Barack Obama and the donuts of democracy

The fifth of my Fitzsimons columns from summer 08/09.

Barack to the future

I regularly get up in the middle of the night to watch football (or soccer, to the uninitiated), but I’ve never before woken at 3am to watch a speech. And I’m glad I did. A friend threw a “Yes We Canapés” Inauguration Party – surely a strong early entrant for Groan-Inducing Pun Of The Year – and the thirty or so insomniacs in attendance drove the neighbours batty with our cheers. Like the crowds in Washington, we also booed Dick Cheney, who was looking even more like an evil mastermind on Wednesday morning than usual. All he needs now is a fluffy white cat to stroke indulgently while he pushes the button that sends the henchmen that fail him to their doom.

I was struck by the stark contrast between all of that American idealism and pageantry and our own low-key attitude towards politics. Can you imagine anyone watching Kevin Rudd give an 18-minute speech with tears in their eyes caused by anything other than boredom?

But then I remembered a day when I stood and watched the PM speaking in Canberra, and his words brought a genuine drop or two to even my cynical eye. It was February 13 last year, when Rudd apologised to the Stolen Generation. We don’t have a black Prime Minister yet, of course, but like Obama’s inauguration, the event saw thousands of people take to the streets in a moment of national reconciliation.

The day 250,000 Sydneysiders walked across the Harbour Bridge in 2000 was a similar moment of genuine collective joy at confronting a past wrong. And it made me think – shouldn’t we make sure there are more days like that? There’s a public holiday tomorrow to celebrate the foundation of white Australia. It’s time we had one to pay tribute to our indigenous heritage as well.

Krispy Kreme meets the dough nutcases

Of course, Inauguration Day saw a frenzy of promotional tie-ins. A doughnut chain released this inspiring statement:

Krispy Kreme is honoring American’s sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, [we] are making an oath to tasty goodies — just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet ‘free’ can be.

Now, see if you can guess what aspect of that corny press release whipped the religious right up into a frenzy? Ten points (but no free doughnut) for anyone who guessed “choice”. According to Julie Brown, the President of the American Rights League, “the unfortunate reality of a post-Roe v. Wade America is that ‘choice’ is synonymous with abortion access.” As opposed to something that’s exercised on voting day, of course.

I’m not going to delve further into the thorny politics of abortion, since I don’t really think men should lecture women about what to do with their bodies. The surprising thing, though, is not the utter loopiness of this press release, but that Krispy Kreme bothered to issue a response clarifying that their free doughnut giveaway “was not about any social or political issue”. Big mistake, guys – it’ll only encourage them.

Kentucky Fatso Cricket

Why on earth has Cricket Australia appointed KFC as its Official Restaurant? Now, I enjoy the flavoursome oil bonanza they call Original Recipe Chicken as much as the next person who ought to be dieting. But in a nation where children’s waistlines are ballooning like a Richard Branson publicity stunt, associating fatty foods with sport is surely unacceptable. KFC has already succeeded in rebranding itself so its name no longer contains the embarrassing F-word, and now they’re being allowed to run ads where our cricketing heroes order food that surely no responsible athlete would dream of eating. For the sake of children’s health, KFC should either be forbidden to sponsor the cricket, or forced to feature Merv Hughes and Boonie in every ad.

Bagging the plastic

Driving into Kangaroo Valley this week, I noticed a sign proudly claiming that the South Coast town was plastic-bag free, a policy they’ve had since 2003. In practice, it meant that when I stocked up at the minimart, the cashier just put my groceries into a cardboard box. Why can’t every supermarket do this instead of forcing absent-minded people like me to add to our vast collection of reusable green bags every time we shop? It’s such a simple concept that even Peter Garrett might be able to make it happen.

Wayne’s World

Every year, the G’day USA Festival promotes Australia to our beloved allies across the Pacific, and the Aussie contingent in Hollywood mucks in to try and give our national profile a boost. It’s a more crucial mission than ever this year in light of the financial crisis. And the Government representative attending to stir up excitement about Australian tourism and investment? Wayne Swan. We’re doomed.

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