Straight Man’s Burden: The American Roots of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Persecutions
As readers of this blog know, for some time now I have rarely posited my own opinions here. My loyal readers are thoughtful and capable of digesting articles which I believe merit attention and consideration. Some of the articles reflect my own opinions, many do not. The point is and always will be to present ideas worth consideration.
However, this story is so egregious and disturbing I am compelled to voice my thoughts.
The persecution of anyone because of their race, religion or creed is abhorrent. We are right to be disgusted and disturbed by these things. We are right to marginalize bigots, racists and dysfunctional zealots of all kinds.
However, when an attempt is made to legitimize that bigotry by wrapping it in the mantle of religious or political convention, well, that is a bridge too far. Every single example of institutionalized deliberate persecution (as opposed to neglect 0f rights) predicated on the lines of racial, religious or sexual orientation has been perpetrated by oppressive or tyrannical regimes.
We have noted before that when nations that are that are led by or are under the influence of tyrants, dictators or religious zealots, any and all attempts to justify their actions, we can rightly assume that justification is false. Tyrants, dictators and religious zealots do not make moral choices, because moral choices can only lead to the demise of their tyranny.
The question no one is asking is why certain elements within the evangelical movement have made Uganda their front line. There are many other nations and cultures which share equally similar cultures and homophobic attitudes. Russia, Serbia, Muslim nations and others have demonstrated well documented anti gay agendas. Why haven’t the evangelicals made their presence- and big dollars- in those nations?
It is my belief the answer is simple and clear.
Those on the fringes of the evangelical right know they can get away with their despicable behavior because a whole lot of people don’t give a damn about Africa. And this isn’t a conservative-liberal divide. Sudan has been decimated over the last 3 decades. Rape throughout the continent, from Congo, to Northern African nations, to Southern Africa has not been newsworthy for decades. In South Africa, 1 in 4 men have admitted to rape. What we in the developed world turn a blind eye to in Africa would be met by outrage if it were to occur elsewhere. Mostly, these atrocities are met with silence or ignored. For his worthy efforts George Clooney’s agenda has been largely forgotten.
Why is this germane to the persecution of gays? Because if a society doesn’t protect it’s own women or demonstrate and demand protection for women that society will no do so for gays.
Whether we call ourselves progressives, conservatives, anything in between or count ourselves among the faithful, this kind of zealotry, bigotry and racism must be confronted. The last century has shown us what happens when we do not.
SC&A will only publish this one post today in the hope readers will be inclined to read the linked to article more than once and be persuaded to take make this issue a priority. It is that important.
Uganda is at the fore of an anti gay movement that has reached huge proportions.
It isn’t simply religious or cultural backwardness which can be blamed for the cruelty, however. There is also concerted political momentum which enshrines the anti gay environment and legalizes not only discrimination but the most sever punishment of gays imaginable, from jail tine to the death penalty. As a result, anti gay vigilantism runs rampant and summary justice by these groups has become the rule rather than the exception.
Much of this perversion of justice has it’s roots in America. Some- too many- of the American evangelical movement have sponsored and supported much of the political and religious persecution of gays in Uganda. They have done so so unashamedly and have proud to take credit for their ‘influence’. They have even staked out the position that gay rights are not human rights because gay rights are not sanctioned by scripture.
This story is an example of what can when religion goes wrong.
And the story of how racism, no matter how well cloaked, will inevitably turn deadly.
On October 14, 2009, a Ugandan member of parliament named David Bahati introduced legislation called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Among its provisions: up to three years in prison for failure to report a homosexual; seven years for “promotion”; life imprisonment for a single homosexual act; and, for “aggravated homosexuality” (which includes gay sex while HIV-positive, gay sex with a disabled person, or, if you’re a recidivist, gay sex with anyone — marking the criminal as a “serial offender”), death. As of this writing, the bill has yet to pass, despite near-unanimous support in Parliament. But the violence has been building, a crackling fury not yet quite a fire: beatings, disappearances, “corrective” rapes of lesbians, blacklists in a national tabloid, vigilante squads and church crusades, preachers calling out “homos” in their own pews.
The Fellowship is the Ugandan Parliament’s branch of an American evangelical movement of the same name, also called the Family. The Family differs from most fundamentalist groups in its preference for those whom it calls “key men,” political and business elites, over the multitude. The bill’s author, MP Bahati, the de facto leader of the Ugandan branch, has become a national star for his crusade against gays. Winston Churchill called Uganda “the pearl of Africa”; the Family agrees. In the past ten years, it has poured millions into “leadership development” there, more than it has invested in any other foreign country, and billions in U.S. foreign aid have flowed into Ugandan coffers since a Family leader turned on the tap twenty-four years ago for President Yoweri Museveni, a dictator hailed by the West for his democratic rhetoric and by Christian conservatives for the evangelical zeal of his regime.