YES WE CAN

Haven’t blogged in a while… Shame on me. I’ve been consumed with work for WJC and for Niapele, and, also completely absorbed by this neverending election coverage.

Tomorrow, we are making History. This is HUGE! It’s hard to contain my excitement… (little thought for HRC…. you were my gal)

his most inspiring speech? Which one was your favorite? (or least, if you are voting for the old man)

A More Perfect Union, March 2008

Defining "refugees"

I’d like to preface this post by reminding you what the global “refugee context” is: 

I’ve mentioned before, in some posts here, how the legal definition of “refugee” has become obsolete in the 21st century. While on paper, the definition seems quite broad, it fails to include dozens of millions of displaced people, who, as a result, see their most fundamental human rights violated. There are 16 million refugees in the world today who fall under the mandate of the UNHCR or the UNRWA (4.6 million Palestinian refugees, out of the 16 million fall under the latter’s jurisdiction). In addition to these already staggering numbers, there are an estimated 51 million displaced people who do not fall under any international legal mandate. 51 million. And that is not taking into account the vast numbers of people who flee their homelands but are never able to register as a refugee or an asylum seeker, for reasons as varied as inability to read, write and understand the process involved or too much psychological trauma to handle complicated, inefficient bureaucratic processes. It’s most likely impossible to know exactly how many people fall into the latter category – but I would say there are easily a few million displaced people who have not been taken into account by the UNHCR statistics. 
Anyway, this leads me up to the story of the day, that of Pape Mbaye, a gay Senegalese man who was granted refugee status in the US on the basis of his facing persecution due to his sexual orientation. The article (unfortunately) barely touches upon the novelty of this type of refugee case, merely noting that only “a handful” of similar cases arose in the past, and is focused on the plight of homosexuals in West Africa (as far as my experience goes, I haven’t encountered a single West African who is tolerant of homosexuality…. sadly).
It is nonetheless noteworthy that Mbaye was able to receive refugee status on those grounds – and given that his well-being was genuinely endangered by conservative zealotry, I think it’s fantastic that the US granted him refugee status. However, for every Mbaye, there are 100,000 (or more) individuals who yearn to live in a different country, far away from the misery, oppression and persecution that pervades their daily lives. What of them? What of the hundreds of Africans who end up ship wrecked on the coasts of the small southern European island of Malta? Why must they languish endlessly in precarious conditions? What of the thousands of Liberian refugees in Ghana who cannot avail themselves of the inadequate amount of assistance that the UNHCR is able to provide them with? 
The fight for the rights of those who suffer is far from over….

The "Thinking Brains" of Foreign Policy

On my right, we have the military-industrial complex. If you haven’t (yet) watched “Why We Fight”, the excellent documentary by Jarecki, I recommend you do. Particularly during election time, it’s always good to be reminded about the threat to checks and balances in the government.

McCain is interviewed in this documentary – quite interesting position he lays out (I hope this arouses your curiosity – seriously – watch this documentary!)

On my left, “top foreign policy experts“. I love this graph:What this says is that “experts” completely changed their predictions within 11 months – does this suggest that asking for their opinion is probably rather useless, as it is bound to change with the ebb and flow of realities on the ground?

Is there any predictive value to this? I really doubt it: this poll, if it does anything at all, only re-affirms what everyone already knows. I hope we are not using these “expert opinions” to inform our foreign policy strategy (oh wait. we are.)

Random sunday night thoughts

Per usual, I am multi-tasking – reading, blogging, watching TV, doing laundry, etc. I normally wouldn’t bring up what I’m watching on TV here (because, seriously, who cares?), but Christiane Amanpour is on CNN right now, talking about Christianity in an investigative documentary called “God’s Warriors”. Anyway, she just said the following things: 53% of Americans believe in creationism, and 1/3 of Americans would like to see evolution replaced by creationism in schools.

Really?

I would like to find comparative survey results for say, France. But I’m pretty sure no one is bothering asking this question there – while I’m sure plenty of people believe in creationism, it’s unfathomable to imagine 30% of french people wanting to see this belief taught in school. I know the US is a very religious country (if you have not yet watched Jesus Camp, you must), but come on…

Now this guy, Ron Luce, is telling us that women should wear skirts below the knee because, well, you know, you don’t want to tempt the guys. That reminds me of women having to wear burqas so as not incite men – where do you draw the line?!

Relax

There is a trend in US conservative media to see terrorism everywhere – most recently, E.D. Hill, on Fox News, called the fist pound Barack and Michelle Obama shared “A terrorist fist jab” – come again?! Thankfully, FOX gave her the boot – but this is yet another attempt to point out how evil terrorists are taking over American society, and it’s simply ridiculous. It’s the same ridiculousness that has led wayyy too many people to actually believe that Obama is Muslim (in the US, this is still considered a flaw – and, unfortunately, not just for presidential candidates)

Reminds me of the recent absolutely inane uproar over the “hate couture” scarf that “terrorist loving” Rachael Ray sported in a Dunkin Donuts ad. It’s a paisley scarf…. Read here and here for thoughtful commentary on this “controversy” – and read here to see the insane reactions that The Scarf prompted in the conservative blogosphere.