What Soccer Says About Us
Wednesday 30th June 2010,
They call it the ninety-minute nation. So long as England is playing soccer—a game that lasts ninety minutes—the country exists. The flags of
England's identity crisis
Monday 28th June 2010,
, Photograph: NIGEL RODDIS/REUTERS
With its flags rolled up, face paint scrubbed and crusader costumes duly folded, England is set to retire. Not the football team, although after Sunday's sorry performance against Germany that might be an idea, but the nation itself. For, when England's national team ceases to exist as a viable entity – as it did at the weekend – the nation and, to some extent, its national identity goes with it. Most of the flags that have been brandished these last few weeks will now disappear. When the final whistle blew in Bloemfontein, the ref called time on a 90-minute nation. The flag of St George that was flying over Downing Street on Sunday was replaced by a union flag on Monday morning.
These few who reached our shores for help face bureaucratic oblivion
At the Refugee and Migrant Justice centre in east London, people's fates lie strewn across the office, bound up by elastic bands in folders stacked on desks, stuffed in boxes or in piles on the floor. Each bundle represents a person, almost by definition a vulnerable person, attempting to navigate a labyrinthine system specifically designed and refined to exclude them. Each one contains potentially life and death information – documents, testimony, research and witness statements – that could make the difference between deportation and the right to remain. Barring intervention – legal, political, moral or financial (or possibly a mixture of all four) – by Wednesday, many of these files will be carted out of the door by receivers and cast into bureaucratic oblivion. Units of human misery about to become emblems of institutional neglect.
Refugees: a problem that won't go away
Thursday 17th June 2010,
, Photograph: Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty
In early September 2001 a group of mostly Afghan refugees on board a Norwegian freighter sought asylum in Australia from the Taliban. The Australians refused to let them in, in contravention of international law, and instead parked them for processing on the island of Nauru. Less than a fortnight later, a nation not vicious enough to protect refugees from was deemed dangerous enough to bomb. After the terror attacks on 11 September, Australia sent its troops to Afghanistan. In 2003, when some of the asylum seekers went on hunger strike to protest at their treatment, an Australian immigration department spokesman accused them of blackmail and said they should return to Afghanistan – the nation his country, among others, was bombing – and "get on with their lives".
The Saville report is for all our Bloody Sundays
Tuesday 15th June 2010,
, Photograph: William Lovelace/Getty
At the foot of St Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, a plaque stands to honour the 600 protesters who were trampled, truncheoned and teargassed by state troopers on 7 March 1965. It took place seven years before the events on Derry's Bogside, which sparked today's Saville report. They called it Bloody Sunday.
As the Belgian elections prove, language can be a divisive issue
Monday 14th June 2010,
, Photograph: Thierry Roge/Reuters
Less than half an hour's train ride from the multilingual hub of Brussels, Eddie de Block, the trilingual (French, Flemish and English) mayor of Merchtem, defends the right to run a monolingual town. In a municipality with only 3% French-speakers he passed a law, a few years ago, that everybody must not only learn Flemish, a Dutch dialect, in school, but that even in the playground Flemish only should be spoken.
Tea Party is creating waves for Republicans
David Frum should stay away from Vegas. Clearly, the man who wrote Bush's axis of evil speech likes to gamble. But he's not very good at it. Back in February, when I interviewed him for a BBC Analysis programme, he dismissed the Tea Party movement as "a couple hundred thousand people" in "Paul Revere suits" whose influence was hyped by the media. "The Tea Party movement first presents a challenge to people who cover politics," he claimed. "Because they're vivid, because we're looking for what is exciting, there's always a tendency to overplay the importance of the people who are making the most noise."
Gay equality can't yet be claimed a western value, but it is a human right
In a brilliant exposé the Guardian reported how a lone man held up a pink triangle at a demonstration of the English Defence League – one of the most openly anti-immigrant and Islamophobic organisations in the country. When the reporter asked him what it was for he replied nervously: "This is the symbol gay people were made to wear under Hitler. Islam poses the same threat and we are here to express our opposition to that."
Europe’s Democracy Deficit
Imagine NAFTA as a tiny