The Washington Post ran an impassioned editorial January 7, condemning the anti-homosexuality law being considered in Uganda.
Originally calling for the death penalty, the bill now calls for life imprisonment for “homosexual behavior and related practices. “
The bill is ugly, ignorant and barbaric, writes the Post. “That it is even being considered puts Uganda beyond the pale of civilized nations.”
I hate to quibble with such righteous talk, but just who is calling whom civilized?
If by “civilized” the Post means good, western, developed, and all the rest — wasn’t this the week we learned that it was “civilized,” American fundamentalist Christians who helped inspire this legislation — and even write it?
Equating civilization with rights and justice is easy shorthand for editorial purposes, but it’s bad history and lazy journalism.
A report by Political Research Associates has called the growing anti-gay movement in African churches a “proxy war” for US culture battles. Uganda’s long been a target for US evangelicals. Three, Holocaust denier Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, all traveled to Uganda and helped build the anti-gay foment that spewed forth this legislation.
Even such a “civilized” man as inauguration speaker Rick Warren’s praised the Ugandan ministers who back it. Anti-gay missionaries routinely tell African church leaders that gay rights are part of a colonialist agenda. It may be inadvertent, but the Post‘s use of this language plays right into their argument.
The fact is, although demagogues in many countries argue that equality is a Western value — and that gay rights activists, like feminists, are tools of imperialism — lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people exist everywhere, as do homosexual practices, always have, and there’s plenty of history to suggest that homophobia and homophobic practices are the imports.
Traditional African religions blessed same-sex marriage. It was 19th century Victorian Christians who called that barbaric — and their 21st century fundamentalist descendants have continued the practice. Uganda itself has had at least one king, back in the 1880s, who was arguably gay.
Indian anti-imperialist Gandhi, on a visit to Europe, was once asked what he thought of western civilization. His response? “It would be a good idea.”
Perhaps the Washington Post should rethink its word choice when rightly condemning hateful laws. There’s plenty of “civilized” bigotry out there.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.