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Anti-gay Americans not off the hook for this one

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, January 4, 2010 15:19 EDT
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I realize it’s early in the morning to deal with the sociopathic levels of dishonesty that characterizes the leadership of the religious right, but I have to highlight this excellent piece of reporting in the NY Times on the responsibility that American evangelicals have for the Ugandan “death penalty for gays” bill. Of course, what said evangelicals were counting on was the relative indifference the America press has towards foreign countries, especially developing nations. The evidence on hand suggests that the Americans involved in encouraging and writing this bill figured that the press would blame the Ugandans solely—under the assumption that they’re living in a backwater, etc.—and not look into the role that Americans played. And they would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for that incredibly appealing lesbian show host on MSNBC! Maddow refused to let this story go, and now the NY Times is coming forward and demonstrating how the cries of protestation from the evangelicals with ties to the Ugandan anti-gay movement are basically dishonest.

Like this dishonest piece of shit:

“I feel duped,” Mr. Schmierer said, arguing that he had been invited to speak on “parenting skills” for families with gay children. He acknowledged telling audiences how homosexuals could be converted into heterosexuals, but he said he had no idea some Ugandans were contemplating the death penalty for homosexuality.

“That’s horrible, absolutely horrible,” he said. “Some of the nicest people I have ever met are gay people.”

Except, of course, that Schmierer was there to do a talk on how homosexuality is a choice and that people leave the lifestyle behind, which is a belief promoted by the religious right in order to justify throwing people in jail for being gay. (He calls this “parenting skills”.) Like with the anti-choice movement, you have to ignore their claims about what they’re doing, and look at the big picture, especially legally. A lot of legal justice for gays and lesbians has come about as people start to see it as an identity, like race or class status—and you can’t arrest people for what they are, just what they do. By claiming it’s a choice, the religious right hopes to get homosexual sex reclassified as a choice that can be criminalized.

As Rachel Maddow showed, the religious right putting forward “ex-gay” people as shield against criticisms that describe them as hating gay people isn’t working. The implication of having “ex-gays” around has always been, “Hey, we let them use the toilet even though they’ve sucked a cock, what more do you want?” But of course, the real reason to have ex-gays around is to give the hateful lies about gay people some authority, the implication being that those who actually did the deed know for a fact that gays are the evilest evil to ever evil. When an ex-gay claims that gays recruit by raping children, wingnuts can feel good about themselves, because they say, “Hey, he should know.” But of course, that’s simply not true, because the religious right has created huge incentives for so-called ex-gays to lie about their previous (and often ongoing) sexual behavior and habits, in order to keep the esteem and the paychecks coming. And to get all expense paid trips to Uganda to do seminars on how gay men want to rape your children. Here is the description given by the NY Times:

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

The denunciations of the anti-gay bill are easy enough to demonstrate as disingenuous. It’s not just that the organizers presented gay people as child rapists who rape as an organized movement to make your wife stop cooking dinner for you and turn your daughter into a prostitute. It’s that some of them actually helped write the bill.

But the Ugandan organizers of the conference admit helping draft the bill, and Mr. Lively has acknowledged meeting with Ugandan lawmakers to discuss it. He even wrote on his blog in March that someone had likened their campaign to “a nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.”

It was only when he was caught that he started backpedaling, and lamely at that.

One of the more interesting and terrible things that came out of this “conference”—I’d describe it as a hate rally against gays and lesbians—is that it worked like rallies do, to create a cultural trend for exhibiting violent hatred of gays and lesbians. Gay activists in Uganda that the reporter spoke to report on rapes and the fear of lynching as repercussions of exciting already-existing homophobic sentiments. Zambian reverend Kapya Kaoma, who went undercover for 6 months to investigate the role American evangelicals are playing in the anti-gay movement, suggests that these leaders underestimated how Uganda would react to a conference about how gays are assaulting “the family”.

He’s far too generous. Right now, Rick Warren and company’s slow-moving denunciations of this law are due strictly to their desire to stay in the mainstream of American society, and have nothing to do with actual moral outrage. After all, it’s an article of faith for the religious right that gay people “recruit” children because they can’t have their own. There are so many assumptions bundled up in that—that gay people don’t have children, that children can be considered carbon copies of their parents, that homosexuality is something taught at the knee instead of a genuine expression of sexual desire—but I’d like to point out that what the accusation is, at its base, is a 21st century version of the blood libel. The traditional blood libel that was a big deal in medieval Europe was to accuse Jews of killing and eating Christian children. Nowadays, the accusation has changed somewhat—now it’s that gays rape and recruit children—but the structure is basically the same, which is to say that the hated group is constructed as a cult that feeds on your children. And the religious right believes this stuff. One of the books mentioned in the Times article is by Scott Lively, and it’s called “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”.

The point is that the blood libel exists to justify extreme violence against the targeted group, painting them as child-thieves who inflict a society’s most dreaded crimes (molestation, cannibalism) on the children, and by doing so, take them away from the parents. So when the people who perpetuate this myth about gays and lesbians play innocent, we shouldn’t let them get away with it.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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