Thursday, February 03, 2005

Common Law

The United Kingdom and the United States share a rich and meaningful heritage. These links are based on a belief in democracy, respect for the individual, and the principal that citizens should be able to decide their own destiny. There are heartening signs that our shared values, enshrined in 200 years of history, are alive and well. If all politics are local, then the confirmation of a common political culture must be discovered in local politics. Enter Senator Frank Shurden (D – Henryetta County, Oklahoma) and Councillor Flo Clucas (member of the Liverpool City Council). It’s difficult to know where to start this ode to democracy.

The Oklahoma legislature outlawed cockfighting in 2002, citing the brutality of the contest. The image of crazed sports fans betting on which rooster could blind, slash and peck its opponent to death was a bit much for the politicians who want everyone to think that Oklahoma is one huge Broadway stage set. The thought of a bloodthirsty cowboy drooling over more butchered chicken parts than Colonel Sanders somehow undermined the ‘Visit Oklahoma’ message. Senator Shurden has stuck a blow for democracy however. To save what is claimed to be a $100 million dollar business, and ensure that everyone in the OK State who wants a feather pillow can have one, he has introduced a motion to allow cockfighting under strict guidelines. The roosters will have to wear little boxing gloves on their feet and electronic protective vests that record the number of hits and tally up the winning score. The good Senator commented ‘it’s like the fencing that you see on the Olympics, where they have little balls on the end of the swords and the fencers wear vests’. The spirit of democracy and sport lives in Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, the Liverpool City Council has voted overwhelmingly to set up a red light district. The image of leering men in raincoats arranging a tryst with painted women in front of the Pig & Whistle might be a threat to Liverpool’s reputation as a family oriented town (if you stay away from the docks). In an attempt to save what is probably a £100 million industry and to rid the residential neighbourhoods of street walkers, the district will be near an industrial estate with controlled entry points and closed circuit TV cameras. Adequate parking will be provided and public transport links will ensure easy access for those who do not drive. A health and welfare centre will be set up and police and wardens will patrol the area. Councilwoman Clucas remarked, ‘we had to come up with a solution to the terrible problems caused by prostitutes working in our residential communities’. The spirit of democracy and sport lives equally well in Liverpool.

These two experiments in government demonstrate both what is right and what is wrong with democracy. They reveal a thirst for freedom (or at least a thirst for blood and unbridled coupling) that can shine as a beacon to the Middle East. However, they also demonstrate the drawbacks to using the heavy hand of government to answer all of life’s little problems. Watching well behaved roosters tap each other on peck-proof vests and finishing a fight to the death with a gentlemanly wing-shake takes a bit of the excitement out of the contest. Sharing a bus with 50 guys in raincoats on your way to a well lit car park, queuing up to be videotaped and checking into the wellness centre for a bottle of blue ointment takes a bit of the romance out of the chase.

In the spirit of our shared heritage, perhaps Senator Shurden and Councilwoman Clucas can combine forces. If Oklahoma builds wellness centres for roosters and Liverpool requires hookers to wear boxing gloves and peck-proof vests, all the birds can be covered by one law.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed. But what is the point of your post? Ha ha? I don't get it.

10:35 PM  

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