Last night’s State of the Union speech was toe-curling – a patchwork of campaign speech, stand-up, homily and waffle. The highlight was a concrete commitment to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the homophobic legislation that enforces heterosexuality in the US military. Actually, I lie – the highlight was John McCain’s comic reaction to the news that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was about to end:
At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.
It’s a remark underwritten by a logic that the UK comedy series Brass Eye addressed in this episode when Sir Hugh Maharggs explained that
Homosexuals can’t swim, they attract enemy radar, they attract sharks, they nudge people when they’re trying to shoot, they always insist on sitting at “The Captain’s Table”… they muck about. Imagine the fear when you go to sleep with a gay man on board and think “Oh God, when I wake up, will everyone be dead?” You can’t run a ship like that
The rest of the speech veered between the dull and the dangerous. Clean Coal? Really? The wet dream of some of the worst polluters in the country? And nuclear? Didn’t we just spend quite a lot of money paying for what happens when a small risk with large consequences comes about in the bank bailout? Why will no commercial insurer cover nuclear power? Because it’s the sort of risk that needs a bailout. And when nuclear goes wrong, there’s no-one and nothing left to tax as a punishment. Hardly a reason to end the speech with a jingoistic “USA!USA!USA!” Hope, my arse.
Actually, again, I lie. There was substantive hope coming from Obama. Michelle Obama. The two initiatives that mentioned her name were the most important of the evening. The question of how better to employ the invariably working-class men and women who were sent overseas to fight for oil, and how to prepare them for better lives and better work when they return, is vital. As is the issue of preventative healthcare and childhood obesity. The ideas from the East Wing are far more sensible, and offer foundations for far more durable hope than the lunacy coming from the other end of the White House.
As I’ve written before, obesity and hunger are two sides of the same coin – poverty attends them both in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control
One of three (33%) men and nearly 2 of 5 (39%) women born in the United States in 2000 will develop diabetes sometime during their lifetime. For men born in 2000, estimated lifetime risks of developing diabetes were 27% among non-Hispanic whites, 40% among non-Hispanic blacks, and 45% among Hispanics. For women born in 2000, estimated lifetime risks were 31% among non-Hispanic whites, 49% among non-Hispanic blacks, and 53% among Hispanics.
In short, one in three of the total population, one in two minority children in the United States born in 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in their lives. Poverty is linked to poor diet, as a study last year by Adam Drewnowski shows.
And when the Food Research and Action Center reports one in five American families struggling to feed themselves, and the Economist notes that half of New York City households are struggling to feed themselves and one in five kids depend on soup kitchens, it’s clear that food poverty now is going to lead to health problems in the future. But do we hear from Obama, or Congress, serious proposals for tackling this kind of poverty, this kind of time-bomb among the poor? We do not.