United States President Barack Obama told thousands of Democrat conventioneers last Wednesday they were living in the greatest country in the world, were protected by the greatest military force in the world, and were making history by officially nominating a woman, Hillary Clinton, to replace him next January.
He can be challenged on the first two claims (although we can hope there never is a challenge on which power in the world has the most muscle on the battlefield) and on the third he’s wrong unless he meant to limit his sweeping assumption to U.S. presidential history.
On the American stage, the Democrats have somewhat grudgingly embraced a female as being capable of governing at the highest level. A new experience for America – but not for many, many other countries.
The second paragraph of the USA Declaration of Independence – learned as sacred text by children and recited with great emotion on July 4, Independence Day, in every hamlet, village, town and city – clearly lists the new country’s first priorities. Each year since 1776 that memorable vow is applauded as an achievement: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….”
The fact is after 240 years that noble aspiration remains an objective still to be reached. The vow has never been kept and until it is the United States of America will never be the greatest nation it aspires to be and often claims it is already.
It will never be among the greatest until U.S. politicians bury foolish differences and pass laws that guarantee equality regardless of sex, colour, religious or political beliefs; laws that protect the “unalienable right” to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
That would mean guaranteed health care for all and a strong step toward greater control on the sale of guns. It remains amazing to me that so many politicians — and millions of American citizens – regard the offer of universal health care as part of a communist plot and the denial of easy access to lethal guns and ammunition as a threat to American manhood.
Was there ever a more ridiculous sight than heavily armed vigilante squads prowling the precincts of the Republican Party convention , their military-strength automatics shoulder-slung and ready for action? They were not breaking the law; the state they call home permits citizens to “carry arms” in public.
There were also regulations banning playing with tennis balls in the convention hall precinct. No tennis balls, but 30-rounds of rapid fire ready to control whatever needed controlling … okay.
During the Democratic Party convention there was a much saner approach to politics with renewed pledges to achieve the enlightened times promised by the founding fathers and repeated references to the greatness of American achievements. The massed Democrats cheered and chanted when President Obama assured them that by nominating Hillary Clinton to be their presidential candidate they had “made history” and by electing her president in November they would create an even more historic moment by electing a woman to lead a nation.
He forgot to mention – as did all the other speakers who regurgitated the same historic theme – that by electing a female president the United States would merely be playing catch-up with a world that long ago acknowledged women to be as good or better than men in high office.
I guess he’d forgotten Indira Ghandi, Prime Minister of India 1966-1977 and a second term 1980-1984 and Golda Meir, PM of Israel, 1969 -1974. But surely he couldn’t have forgotten UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady” and great friend of USA President Ronald Reagan. She was the first female PM elected in Great Britain – but not in the world. Let it be noted that I have selected only three elected PMs from a much longer list.(Canada had a brief flirtation with a woman at the helm in 1993 when Brian Mulroney resigned as leader of the Conservative Party and Port Alberni’s Kim Campbell inherited the PM’s job from June to November when the Conservatives lost the right to rule in a general election and Ms. Campbell was “disinherited.)
Readers can Google “Female World Leaders” for lists of hundreds – yes, hundreds – of women who made it to prime ministerial or presidential office. It’s true that some of the elected presidents were symbolic but few were without power. And, remembering that all human beings are created equal and should be treated equally, the gay community can rejoice as well. Iceland’s Johanna Sigurdardottir (2009-2013) was the first known lesbian to reach world leader status and the first to marry a same sex partner while holding office.
So, back to Hillary. If she makes it to the White House she’ll get credit for making a little US history, but not on the world stage. “Maggie” Thatcher, although not a first at the international level, did make a bit of history in her day. Her “Iron Lady” nickname was an accolade, a tribute, not a criticism. She once campaigned on the slogan: “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman” and won respect.
I’m not sure the voters in America are ready to “ask a woman” to run their country. But if they are and she can get “something done” to fulfill the dreams of the founding fathers and today’s children, she could go down in history books as the greatest President ever elected. And America could lay claim to being the greatest of the nations.