Americans, lovable as they generally are, have this annoying tendency to suggest, explicitly or implicitly, that they’ve solved every little problem in life. Out of morbid curiosity hordes of them do visit that overseas country called Europe every year, only to remind themselves how much better the US of A is.
An American reader of one of my books, a professor of something or other, once wrote to me, ‘You Europeans are welcome to your music and cathedrals. Here in America we have something much more important.’ He didn’t specify what that was, leaving me to infer that he probably meant that panacea for all ills: democracy, American style.
Americans, especially those of the neoconservative persuasion, have lifted universal suffrage to the moral perch of universal goodness hitherto reserved for God. In a way that’s understandable: in the absence of real God a surrogate is desperately needed.
By way of proselytising their quasi-religion, the neocons have whipped up a hysterical worldwide campaign for the so-called Arab Spring, which is a cryptic term for replacing unsavoury secular regimes with even more unsavoury fundamentalist ones. But never mind the substance, feel the form: as long as them folks down there vote like us, everything’s hunky-dory.
The underlying idea is that the moment Middle Easterners and other foreigners start emulating Midwesterners in their political techniques, they’ll eventually become PLUs – People Like Us. And, like the real thing, the quasi-religion won’t suffer much from contradicting evidence.
For democracy is the neocon God, and God never fails – never mind all those democratically elected Hitlers, Peróns, Mugabes, Putins and Macîas Nguemas (who gratefully murdered a third of Equatorial Guinea’s population that had voted him in). Nor will the God of democracy fail those A-rabs – a voting booth is all they need to become Western, if not quite Midwestern yet.
In the light of that one wonders how the neocon press will cover the news that Egypt’s parliament is about to pass a law allowing men to have sex with their dead wives for up to six hours after their death. I struggle to think of a way in which such developments show a closer proximity of Egyptians to the West – unless one wishes to suggest maliciously and falsely that the ensuing acts will be ballistically similar to those practised by some proper English ladies.
Not even such facetious arguments will be applicable to another piece of legislation about to go through Egypt’s newly westernised parliament. To make sure that couples will postpone necrophiliac sex until a very distant future, the new law will lower the minimum marriage age to 14. And to make sure those barely post-pubescent girls won’t be distracted from their mission in life, another law will deprive women of any rights to employment and education.
Let US neocons and their followers elsewhere talk their way out of this one. On the one hand, Egypt is now laudably democratic. On the other hand, their laudably democratic parliament will soon pass lamentably misogynist laws, those consistent with Islamic rather than Western jurisprudence. A case of clashing pieties if I ever saw one: democracy good, misogyny bad. Which one should come out on top? Beats me, but I’m sure neocons won’t let facts interfere with a good story, or rather fairy tale.
Perhaps they’ll point out that some American states also have quaint sex laws, so what’s the difference? Well, the difference is in the degree and nature of quaintness.
For example, in Illinois it’s illegal for a husband and wife to have sex while out hunting or fishing on their wedding day. Juxtaposed to that Midwestern law is the one recognised in most Middle Eastern countries, stipulating that, after having sexual relations with a lamb, it’s a mortal sin to eat its flesh. In Arkansas, adultery is punishable by a $100 fine. In Indonesia autoeroticism is punishable by decapitation. Moreover, one has a sneaky suspicion that some of the bizarre American laws are enforced less rigorously than their counterparts in the newly democratic lands.
Nowt as queer as folk, as they say upcountry. And the queerest of all are the folk who base far-reaching geopolitical decisions on silly pieties, woolly thinking and ideological afflatus. Come to think of it, that describes our neocon friends with startling accuracy.