State of the Union; freedom

Finally Obama made mention of that great American rallying cry of freedoms; “America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change.” This was in regard to encouraging democracy abroad and in particular with relation to Burma whose development and recognition of freedoms over the last two years has been remarkable.

But what about freedom at home? Obama did state “Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home.” However this was about voting, about having to wait too long to cast ballots. He announced “a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.” This does not seem to me to be a priority; of course it is nice if people can vote quickly and efficiently but I very much hope this will look at voter registration as well so looking at those who are really disenfranchised rather than those who are put off by queues.

A different right that Americans have was always going to be a center point to this speech; the right to bear arms. Obama appealed to Americans to “come together to protect our most precious resource: our children.” As of course Obama cant make this happen himself he was left saying “they deserve a simple vote” so there is of course no guarantee of tighter control on guns. In this debate both ‘security’ and ‘liberty’ are on both sides. Should Liberty mean the right to have a gun, or the right not to worry about your neigbours guns? Should Security mean the right to defend yourself or the right not to have to defend yourself from someone with a gun?

Near the end of the speech Obama said “We were sent here to make what difference we can, to secure this nation, expand opportunity, uphold our ideals through the hard, often frustrating, but absolutely necessary work of self-government.” ‘Frustrating’; perhaps Obama is acknowledging that he in his first term did not spark the revolution in security and liberty that many were hoping for. Will the second be any different?

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