Category Archives: Editorials

St. Patrick’s Day

IMG_4100I usually look forward to St. Patrick’s Day, the feast day of my diaspora’s patron saint, and what over the generations has become the day each year when the wider Irish-American community parades in front of the country as a whole celebrating our heritage and continued deep ties to our ancestral homeland. Yet St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday that brings me mixed emotions. Every year when I march in the parade down Broadway in Midtown Kansas City with my division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, I feel a series of emotions rolling over me like a quick succession of tides. On the one hand there’s the exhilaration of seeing around 200,000 people lining the street to see the parade and the fantastic public exposure that our group gets from that crowd. Equally though I also feel a pang of helpless exasperation at the tired clichés and old stereotypes kept alive by the American public’s acceptance of the holiday as a day for excess, partying, drinking, and lots and lots of green.

My personal identity has always been a complicated matter to explain. For starters, I was born and spent the first few years of my childhood in the Chicago Suburbs, have lived in Kansas City for the last two decades, yet I’ve always seen my family, particularly my paternal family, as being Irish not only in name but also in character. Despite having lived in the United States since my great-grandfather stepped off the boat in Boston in February 1914, we’ve managed to keep up our ties to Ireland, existing in a sort of parallel society to the one back in our family’s hometown in Mayo, something that I honestly didn’t realize had been as potent as it was until I visited my great-grandparents’ hometown for the first time in July 2016.

To us, we’re just as ethnically Irish as anyone back in Ireland, even though our cousins who stayed behind may merely see us as Americans. That dual, hyphenated identity is a uniquely American concept, after all the United States is a settler-society, a country whose majority population does not have deep ethnic roots in this country but came from somewhere else. In the United States it’s possible to have multiple parts to your identity, to be both ethnically Irish and by nationality American, or for short to simply be Irish-American. Yet there are plenty of people on both sides of the Atlantic who disagree with me on that statement, who live by the melting pot ideal that says that every immigrant who comes to America has their native culture and identity melted down into the great soup, coming out of the melting pot as only an American and nothing else. This all-or-nothing mentality doesn’t help foster dialogue and discourse, nor does it benefit our society as a whole in detracting from diversity. It’s just as narrow-minded as the conservative American Catholics who say that you can’t be a Catholic and vote for the Democratic Party. There are strong pressures on this side, and I find myself asking the question, is there a point where we’ve been living in the United States for long enough that our Irishness really begins to fade away?

On the other side, I often feel a deep irritation and frank dismay every St. Patrick’s Day
when I come across the same old stereotypes and clichés about Irish people that in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were expressions of deep-seated anti-Irish prejudices in Protestant societies throughout the English-speaking world. In a 2015 opinion piece for Time, Professor Mike Cronin reminded readers that in the nineteenth century, St. Patrick’s Day was a day for Irish-Americans “to display their civic pride and TheUsualIrishWayofDoingThingsthe strength of their identity,” particularly in the face of “nativist detractors who characterized them as drunken, violent, criminalized, and diseased.” The greatest irony of how our community slowly became an accepted part of mainstream American society is that our day to celebrate our heritage and the fact that we as a diaspora have prospered so well in the face of discrimination here in the United States has been adopted, commercialized, and appropriated into one of a number of days each year when it’s perfectly alright to adopt to excess that “drunken, violent, criminalized, and diseased” behavior that our ancestors were so vehemently accused of. Any notion among the wider public that St. Patrick’s Day is a day to celebrate and honor the accomplishments of the Irish diaspora in the United States, or the fact that we were able to largely overcome discrimination and, in general, as a community make it in America is lost in a sea of green.

In past semesters when discussing the underlying emotions and causes of racism with my students, a common theme often arises, an understanding that race is fundamentally tied to skin color and therefore that one cannot be racist toward white people. Now, for starters the whole American concept of race is flawed from the very beginning, as is any manner of racism from anywhere around the globe. But here after centuries of institutionalized racism we have so deeply codified that understanding of race as being attached to skin color that in order to fill out any official paperwork, whether it be for a driver’s license or the forms necessary to visit a doctor’s office, one always has to check one of those boxes identifying one’s race. Being of largely Irish descent, with the rest of my ancestors all coming from elsewhere in Northern Europe, I always mark the box that’s labelled “white”, yet I can’t help but feel a pang of frustration in doing so. After all, in order to maintain an understanding that people with darker colored skin are somehow “inferior,” we have to set a standard of superiority. In the United States that standard is being white.

By the simple definition of whiteness, namely having light skin that honestly is more a shade of very pale to slightly red pink rather than categorically white, we Irish-Americans are labelled as white people. But when they were arriving in the coffin ships in the 1840s or on the steamers in the 1910s our ancestors certainly weren’t seen as equals to the White Americans who traced their ancestry back to the English, Scottish, and Dutch Protestants who settled those original thirteen colonies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In part through the very stupidity of categorizing people by their skin color we, along with other European immigrant communities like the Italians, Jews, Poles, Greeks, Russians, and Germans were eventually accepted into the fold of whiteness in order to keep the charade of racial superiority going. Honestly though, the older Americans who insisted on these biologically-baseless racial hierarchies wouldn’t have accepted us into the upper-most level of the American racial hierarchy if we hadn’t forced our way in and proved our worth. In some parts of this country it took the election, and more probably the assassination of President Kennedy for our community to truly become fully accepted in wider American society.

St. Patrick’s Day is a day when we Irish-Americans ought to be proud of all our community has achieved in this country. When we march through our cities before the watching eyes of the rest of the country, we should do so with our heads held high, reminding America that the Irish-American immigrant story is a success story, a story of a community rising from the bottom up, as my friend Pat O’Neill’s book on Kansas City Irish history is entitled. Yet we should be more active in dispelling some of the current narratives and trends associated with St. Patrick’s Day in the wider community. Today in the United States it’s alright to say that you’re Irish for the day and to express that Irishness by living up to the drunken Irishman stereotype, whether you’re ethnically Irish or not. As one of my students said, “you can’t be racist towards white people.” The fact that we’ve been accepted into the dominant racial majority in this country makes it all the more acceptable for all Americans to play into the same racist clichés of generations past.

 

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An Equal and Opposite Reaction

21733868_10214068171760956_1726168460_oOne of the fundamental maxims of physics is that “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” For everything that is said or done something of equal vigour must be in order. By this logic then, for every fascist, far-right, or white supremacist threat to American society and we the American people there must also be an equal reaction by the far-left, by the Anti-Fascists as they have deemed themselves. Yet what good does the threat of violent action do? What is the point of bringing one’s guns to an anti-fascist protest? What is the point of eradicating the memory of all who have had some dirt upon their hands, who committed evils in their lives?

This moment, at the closing years of the second decade of the twenty-first century, is a moment of immense change, of tribulation not unfamiliar to our predecessors from a century prior. We are living through the waning hours of a period of unprecedented social change and extraordinary wealth for many in our society. We have witnessed a plethora of forces at work in their efforts to bend our society to their aims. Some have sought to bend the law in order to further their own wealth and prosperity to the detriment of others. Still more have fought against those egotists in the defence of the common good and the wellbeing of all.

Now, as we look ahead towards the last months of 2017 and the new year 2018 we are beginning to recognise as a society how uncertain our future is. We are realising that our children will probably not be better off than ourselves, that our generation as well will probably fall in economic standing in a way unseen in the past century. It is natural to react to this with fear, to curse the political, economic, and social systems that led us to this moment. But in our present culture we celebrate fear, overreaction, and anger far too much. We have accepted extreme behaviour on television as normal, and in so doing have accepted that same extremism into our own lives.

We have reached a moment in our history when both the right and left are afraid; afraid of losing what they have; afraid of each other. We have reached a moment when the politics of fear have duped millions into electing a man entirely unfit for the duties to which he is oath-bound to serve. We have reached a moment when lies are far louder than truths and accepted as real by sections of society.

We have reached a point where at long last the old Confederate sympathies are being brought into the light of day as racist echoes of a failed rebellion from 150 years ago. Yet the zeal of the most outspoken on the far-left has created its equal reaction to the zeal of the far-right. Both now have sizeable factions at their rallies who are armed, ready to fight.

Extremism in any form is unnatural and unhealthy. Yet in the current moment in American history it is the extremes of our society that are the most vocal. I cannot deny that our political system is flawed, it absolutely is. I cannot also deny that American capitalism favours the rich, that is how the playbook has been written. I would be an idiot to ignore that our society is rigged against anyone who is not male and of European descent, there is a racial hierarchy in this country that has existed since the colonial era. But I would be blind to also deny that we can change things for the better. We can fix our corrupted political system, we can rewrite the codes that govern our capitalism, we can stand up everyday for the rights of all in this country and day by day continue to chip away at those old biases. But we cannot do these things while we are taken hostage by the far-right and far-left of our society. We cannot fully achieve the great work of our society while our society is a hostage to the militant few willing to kill their fellow Americans in defence of their extreme convictions.

We must continue to march, to protest, to organise, and to vote. We must carry on the good work that our predecessors undertook in generations past. We can make this country a better place for our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live in. But we must walk the middle road of moderation to do so.

We must understand the full consequences of our actions, we must learn from our history so that we do not make the same mistakes again. There are many who are opposed to the removal of the Confederate monuments because that is “erasing our history.” I disagree. By removing those monuments to a rebellious movement in our history, we are forcing the book closed on that chapter that has yet to settle. After all, we still see the way in which Americans continue to threaten one another with violence at the slightest hint of progressive reform. To make our society better for the next generations we must rid ourselves of this disease of extremism. We must show those who want violence that through peaceful debate we can achieve far greater things.

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When the far-left responds to the far-right’s threats of violence with equal threats the far-left only continues that same cycle of violence. Consider that maxim again: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Threats of violence may well be equal on both sides, but the threat of violence on the left is not opposite to the threat of violence to the right. It is not the positive to the right’s negative. Only peaceful protest, nonviolent refusal to play by their rules of violence can achieve that. Through peace and nonviolence we find our equal and opposite reaction. Let’s try it for once. You never know, it might just work.

Quantity over Quality

Screen Shot 2017-08-13 at 21.21.11

When we hear many politicians try to add weight to their arguments, they often will add references to their own lives, “I served in the Army for 20 years,” or “Having been a lawyer for 35 years.” In this way, they seek to promote their argument through the weight of what they possess. One of the most common that was used by Congressional Republicans in order to prove they are not misogynists like Trump was to bring their “wives and daughters” into their argument. This is a technique that I like to call rhetorical quantifying, a way of attempting to prop up a fairly weak, or entirely unoriginal argument by showing how one’s relates to the topic, whether it be through family, friends, acquaintances, or personal possessions.

 I’ll be completely honest; this tactic really annoys me. A valid argument will always be able to stand on its own without the help of some extra quantitative fluff. It doesn’t matter that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is married to a woman, nor that he has a daughter, what matters is that his argument is valid. Yet what makes this tactic go by with so little press is that the general public has largely accepted it. People in all situations will attempt to bolster their position in a discussion, argument, or even a fight by trying to show how much better they are than someone else.

 On Saturday, at the height of the chaos unleashed by White Supremacists on Charlottesville, Virginia, a 20 year old from Ohio named James Fields drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors killing one and injuring nineteen others. Upon hearing the news from reporters, his mother in the spur of the moment used this same technique pointing out that her son “had an African American friend.” While she was certainly in the early stages of processing all that her son had done, and the fact that he will quite possibly spend the rest of his life in prison, the way in which she attempted to counter his white supremacist actions by bringing his African American friend into the conversation shows the weakness of this argument. It does not matter that he was friends with someone who is not of European descent, what matters are his intentions and actions.

 Rhetorical quantifying rests heavily upon two particular issues, firstly the use of non-consequential evidence within an argument, that is mentioning one’s connection to a certain group of people or things in an attempt to bolster one’s argument and secondly the inherent possessiveness of quantifying. In regards to the argument itself, both issues are inevitably overshadowed by the fundamental reality that quantifying distracts from the main argument. A listener who should be paying close attention to a politician’s weak denial of misogyny is instead distracted by the sudden appearance of all of the female members of that politicians’ nuclear family.

 Rhetorical quantifying is just one of many tools a speaker can use to distract an audience away from a main point that might be rather unseemly. Though not as irritating as pivoting, an art form exhibited beautifully by Senator Al Franken on The Late Show on 1 August, rhetorical quantifying is a tried and true way to avoid answering the question and attempt to cover one’s tracks. Undoubtedly there will be those in Congress and in many state houses across the country that will use rhetorical quantifying to distance themselves from any of the white nationalist groups that partook in the rally this weekend in Charlottesville. Yet while they may gather together all of their connections to both religious and ethnic minority communities, these individuals will still be wolves in sheepskins.

 Rhetorical quantifying is a deceptive tool used to distract. Yet it is a deception that has become so commonplace we hardly notice it. We should consider our arguments carefully and consider whether what we say contributes or distracts from what we are arguing. In my book, rhetorical quantifying is a quasi-boastful tactic to be avoided at all costs.

Optimism and Belief

Cloud-line

In my life, there have been two things standing as constants: optimism and belief. I have embraced these two guiding principles, and striven in due course to live a better life as a part of the wider human community through them. For me, my faith as a Catholic and as a Christian is an inherently positive one; it is a faith in Resurrection, in Union with the Divine Essence, in the fulfilment of the circle and restoration of humanity to paradise.

Yet to allow this faith to persist I have found myself inherently optimistic, always expecting the best from people, and looking at even the darkest of situations with the hope that is required to believe in something greater than Reality. True, this is blind faith, something entirely counter to the principles of our scientific age, yet in the end is not blind faith equally necessary in a scientific setting? After all, we have yet to learn all that there is to know about nature, our sciences are as of yet unfinished in amassing the totality of reality. Therefore, if we are to accept science as an effective and prosperous measure of nature, then we must also accept that that measure is man-made and limited in its scope.

I see those things measured by science each and every day, and I am in awe of their wonder. I see how the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west, how the stars circle in the sky as the year passes. I hear the wind bristling through the leaves of the trees, and across the tall grass prairies. I have known what it means to be caught on the beach at high tide, and to be at the mercy of the awesome tempestuous power of lightning. Past generations might well have worshiped these forces of nature, seen them as gods like Zeus, Taranis, or Ukko, yet I see them as terrestrial, as natural, as real. The true force, the veritable essence to be worshiped is far greater than even the rolling thunder or bristling lightning.

In these circumstances I am reminded of the American hymn How Great Thou Art, yet in the smallest of moments too I am reminded of God’s coming to Elijah on the softest breath of wind in the cave. Divinity and the essence that made all that we know and love is so far beyond our own understanding, yet in that realisation I find my peace.

Often it can be said that I find my belief renewed through music, through that purest, most mellifluous of sound. Some of the most sacred moments of my life, the most moving moments in the story of my belief have come in moments of music, from operas like Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte to the Pilgrim’s Chorus in Wagner’s Tannhäuser to great orchestral outbursts of emotion as in Stravinsky’s Firebird and most all of Mahler’s symphonies; yet equally spiritually potent for me are the more recently composed naturalistic Mass settings that I sang with the Rockhurst University Chorus while an undergraduate student there from 2011 to 2015. Music has long been said to be the Voice of the Heavens, and certainly it has appeared to be so to me.

Yet what I find the most fulfilling to my belief in the Divine is humanity. In the Christian tradition we believe that humanity was “Created in the Image and Likeness of God.” For me, this means that our souls particularly were made in the Divine Image, but that our bodies also have Divine inspiration. When I see humanity, with all our faults, all our problems, all our pain and anguish, I can’t help but be swept off my feet in grief. Yet at the end of the day I always remember the old adage echoed by Little Orphan Annie, “Tomorrow will be a brighter day.”

I believe that one day that will come true, that one day all will be sorted out in our capitals, our courts, our executive palaces. I believe that one day we will march through our cities, not in protest or in anger, not out of anguish or to alleviate our suffering, but because we are celebrating that most essential characteristic of our humanity: liberty. I believe that someday all humanity will walk together, singing in unison, a multitude of voices, of languages, of cultures and creeds making one song. I believe in optimism, and I am optimistic about my belief.

Designing Cities for People

St Paul's at Sunset - April 2016

St Paul’s at Sunset

In older standards of measurement, the imperial mile (1.609 km) was not the longest measurement of distance available; the league filled that role instead. As I have understood it, one league is equal to the distance a person can walk in one hour. For me, that is around three miles, thus making 1 league equal to a decent distance for a nice morning stroll. In 2016 when I was undertaking my first Master’s degree, this one in International Relations and Democratic Politics, at the University of Westminster, I would occasionally decide to walk the league from the university on Regent Street back to my flat in the shadow of Fenchurch Street station on the eastern edge of the old Roman city.

The walk was quite pleasant, a stroll first down from the university to Oxford Circus, then eastwards along Oxford Street to Holborn, and then down High Holborn across the Holborn Viaduct and past the Old Bailey at Newgate, past St Paul’s and onto Cheapside, crossing in front of the Royal Exchange and Bank of England before continuing down Lombard Street and onto Fenchurch Street. At Fenchurch Street station, I would descend a short flight of steps leading towards St Olave’s Hart Street and under the station viaduct itself past the city walls and into my building on Minories.

What made this a nice walk was that I was able to see so much of the capital, everything from the imperial Edwardian grandeur of Regent Street to the new skyscrapers that are being built across the Square Mile to the east. It was an opportunity to experience London as so many had done so before, to get to know the metropolis by foot. In London this is something that can fairly easily be done, one can walk around the capital if one wants to. Sure, most of the suburbs are out of reach for the pedestrian, but with the well established system of underground and suburban railways, as well with the very thorough bus network, London is a city that a person can easily live in without owning a car, let alone riding in one on a daily basis.

When I moved back to Kansas City at the end of August 2016, I thought I would try at keeping up my walking, to walk the same ten miles each day. Yet that didn’t happen. Far from it, I found Kansas City to a.) be built largely for cars, and b.) with a climate far more harsh than the one I had known in London. As a result, not only did I not walk nearly as much as I had wanted, but I found myself hardly walking at all beyond going out of my parents’ house to get into the car and drive somewhere.

While my own lack of fortitude certainly is to blame in part for this sudden drop in my exercise, I also have to lay blame on the city planners here in Kansas City. This city, like so many others in the United States and Canada were designed, or re-designed, for motorists. In fact, it is illegal for a human being to walk in the street in Kansas City, Missouri; if you’re human, you have to stay to the sidewalks (pavements). The rest of the street is reserved for cars, buses, bicycles, vans, and trucks. We have built this city and so many others like it without the human touch that has made cities so universally human in nature.

For thousands of years, our ancestors have lived in cities that were not unlike the Central London; they were just big enough that an able-bodied person could walk from one end to another in about an hour. Cities were built with walking in mind, with the understanding that all of the basic necessities that a city offers should be within walking distance of each citizen’s home. Smaller medieval cities like Besançon in France, Canterbury in England, or Galway in Ireland are prime examples of this sort of pedestrian-focused urban planning.

“In fact, it is illegal for a human being to walk in the street in Kansas City, Missouri”

Here in the United States too there are some attempts at returning to this older model of having residential and commercial establishments within the same general area. Here in Greater Kansas City there are some newer developments that aspire to this goal. Two in particular that I visited this last Friday stand out to me as examples of how to undertake this task, and how not to do so. The latest pieces in the Town Center shopping complex, Park Place is an excellent example of such a development.

A set of winding, narrower streets lined by three and four story buildings, its street level fronts are filled with shops, restaurants, and some offices, while the upper levels are largely residential. In this way, one can live in a compact community, within which one does not necessarily need a car to get around. I first was able to experience Park Place two years ago when walking a 5K through the Town Center area. At that time Park Place was still under construction, yet even as a construction site it seemed vastly out of place when compared to its neighbours in the most arch-suburban of American counties, Johnson County, Kansas. What particularly makes Park Place odd, and in the end stunted in its growth and feasibility is that one has to have a car to access it. Sure, one could live within Park Place as a pedestrian, but going beyond its towering confines on foot can be a perilous exercise with traffic on the surrounding avenues averaging a speed of around 45 mph (72 km/h).

What Park Place does well is its compactness, including both commercial and residential in the same area. Another, equally new development a few miles south of Park Place ignores this principle of traditional urban planning, setting the residential aside from the commercial. This particular development is the fascinatingly misplaced Prairiefire complex on 135th Street in Leawood, Kansas. Another physically enormous complex, Prairiefire’s crown jewel is the Museum at Prairiefire, billed as Kansas City’s Natural History Museum, and an affiliate with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. While the Prairiefire Museum’s architecture is aesthetically beautiful, its size is much like the rest of the Prairiefire development: lacking long-term thinking.

My biggest problem with Prairiefire is the way in which its residential development is divided from its commercial sector by a massive concrete parking garage. Prairiefire was designed by a suburbanite intending to create their image of a compact urban community, albeit without ever having stepped foot inside of a traditional compact city. By splitting the residential from the commercial, they make it far less amenable to residents to take advantage of the shops, restaurants, and entertainment in the commercial side of the property. What’s more, the Museum at Prairiefire itself is deeply flawed in that it is not built with the ability to expand in mind. The current structure is small, built more like a community arts centre and less like a great temple dedicated to nature.

Our over-reliance on cars here in the United States is flawed at the utmost degree. Should there be a major energy crisis in the near future, the vast majority of our cities and states will find themselves paralysed, unable to function owing to the lack of oil to fuel our cars. Developments like Park Place and Prariefire might be able to last for longer, owing to their relative compactness compared to the more traditional suburban sprawl, yet their isolation amidst the sea of suburbia will soon find these two developments in the same situation as the traditional suburban developments.

Our cities must first and foremost be self-reliant; we must be able to grow our own food, and use our own renewable energy sources to power all aspects of our lives. Yet along side this if we are going to build smart, self-sufficient cities, we must build them more compactly, with ourselves in mind. Just consider, if you are suddenly without your car, and don’t have the option of taking public transport, how will you get around? You could certainly walk around your city, but that prospect is only truly viable if said city is designed for walking.

Today, I generally prefer using metric to the more traditional imperial standards of measurement, yet that most old-fashioned of imperial measures, the league, is one that should be maintained. It keeps us humans at the centre, and reminds us of our own physical limitations and abilities. When we consistently push ourselves far beyond those abilities, we endanger the stability of our societies, making any potential crisis even more disastrous.

Going forward from the U.K. General Election & Hung Parliament

So here we are, Friday morning, the Sun already having risen over the United Kingdom, the Moon at its most brilliant over my home here in the American Midwest, and the results are in for the 2017 U.K. General Election. This election, called by Prime Minister Theresa May in an attempt to secure her majority in the Commons, was a victory for a number of parties: Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, and of course for joint BBC/ITV/Sky poll, which unlike its predecessors in the last U.S. election in November, the Brexit Referendum before that, and of course the U.K.’s 2015 General Election was actually fairly accurate.

Yet missing from this list of winners are some of the key players in British politics in recent years: some of the top brass at the Scottish National Party (S.N.P.), the U.K. Independence Party (U.K.I.P.), and of course Theresa May and the Conservatives. What was supposed to be a rousing victory for the Tories ended up being one of the biggest political mishaps of recent British electoral history, which is saying a lot considering in the last ten years we have seen the fall of New Labour, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, the Milliband brothers, David Cameron, and the omnipresent Scottish Independence and Brexit referenda.

As of publication, 649 of the 650 constituencies have been declared, with the Conservatives leading at 318 seats, Labour in second at 261 seats, the S.N.P. In third with 35 seats, the Liberal Democrats in fourth with 12 seats, Northern Ireland’s two main parties the Democratic Unionists (D.U.P.) and Sinn Féin in fifth and sixth with 10 and 7 seats respectively, and finally the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru in seventh with 4 seats and the Greens in eighth with 1 seat. This leaves the Conservatives in a bit of a pickle, sitting 11 seats shy of the 326 that they need to hold a majority in the House of Commons. Thus, with no dominant party, the United Kingdom officially, for the time being, has a Hung Parliament.

A Hung Parliament is that often most dreaded of moments in any parliamentary election when the results come back with no clear winner. Ideally it will result in the largest of the elected parties forming a coalition with smaller parties of a similar ideology to form a government. This happened in 2010 when that year’s U.K. General Election resulted in the leading Conservatives entering into a coalition with their historical rivals the Liberal Democrats to form the first coalition government since the Second World War.

Should the largest party be unable to form a coalition, let alone choose its leader, as may well be an issue this time around, the next largest party will have an opportunity to form a coalition government with its ideological neighbours. While a very rare occurrence, this would nevertheless prevent the potentially most unwanted eventuality from happening: a second round of the General Election.

So, with this in mind what should the two largest parties, the Conservatives (aka Tories) and their opponents Labour do to ensure that they can craft a government in their image?

The Conservative Prospect

Photo: The Sun

Reports from the BBC Election Night coverage have stated that Conservative Party leadership is in a state of disarray. They did not expect to perform so poorly in this election, and in hindsight it’s early calling (this election was due to be held in 2020) shines horribly on Tory leader and Prime Minister Theresa May. The first question for the Tories is whether or not they want Ms May to remain as leader of their party going forward from this election. Should the Conservatives cast a vote of no confidence in Ms May’s leadership, or should she resign, then the Conservatives will first have to sort out their own leadership before turning to the necessity of forming a coalition.

As to their coalition prospects, they have a fairly simple choice. Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party is a clear ally to the Conservatives. Not only that but the D.U.P. came out of Thursday’s election with 10 seats, their greatest ever victory in Westminster. Should they join the Conservatives in either a coalition government, or as a reliable junior partner it will increase the Conservative majority to 328 seats. The Tories will then need at least one more M.P., most likely an Independent, to join them in their coalition to have a full majority of 326 M.P.s.

All this said, a 1 seat majority is far less safe than what the Conservatives were hoping for when they had their breakfast on Thursday morning. They will have a hard three years ahead of them before the 2020 election when potentially they could lose even that slim majority to Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The Labour Prospect

Photo: The Islington Gazette

Labour is in a slightly more percarious position, yet after seven years of Conservative government under David Cameron and Theresa May they can see the potential, no matter how slim, to take this Hung Parliament to their advantage and form a slightly more diverse coalition government. With 261 seats, Labour is 65 seats short of the 326 needed for a majority. But whereas the Tories are limited in their allies, Labour has a wide range of centrist and centre-left parties to choose from.

In an ideal situation, Labour could seek to form a coalition with the S.N.P. (35), the Liberal Democrats (10), Plaid Cymru (4), the Greens (1), and the one Independent M.P. This would give Labour a coalition of 312 M.P.s, still 14 seats shy of the total needed for a majority. However with the current total from all but 1 constituency (Kensington), which voted Tory in 2015, it seems unlikely that that seat will go for Labour or one of its potential allies.

Labour may be able to form a minority government, but only if the Tories cannot form a majority government with the D.U.P. Yet like the potential Conservative coalition government with a 1 seat majority, a Labour minority government would have their work cut out for them for the next three years in the lead up to the 2020 General Election. Nevertheless, such minority governments have been successful in the past.

Conclusions

In the end, the 2017 General Election might well be called Theresa May’s folly; holding the snap election was her decision to make, and in the end she made it in April when the Conservatives had far higher polling numbers. What Theresa May did not take into account was a.) the reaction to Brexit, b.) the terror attacks in London and Manchester, and c.) the way in which Jeremy Corbyn and Labour would react to her campaign strategy, message, and tone, countering it with an equally potent and frankly more positive message for Britain.

At this point, I do not know what will happen in the next fortnight in Westminster, let alone who will occupy 10 Downing Street when the dust has settled from Thursday’s democratic festivities. All that I can say is that perhaps more than any other time in the last ten years has the U.K.’s General Election reflected events going on beyond its shores. Its unsure results is by far a sign of these most uncertain of times.

 

Edits: 9 June 2017 at 15:12 BST, 09:12 CDT: article updated to reflect current seat totals with 649 of 650 constituencies reporting.

We Stand Together

18946991_10213047198957274_893548281_o.jpgAt this point in time, after so many terror attacks around the world in recent years, my initial reaction to the attack in London last night was somewhat muted and reserved. I was not surprised that it had happened; yet I was nevertheless deeply distressed that innocent people would be so brutally assaulted. The three attackers, their identities as of yet unannounced by the Metropolitan Police, will spend eternity lapping in the seas of ignominy, far from the verdant peaceful halls of rest that they may wished to have known.

They died attacking innocents; their last actions in this life were in the spirit of chaos. With all that said, they were still human, and as a Christian I believe they, like the rest of us, were made in the image and likeness of God. So, as time passes and I think on their final acts, I will be helpless but to consider them as humans, like the rest of us, and so mourn their poor decisions and pray for their souls, that eventually they, and their victims, might find peace.

We are all human; we all start our lives with that one equalising factor. If terrorists, warlords, and fearmongers seek to divide us, we must constantly remember what unites us. For the sake of our future we must stand together. In the wake of the latest attack we have a choice: to retaliate with ever increasing violence and terror, or to stand taller and remain above their cowardly and weak tactics. When they offer war we must offer peace. When they taunt us towards destroying all they know and love, we must not validate their evil by doing so.

Our societies and governments are founded upon the basic principles of constitutionalism. They are built on the principle that no one should be above the law. Justice is the rudder of our ship of state. Every time we treat anyone as less than their rightful station, every time we jump to conclusions about a person without facts or evidence, every time we respond to terror with terror, baying for blood, we undermine that omnipresent principle of justice for all. After all, once we begin to look out from beneath our blinders and consider the people around us, we will surely see another human being with feelings and hopes, with dreams and desires not unlike our own.

I did not know the men who attacked the crowds on London Bridge or in Borough Market. As of the time of publication the police have not released their names. Nor did I know the seven people whom they killed. I do not know what they were like, what they dreamed about at night, who they loved, or what their favourite things were. What I do know however is that they were all humans like me.

In my culture the golden rule is to treat others as you would want to be treated, and while these attackers certainly did not do that, how can I stand by that rule without seeing them as humans. Sure they were flawed, after all what they did is reprehensible to the highest degree, but all the same they were human. I hope that all involved, perpetrators and victims alike can find peace in this life or in the next. At the end of the day if we want the terror to cease, we must stand together as one common humanity. We must be the change, the light that will douse the darkness. The day we cease to preach and live love is the day we give in to terror and chaos.