Who wants War?

So we’re dropping bombs in Syria now, which you’ve probably heard about unless you don’t read the news or use social media, in which case you wouldn’t be reading this anyway. Now I’m no IR expert, I changed my degree because I’m really not, but I do want to make some reflections on the responses to the ‘politics’ of this as such.

Now, I sat on and off for the vast majority of Thursday watching the House of Commons debate. And it depressed me, for several reasons.

On a personal level, I will not shy away from the fact that, yes, it does depress me that we are bombing Syria. I don’t believe that bombing Syria is the answer, but not because I’m necessarily ‘anti interventionist’, but because I don’t believe we should be nonchalantly doing things by halves. We should have considered all of our options, including a full scale ground war, which will not happen in my opinion, because of lack of political motivation to do so. I don’t want people to lose their lives when they could have been saved by a better solution. However, and this is the crucial point, neither do politicians who voted for air strikes yesterday.

Yvette Cooper, Stella Creasy, Tom Watson, Hilary Benn and the 393 others who voted “aye” yesterday are not monsters. They are not blood thirsty murderers and they are not war mongerers. They are people, who made a decision that they believed was right for the people of Britain and the people of Syria. I don’t believe anybody in that chamber wanted to bomb anyone, but they made a difficult decision, and they made it in the belief that that was what was best. If I had not watched that debate, or attended talks, or researched it, I would be staunchly anti intervention. But when presented with the arguments from both sides, it becomes a difficult decision and no one can deny that. It’s complex. It’s nuanced. Inaction does not mean no one dies here; that dichotomy must be destroyed on the radical left. 

Just because maybe you, or I, disagree with those decisions does not give people the right to attack MPs over twitter, or protestors the right to go outside Stella Creasy’s home. There is a distinct difference between disagreeing with the decision to drop bombs on Syria and abusing MPs. Anger, sadness, frustration, infuriation; all of these are natural feelings for someone who was against the decision yesterday, believe me, I felt all of them. But there is no excuse to abuse MPs who were democratically elected and believed they were doing their best. At the end of the day, yes they are elected to represent the people, but they are often the experts.

People were dying before we were dropping bombs and they will continue to die after. My heart was breaking for Syrians before the vote, and it continues to break now. I believe that to be the case for many MPs too. And just because some MPs voted for intervention doesn’t mean they necessarily care about Syrians any less. In a perfect world, we would stop the arms trade and there would be no weapons or wars. We would all sit round a table and resolve our differences. But this isn’t WWII. We aren’t going to create the UN 2.0 out of this. This is a threat like no other and unfortunately, something has to be done. People are beheaded, raped, tortured and murdered by ISIS on a daily basis whilst the world sits back and uncomfortably turns it’s head. Yes, we can do our bit and help refugees, but there are many who don’t even have the means to leave. What do we do about them? Let them die?

To believe that this decision was easy, is naive. To believe that those MPs don’t think twice about dropping bombs, is unfair. To live in a world where terrorism exists and people die on a daily basis, is truly abhorrent. No, I don’t agree with dropping bombs on Syria, but it’s time to stop, and think, that maybe people, with the same aims, might just come up with different solutions.

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Same-sex marriage: The fight for equality doesn’t end here

What a wonderful month it’s been for the LGBT+ community. The 22nd of May saw Ireland vote yes in the referendum that would decide whether same-sex couples should be able to marry. Just over a month later and the US Supreme Court ruled the same decision in the landmark Obergell v. Hodges case. Following this, pride celebrations have been getting under way all across the world in major cities from San Francisco to London to Manila. Seeing such amazing scenes of celebration may lead some to believe that the fight for equality is over, but dig a little deeper and it’s clear that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Scenes outside of the Supreme Court

LGBT rights have for so long been a topic of hot debate in the USA, and for years some traditionally conservative states such as Alabama and Mississippi have fought to ensure that Friday’s 5-4 decision would never become a reality. The ruling rightly caused a storm on social media, with almost 7 million tweets containing the hashtag #LoveWins alone. The reports of couples rushing to wed after such a long fight for their right to do so is truly heart-warming, and it’s definitely not something that should be downplayed, but for many a marriage license doesn’t always act as a ticket to a land of freedom.

At present, only 21 of the 50 states have legislation in place to ban discrimination against LGB people in employment and housing, and only 18 of these have laws that ban discrimination against those who identify as transgender. Everywhere else, there are no laws that stop an employer from firing an employee, or a landlord from evicting their tenants on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender. Additionally, even though same-sex couples can now get married, there are certain laws that prohibit them from starting a family. Alabama is the perfect example of this. As a state that currently has no laws against LGBT+ discrimination, same-sex couples are forbidden to adopt a child. Just three years ago, a woman was denied her request to adopt her spouses child, despite the fact that they had previously gotten married in California.

Marriage might be legal, but there are no laws against discrimination

For some, discrimination might not come from the workplace, but rather from within their own family. Simply posting a picture of a pride celebration is too dangerous for many, let alone sharing a status or a photo about a relationship. In fact, Facebook itself has come under scrutiny in recent years for its blanket ban on adopted names, a policy that affects LGBT people who sometimes use such names to avoid homophobia and discrimination. Therefore for those who face extreme discrimination from those close to them, marriage is often all but an unattainable end goal.

Another problem faced by the LGBT community is the fact that the rights of those living in places other than the USA and Western Europe are often forgotten about, particularly by the media. At present, it is illegal to be gay in 79 countries worldwide; a statistic that is shocking yet underreported and rarely discussed. In 10 of these countries, homosexuality is punishable by death. Those who identify as LGBT in these countries often have no option but to hide their true identity, or else face extreme punishments.

There are almost 80 countries where homosexuality remains illegal.

Although LGBT is the acronym that is most often used by the media and activist groups, it fails to incorporate those who are queer, intersex, or asexual (LGBTQIA), indeed many believe that activism for LGBT rights often focuses solely on the advancement of those who identify as either gay or lesbian. Now that same-sex marriage is a reality, activism needs to take a drastic turn to help achieve equality for everyone. There’s still a lot to achieve; reports of mental health conditions are undoubtedly higher for LGBT people, and it’s a sad fact that those who are transgender are at a higher risk of being victims are violent crimes including murder. The road to true equality may prove to be a long one, but the end goal is in no way unachievable.

Of course, the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the USA is a wonderful step towards equality, but it is by no means the final one. The array of rainbow flags that now don the profile pictures of many on Facebook is perhaps the simplest form of support for the LGBT community, but it’s almost guaranteed that it won’t last for long. For some, showing support in this way is enough and many won’t pause to think of the discrimination that occurs outside of the USA, but for those who identify as LGBT+, the reality is that life doesn’t get easier after marriage, but rather it may prove to cause more discrimination than before.