Obama presides over a US society that is more divided now that ever it was. And this is the man who’s come to tell us how to get social integration? Pull the other one, Barack, would you? There’s bells on it.