I originally wrote this post some time ago, but recent events mean it is time for an update.
So. A wee bit of sheep offal and some oats and they shit themselves.
You can buy a hunting rifle and a pound of bath salts off some bloke down the high street, but can you get any haggis here? NO YOU CAN’T. It is banned.
Robbie Burns Day without haggis is like the nativity without Jesus. Clearly I can’t just pop out and pick up a bag of offal, so making my own is out of the question (the question being, can I cook? no I can’t).
A ban on food made with sheep lungs has been in place since 1971. The BSE crisis in the late 1980’s confirmed American opinion that any meat products coming out of the UK were patently oozing with uppity maggots. For forty years, expats in the US have been denied the right to a proper Burns supper followed by a wee spot of haggis hurling. They could, I suppose, make do with a popular American dish called chitterlings, which is steamed pig intestines that have to be cooked with half an onion to mitigate the unpleasant odour.
Something else that has been denied to a large number of people for many years is the right to vote in Washington. Yes, 600,000 people are disenfranchised in the nation’s capital. You can pick up your jaw from the floor now.
Residents are allowed to vote in Presidential elections every four years (the recent election saw a 92 per cent turnout), but they do not have voting representation in Congress. This is because, for various historical reasons I won’t go into for fear of getting it wrong and looking like an arse, D.C. is not a State.
The Obama administration attempted in 2009 to legislate to enfranchise D.C. residents, but couldn’t get the votes needed after the Senate adopted a Republican amendment to the bill to repeal, amongst other things, the ban on semi-automatic weapons in D.C.
Oh yes. Votes for guns. It would be like adding an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill stipulating that a surgeon must get his entire head inside a bong for at least half an hour before scrubbing in. He’d be asking the nurse to pass the biscuits rather than the scalpel.
But things could be changing. President Obama has signaled that he may use his second term to right this wrong. His first step has been to add D.C. license plates with the city’s slogan ‘Taxation Without Representation’ to the fleet of presidential cars. The White House said in a statement: “President Obama has lived in the District now for four years, and has seen first-hand how patently unfair it is for working families in D.C. to work hard, raise children and pay taxes, without having a vote in Congress.”
This has given statehood advocates fresh hope, and lawmakers have introduced bills to make D.C. the nation’s 51st state. Senator Tom Carper said that D.C. citizens “serve in our military, fight in our wars, die for our country, and pay federal taxes. But when it comes to having a voice in Congress, suddenly these men and women do not count. … It is incumbent upon those of us who enjoy the right and the privilege of full voting rights to take up the cause of our fellow citizens here in the District of Columbia and find a solution.”
In the UK we take for granted our right to parliamentary representation. There are few things in life that I get rather uptight about, but the failure to take part in the democratic process is one of them (other things guaranteed to drive me to a seething fury include people who wear sunglasses on the Metro – can i give you a hand? oh sorry, you’re not blind – and Kay Burley). I love voting. My nose gets all crinkly when I walk into a polling station. I remember sitting in my parents’ car when I was little, waiting for them while they voted and having that deliciously shivery feeling that something very important was happening.
Voting provides you with the opportunity to influence long-term political direction and as a massive bonus it gives you the right to have a bloody good rant about the government. What, you didn’t vote? Well shut your pie-hole, then. You are hereby considered mute.
Unless of course you live in D.C. where you don’t even have the choice. No vote, no voice, no haggis. Not yet, anyway.