The US gay marriage lawyers vs Bashar al-Assad
The Heroes: Theodore Olson and David Boies (with a little help from Apple, Google, eBay, Facebook, Starbucks, Disney and a whole bunch of Republicans)
On March 26 arguments begin in the US Supreme Court over the question of whether bans on gay marriage (i.e. direct discrimination) are Constitutional. Olsen and Boies are the men arguing in favour of gay marriage and last Thursday they filed briefs explaining the grounds upon which they shall be making their case. And it may be the most forward-thinking, comprehensive and eloquent argument for change you're ever likely to find. This is them on how anti-gay marriage advocates are the ones redefining marriage: “a cramped definition of marriage as a utilitarian incentive devised by and put into service by the state—society’s way of channeling heterosexual potential parents into ‘responsible procreation.'” And more tellingly, this is them on the briefs filed by the anti-gay marriage side: “In their 65-page brief about marriage in California, Proponents do not once mention the word ‘love.’” Zing.
They're joined in their quest by some 278 major companies and dozens of senior Republicans, suddenly giving this recently unthinkable judicial moment an increasing air of inevitability. Obama has 24 hours to join them.
And Australia? Well, we just want to stop the boats.
The Sidekick: the Italian electorate
Ok, so they voted for instability and now it looks like nobody will be able to form government and on the back of that the world's markets lost their goddamn minds, but as a resounding vote against the endless wave of austerity crippling Europe and prolonging the eurozone crisis, well you had to applaud at least a little bit. Every time voters in Europe reject the brutal cost-cutting measures being imposed from above, economists the world over wail and gnash their teeth as if the people are fools rejecting life-saving surgery, but it is precisely that arrogance and unthinking economic orthodoxy that is keeping Europe mired in its greatest crisis since the Cold War. The powers that be in the EU are treating the whole affair like an accounting exercise, but in their short-sightedness they come ever closer to losing hold of the very thing they're trying to save: that integrated, total Europe that for a few short years looked like it was almost on the verge of becoming the world's dominant economic power. Not a single country in the EU has shown anything approaching real growth for years and unemployment is so high it's at risk of sabotaging an entire generation. One hopes that such stinging rejection in one of the eurozone's most important economies serves as a wake-up call for the EU to start investing in their people once more.
The Villain: Bashar al-Assad
One night, when I was about 4, I cracked the absolute shits when Mum told me bathtime was over. I just plain refused to get out. Mum tried to wait me out, but I had turned the dial all the way to obstinate. Eventually Mum let the water out, thinking that the absence of the very substance that makes a bath a bath would break me, but I would not be moved. I just remained in this empty bathtub, completely naked, growing ever colder, staring straight ahead and refusing to engage with the enemy. After half an hour there was nothing else for it. Mum bodily lifted me out of the bath while I wept and wailed at the injustice of it all.
This is basically the closest analogy I can think of to the actions of Syria's homicidal President Bashar al-Assad these days. A petulant 4-year-old refusing to believe that bathtime is indeed over. Just replace my tears with his blindly loyal military and extensive array of Scud missiles. Last week alone, the government fired four ballistic missiles into civilian regions of Aleppo, killing at least 141, half of them children. Even that a veritable drop in the ocean compared to the over 60 000 already killed and the hundreds of thousands rendered homeless by this monster's desperate, futile bid to remain in power. Assad isn't just staying in the bath. He's smearing his shit on the sides too.
The Henchmen: The Conclave of Cardinals
Soon all eyes will be on the Vatican, where the Catholic Church's senior lieutenants will gather to "await guidance from God" (read: the outgoing Pope) and decide on who will be Benedict's replacement. There are 125 cardinals who take part in the conclave. 124 after Britain's most senior cardinal was forced out due to inappropriate advances he made to junior priests years ago (funnily enough, less than a week after he called for priests to be allowed to marry). Fortunately the rest are pure of spirit, right? Well, at least a dozen (i.e. 10% of the highest ranking Catholics in the world) are heavily embroiled in allegations that they covered up sexual abuse in their various dioceses, which is a rate of scandal that you probably wouldn't really accept in many other governing bodies. Still, at least this is a chance for the Church to confront its problems and attempt to modernise, yeah? Only if you count picking a non-white Pope as modernity. It's a distinct possibility this time, but cardinals from developing nations (emerging markets?) tend to be as, if not more conservative than the norm, so, well, don't hold your breath. Aside from that, the frontrunners are an orthodox lot, so we can probably look forward to many more years of phased obsolescence from the Church that once ruled the world. I mean, who wouldn't want to party with this dynamic lot?