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Is Political Conversation An Art?

Field trip: civics lessonImage by Columbia City Blog via Flickr

Is Political Conversation An Art?

The first thing I learned about Civics is that it is froth with politics.
Not of its want or making but by the obstinance of its participants.

I was living in Capesterre then and witnessing my first public debate between candidates for The Labour and P.A.M. political parties vying for Seat # 8 in the British Empire’s newly Associated State of St. Kitts, Nevis & Anguilla. There was also An Independent Candidate named Mr. Cooper, who far too many regarded as a clown, but as I listened to Him and watch Him standing firm against this ridicule, I decided that I too would be An Independent and vote for ‘Cooppa.’

Imagine my shock, watching the parade of Dieppe Bay Villagers coming out of Mena Rum Shop with their inked fingers on Election Day as I was told I am too young to vote. First I quoted from The ‘Internal Self-Autonomous’ ruling handed down by The High Privy Council. That having been smiled away with, “she smart no tail,” I then moved to influence one of my Family members to cast a vote for Cooppa on my behalf. I knew My Auntie was a no-go. She was the only PAMite and I have seen Her hold ‘She Ground’ against Granny Them backing Labour.

I still wonder to this day, if there was more that I could have done with my pouting, but suffice it to say, when the votes were counted that evening, the other inked fingers in My Family were thumbs up against a sea of red (the color of The Labour Party as well as The Trade & Labour Union from which it had sprung.)

One of the first things that made me note Cooppa’s Independence was His distaste for the disharmony between both parties, for as he so eloquently stated is “Labour bring all of Us,” referring to The Union and it’s Birth organizing Indentured Servants and Cane Cutters in the earlier part of the 20th century. So from that foundation Cooppa’s focus was on the public fighting between and private partying amongst opposing candidates. His words gave voice to that which had been making my skin crawl, for I had been present and witnessed countless examples of what He spoke. Also, partaking in the casual aspects of My people’s Oral Traditions, I had been privileged to spend My Sunday Afternoons in a ‘Circle of Elders,’ listening to tales of Days gone by that got Us here.

That is how long I have been An Independent.

At that young age, Civics was integrated as a part of Social Studies class in Primary School, then as a separate subject in Junior and Senior High. And while the focus of initial instruction and exams was how government works, in discussions it was all politics. Politics peppered with insults, blame, questions of parents’ marital status at the time of one’s conception and birth, inquiries of Father’s last known locations, accusations of Family Lineages being that of pirates and instructions on how to hold out for more money when a politician came vote buying.

These exercises in conversation had many funny moments. They were also littered with extreme condescension and hurtful attacks on intelligence based simply on expressed support for or opposition for a political party.

Of late, precisely since then Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) announced His Candidacy for President of The United States, I have allowed myself to be drawn into conversations about government and policy that have nothing to do with governance or issues. And while I have since learned that politics is an entity all its own functioning within the Sphere of Civics, I must also acknowledge that the litter which is politics has become a pile of rubbish, no land fill can hold.

The Current issue where Civics is being trampled by politics is Odyssey Dawn, A United States & Allies supported United Nations sanctioned Military Action against Colonel Gaddaffi of Libya at the bequest of The Arab League. Its stated aim is to stop the genocide of Libyans by Their Dictator, Gaddaffi.

I had (and still have) questions about that very notion.

I decided to tweet such to My President @BarackObama for it was He who made the statement that the United States Military would take part in Operation Odyssey Dawn. After which I engaged in other activities, as Tweeps, who I turn to for understanding on all kind of matters, were otherwise engaged at that time.

Much to my non-surprise surprise, political rubbish began piling up in My Twitter stream directed at my ‘helping the GOP to bring down Obama.’ That was followed with accusations of my heartlessness of wanting to watch as Libyans were massacred and the old standby of ‘selfish American.’

Where I allowed myself to be drawn in was with individuals who practice the ‘put who/what/when/where/why/how in front and a question mark at the end of an opinion deriding one’s patriotism and/or intelligence’ style of political conversation.

And by so doing, I wasted my time and resources (Twitter API) which can never be regained. For I choose to approach from my strength, that being an Understanding of Civics, Thirst for Knowledge and Lifelong Concern for The State of Global Justice, Freedom and Liberty. This left me wide open to attacks of avoiding questions, being a loud mouth.

USC Professor of Journalism @marc_cooper tweeted @BrokePimpStyles
For sure! The CIA fed exes me a big check every week.LOL, poor soul (don’t ask me. How would I know if He uses KOCH?)

I had used Professor Cooper’s (no relation to Cooppa that I know of) March 20th tweet,
Dumbest Tweets of the Day On #Libya. @mmflint is the winner! #nfz #twitter, as an example in the edition of ‘SCRAPING PLAQUE OFF MA BRAIN’ on why distresses about the misuse of political conversation to question another’s legitimacy in all aspects simply because the opinion(s) expressed do not mach one’s own.

As I continue pondering my lifelong question of whether political conversation is Art, I am beginning to think it may be a contact sport with rules made up as suited to S/He who deems themselves the arbitrators of such goings-on.

And that now has set me upon another quest for understanding.

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This cruelty makes My Heart want to stop beating

Murdered Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato. Photograph: Stringer/AP

WikiLeaks cables: Ugandan gay rights activist 'mocked' at rights seminar | World news | The Guardian

US embassy cable reports on Uganda's rising homophobia, even at a UN-backed human rights meeting attended by activist David Kato, who was later murdered

Murdered gay rights activist David Kato was mocked at a UN-backed debate on Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill, according to a US diplomat in Kampala in a leaked American embassy cable.

The diplomat said Kato, who was bludgeoned to death near his home in the capital, Kampala, last month, delivered a well-written speech against the bill, but his words were almost inaudible due to "his evident nervousness". Throughout his talk a member of the Ugandan Human Rights Commission "openly joked and snickered" with supporters of the bill, the diplomat claimed in the cable.

The "consultative meeting" in December 2009, organised with funding from the UN, aimed to discuss the bill, which would impose the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" and life imprisonment for consenting adults who have gay sex.

In the cable, dated 24 December 2009, the diplomat claimed Ugandan politicians, including the author of the anti-homosexuality bill, David Bahati, had channelled anger at the country's socio-political failings into "violent hatred" of gay people.

Other confidential memos sent between Kampala and Washington in 2009-2010 and sent to WikiLeaks paint a picture of a worsening human rights climate in the runup to Ugandan elections on Friday . They chart Uganda's "chilling" descent from tolerance to violent homophobia and a deepening fear among gay activists, who claim they are being increasingly monitored and harassed.

The memos, classified as confidential, also reveal US diplomatic attempts to combat the draconian bill – which is at the parliamentary committee stage.

Under the heading Comment: Homophobic Demagogues, the diplomat reports in the Christmas Eve cable that Bahati, a born-again Christian MP from the ruling party, had become "further isolated" following "recent condemnations" by high-profile Pastor Rick Warren and other US-based individuals who are against the bill. However, it was clear he would not yield to international pressure.

Referring to Bahati, the diplomat said: "His homophobia … is blinding and incurable."

The diplomat refers also to James Nsaba Buturo, Uganda's minister for ethics and integrity, a strong supporter of the bill, and Pastor Martin Ssempa, who organises anti-gay rallies in Uganda, as key players ushering in a new era of intolerance.

"Bahati, Buturo, and particularly Ssempa's ability to channel popular anger over Uganda's socio-political failings into violent hatred of a previously unpopular but tolerated minority is chilling," the diplomat said.

Kato's murder came three months after Rolling Stone, a Ugandan newspaper, published his name and photograph next to the headline: "Hang them". It attracted worldwide condemnation, with President Obama and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, calling for a thorough and impartial police investigation.

Ugandan police at first claimed the motive was theft, but have since arrested a suspect. They have now said the killing was the result of a "personal disagreement" unrelated to his activism.

Several of those identified in the Rolling Stone article reported subsequent harassment.

The cable described in detail the Ugandan Human Rights Commission debate on the 18 November 2009, which it said was organised with support from the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights at which Bahati, Ssempa and Kato, the leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), were all present. Kato left shortly after his speech.

The diplomat said that, prior to the debate, he had received a text message from a gay rights activist expressing concerns for the safety of representatives scheduled to attend.

Bahati led a "tirade against homosexuality" attacking White House opposition to the bill and insisting that impending oil revenue would free Uganda from foreign influence. His message to President Obama was that "homosexuality is … an evil we must fight", which prompted loud applause, led by Ssempa pounding his hand on the table, the cable said.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has spoken out against Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill, describing it as "draconian" and "unacceptable", and in breach of international human rights standards.

In a later cable, dated 16 February 2010, the diplomat reported concerns from activists that the draft bill was already affecting gay people's lives.

One activist alleged that some gay people had been arrested and detained by authorities and homophobic extremists who were eager to build legal cases in advance of the legislation's ratification, although the claims were contradicted by another activist who said they were not aware of any arrests. The cable noted that international condemnation of the bill had forced Ugandan leaders to reconsider their initial support of Bahati's legislation, but that "Ugandan officials continue to give conflicting assessments of the bill's prognosis".

The cable concluded "even if the draft bill is shelved in the weeks ahead, rampant homophobia in Uganda won't go away".

The cable said that at a meeting between Maria Otero, the US under secretary for democracy and global affairs, and activists in January last year, several human rights defenders outside of the gay community said the bill was one among several growing state limitations of human rights and democratic freedoms in advance of the presidential elections.

Activists were also concerned at government monitoring of electronic communications, saying that they had been forced to switch telephones, restrict emails and resort to switching codewords when arranging meetings to avoid harassment and eavesdropping, the cable said.

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