As noted in the first comment on the Uganda post below, we were admonished by a frequently irritated visitor to this blog for talking about the crimes against humanity unfolding in Uganda. Apparently – and I don’t know how else to interpret these words – because we are “highly educated” and fortunate to live in the rural end of the most affluent county in “the most free country in the world,” our concern about what’s going on in Uganda at the alleged direction of a US-based hate group leader is “over the top.”
I take the position that if you’re a human rights advocate, you should be concerned about crimes against humanity anywhere, not just where you live. And you should be especially concerned when the crimes are the outcome of collusion with a U.S. hate group leader, who is running the operation from within your own country precisely because it is free.
The situation in Uganda began with propaganda that defamed and dehumanized LGBTI people with claims that we sexually assault children. All human rights catastrophes started somewhere, and studying them is how we learn to do better. Do I think that what’s happening in Uganda could happen here, just because Scott Lively is the leader of a hate group, and Eugene Delgaudio is also the leader of a hate group? No – but pretending so is a lazy, simpleminded way to attack Eugene’s critics, isn’t it?
Anti-gay hate groups don’t have much of a future here. It’s more likely that when Nervous Eugene‘s cash cow runs its course in the U.S. he’ll move on to something or somewhere else. And if that new enterprise involves human rights abuses of LGBTI people in some other country we’ll have a responsibility to help them, too.
So this happened in 1935, as human rights advocates were warning of the deteriorating climate for certain disfavored groups in Germany:
The Olympic boycott movement in the United States was referred to as a policy limiting the athletes’ freedom, while the International Olympic Committee’s policy was cited as a policy of freedom giving the individual the right to decide of his own free will.
The New York Times (via John Aravosis) is reporting here on an agreement between German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and International Olympic Committee chairman Count Henry Baillet-Latour that “anti-Semitic placards will be taken down in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the scene of the Winter Olympics, and Berlin, the scene of the Summer Olympics” for the duration of the 1936 Games. Leaving them up would have been so unseemly.
“The NYT added that IOC chair Baillet-Latour was ‘well satisfied’ with Hitler’s assurances to temporarily pause his campaign of hate against Germany’s Jewish minority,” observes Aravosis.
Baillet-Latour attacked the activists organizing a boycott of Hitler’s Games with claims that their human rights warnings were “based on lies” and that their campaign represented only “certain interested groups.” Gosh, you sure wouldn’t want the individual to be denied the right to decide of his own free will whether to make a fuss about human rights atrocities visited on “certain interested groups.” I will leave it to the reader to decide whether any of this language sounds familiar, or acceptable.
Of course, there was no boycott, even though a scene did unfold in which Chancellor Hitler had to reveal to the world his visceral hatred for those humans he liked to regard as less human. That didn’t prevent his crimes against humanity, though, did it?
The basic purpose of the newly enacted Russian “propaganda” law, and the campaign of violence, as we approach the 2014 Games, is the same as Lively’s campaign of persecution in Uganda. It’s explained beautifully here. Speaking of the shifts in public opinion made possible by our visibility and honesty, Eric Sasson writes:
[T]his change only happened because of gay visibility, starting with more and more gays and lesbians coming out to their friends and families. Prominent celebrities and politicians revealing their sexuality, along with LGBT characters in movies and on TV, helped de-stigmatize the gay community in the eyes of so many Americans, who began to see us less as predators and AIDS victims and more as neighbors, cousins, coworkers.
This is precisely what the Russian propaganda bill denies its citizens. By criminalizing speech advocating “non-traditional sexual lifestyles,” Russia has denied its LGBT citizens the same path toward progress that so many societies in the West have taken. Look no further than the many reported cases of Russians who spoke out against the ban before it was ratified and who were later fired from their jobs. This is the reality on the ground. And if the gays there cannot speak for themselves without fear of imprisonment, it is up to those of us outside to speak for them..
..If Russia were only denying its citizens the right to marry or serve in the military, I doubt many people would even consider a boycott. What Russia is doing is denying its people their only recourse to counter anti-gay stereotypes and prejudice. This law, along with the banning of pride parades and gay adoptions, smacks of a growing intolerance that many of us worry will only escalate.
And it will escalate, to the extent that it can – that is the point. While here in the U.S. we’re seeing advances toward equality in nearly every sphere of life, only a few years ago in Loudoun we also saw an attempt to force on our public schools a policy with the identical purpose of banning positive expression about LGBTI people and relationships. In the words of anti-gay activist Patricia Phillips, she and her allies wanted “the normalization of homosexuality to be prevented” by restricting student speech.
Naturally, our local hate group leader/supervisor was deeply involved in orchestrating this campaign, imposing his hate group’s agenda on Loudoun residents for personal gain. His fundraising model feeds on attention, and this sort of thing gets it for him. Does anyone seriously think he cares who gets hurt?
As I said, the enterprise has no real future here, and the prospect of a Lively or a Delgaudio orchestrating a campaign rising to the level of crimes against humanity in this country is slim to none. They can’t get away with that. But what is equivalent is the ideology, and the strategy of eliminating or restricting as much as possible the capacity of LGBTI people to be visible and tell the truth about ourselves. It’s really that simple.