November 18, 2010

Exploiting Homophobia To Exploit Africa

Homosexuals can really come in handy and not for the reasons you think.

You see, when a politician in a third world, post colonial country, finds himself in a bind, “Blame The Gays” is always a reliable tactic. Those who are frustrated by the spread of HIV among their young women and children but do not want to address root issues like ignorance, gender inequality, female economic disempowerment and irresponsible, overly entitled heterosexual male behavior, they can too can blame the gays. If a political opponent is gaining more popularity and their intellectual clout and integrity is you showing up, insinuate that they are gay/or that they support gays. Need a quick, easy diversion as you allow foreign NGOs to come into your country and set up shop with no paperwork or records that will enable you and your cronies to skim off the top while your people suffer? Get your citizens distracted and fired up on Christian homophobia. While they are busy hunting down, outing, exorcising, punishing, killing gays and lesbians in the name of Jesus and African Pride, have your round table meetings and broker multimillion dollar deals. Need to whip up some nationalism against the first world countries that have exposed your regime as despotic? Then claim the European gays are attempting to come again into your country with neo-colonialist plots to recruit your children into homosexuality.

Think this is far-fetched?

It is not. The reality is that homophobia is regularly employed as a political tool in Africa, even right here in the Caribbean, most recently in Jamaica, the PM was accused of being a “battyman” and has to make regular comments supporting the homophobia of his constituents or risk their wrath. When gays get lynched, politicians get popular, elected, rich and powerful.

However what is even more distressing is the use of Christianity to whip up the hatred. The situation became so dire in Uganda that Nobel Peace Prize Winner Desmond Tutu had to respond publically on Friday March 12, 2010 thusly:

“Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God's family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships with other men. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counseling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.

Uganda's parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi.

These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.

The wave of hate must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.”

Bishop Desmond Tutu and Coretta Scott King represent one kind of Christianity.

Pat Robertson and the representatives of the Christian Right represent another.

Bishop Tutu of course represents a kind of Christianity that is mainly concerned with Liberation Theology which is extremely sensitive to issues regarding human rights, poverty, inequality and social justice. It is the kind of Christianity that is also personified in the likes of people like Martin Luther King Jr., whose widow, Coretta Scott King, speaking at a 25th anniversary celebration for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund four days before the 30th anniversary of her husband's assassination, said:
"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"

On the opposite, dimmer, far right end of the Christian spectrum are those who throughout history have been ambivalent or supportive of injustice. They happily attended segregated churches in South Africa and Southern USA. They protested against Brown vs. The Board of Education that would desegregate schools. America’s Religious Right comprised of several Protestant faiths particularly the Southern Baptists, Pentecostals and Evangelicals, has a history of supporting racism, segregation and apartheid.

They also support America’s conservative foreign policies on the basis that it is America’s divine right to engage in capitalist exploitation of third world countries with the cooperation of their despotic leaders, as long as there is just enough foreign aid and missionary work to make the population Christian.

Pat Robertson's television show, The 700 Club and TBN and CBN networks are broadcast all over Africa. Would it surprise African people to know that Robertson is part of an American neo-Conservative group called The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), formed in 1981 with the aim of blocking the spread of every single self-sustained, progressive social and economic movement by intellectual Africans seeking self governance and freedom from oppression by racist, minority rule? The man preaching Christ’s love supported apartheid and the white minority rule in Rhodesia (now South Africa and Zimbabwe).

Today, Africa is still bursting with untapped wealth in gold, diamonds, oil, minerals and fertile land ripe for American corporations to pick. However outright colonial oppression is frowned upon by the international community and the UN keeps making their foreign aid require greater transparency so that despotic leaders do not get to siphon everything. So how do American corporations get their way into the African continent without scrutiny for transparency, environmental, industrial safety standards and human rights? Get charity organizations by the Religious Right to front for them.

Ever wondered why lately so many white American conservatives who never really cared about black people on their U.S of A, suddenly seem extremely driven to be the sole supplier of social services, education, and financial assistance all the way across the Atlantic in Africa? Today their Evangelical charities like World Vision, Solar Light for Africa, and the IRD-founded Five Talents are everywhere on the Mother Continent.

They intercept African religious leaders and eventually get them to reject funding from mainline Christian charities and secular sources of aid which require extensive documentation and extensive accounting of how the money is spent. All the African religious and political leaders have to do is sign on to a Conservative platform which includes vehemently abstinence only, anti-pagan, anti-Muslim and anti-gay policies that would never fly in any first world, developed country and the money starts flowing in! Local religious leaders and politicians line their pockets. Most people in Africa are unaware and unable to distinguish between a mainstream Christian charity and a far Right Christian charity whose true allegiance is to American expansionist beliefs and multi-national corporations, not Christ. They never give without wanting something in return.

Just in case anyone begins to suspect when people start lining their pockets and no-bid contracts begin happening, the American Religious Right have one more weapon in their arsenal to divert people’s attention to the truth- homophobia.

American Evangelicals Rick Warren, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, Don Schmierer, Richard Cohen and others are now on the defensive after being confronted about their visit to Uganda to spread their anti-gay sermons and offer up their quack conversion therapies (rejected by every respected medical and psychological authority in North America and Europe) to the unsuspecting African people.

In the New York Times, they claim they had no idea their anti-gay crusade was the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire.

Rick Warren and the evangelical mission that went to Uganda to spread anti-gay messages now claim innocence in any possible link between their campaign and the firestorm of homophobia that came afterwards.

But how could they not know? Any missionary doing the most basic homework before their visit would know that the poor, vulnerable and uneducated tend to be the most meek, pious and pliable by those standards, African people are wide open to unquestioningly accepting a "Man of God"s words at face value. Did these savvy American preachers not know that African people have seen their families decimated by disease and are desperate to re-build strong families. So anything labeled anti-family or a threat to children would inspire violent reaction. Did these American preachers not know that in post-colonial African countries there is a strong cultural drive to recapture pride and power after being emasculated for so long by colonialists, resulting in a hyper-masculine society that sees feminine traits as weakness, especially in men. Are we to believe that they were innocent of fanning these flames into full fledge homophobia when they told Ugandans lies that they would never dare mention in the USA, Canada or Europe; that their gay and lesbian neighbours, friends, children, siblings, are anti-Christian, anti-family and anti-African.

Afrocentrists have become so far removed their own true shamanic, authentic African heritage, they actually believe “the white man” brought homosexuality to what was a 100% heterosexual Africa. Ironically they play right into the hands of racists who assert that Africans are “primitive children of nature” who only know how to mate like animals and cannot have such a thing as indigenous homosexuality because it only exists in advanced cultures among advanced races who have the intellectual complexity to appreciate such variances in romantic love and sex.

The fact is, African spirituality and culture like those of most indigenous peoples, recognized masculine and feminine as equally Divine! This translated into a cultural ease with all aspects of sexuality including natural anomalies like homosexuals and hermaphrodites. There was and still is nothing homophobic about the Orisha or Vodun tradition. In West African/Yoruba tradition, the celestial creator deity Mawu-Lisa is presented as intersex or trangendered. Other androgynous gods include Nana Buluku, the "Great Mother" that gave birth to Lisa and Mawa and created the universe, and contains both male and female essences. Africans were far more sexually sophisticated than the prudish, repressed, hypocritical Christian Europeans who brought their homophobia with them and there is actual historical, anthropological and ethnological evidence that shows that homosexual practices existed in abundance in pre-colonial Africa.

Gay witchhunting, persecution and arrests are on the rise.

The San people native to the area of Zimbabwe (ironically now a very hostile place towards gays) left cave drawings showing portrayals of man on man sex. There are accounts among the Pangwe of Camaroon of men within their tribe who even when offered a large bride price, still prefer to court other men. The indigenous Igbo people of Nigeria allowed “female husbands” women who displayed more masculine tendencies were treated as men and allowed to hunt and to marry other women. Among the Azande in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was perfectly acceptable for royalty to take young male lovers. Tribes in pre-colonial Burkina Faso and South Africa regarded lesbians as astrologers and traditional healers. In the region known as Angola, for generations before Europe arrived, homosexual men called jimbandaa known by their special attire and had a place within their culture but under the new brutal Portuguese regime, it was criminalized and even today their penal records show the harsh punishments meted out.

The authentic spirituality of most African cultures is not homophobic.

Ironic isn’t it that thousands of years ago it was the “white man” who was the prude and we were the free, scantily clad, sexually liberated children of Mother Africa. Can you imagine the Europeans standing there, gouty, pink, overdressed, repressed, sweating in the tropical sun while in utter shock and envy at our ancestors’ near naked nubile women, fit, glistening warrior bodied men and our ability to rotate our hips in dance, hinting at our sexual prowess which the European had long lost when the Church made their spines rigid with shame.

The colonialists were terribly successful at making Africans and their descendents terribly mortified of ourselves and every aspect of our spirituality and sexuality. Now in the 21st Century, it seems the new Neo-Conservative plan is to implement Plan B- exploit that shame. Look, here they come again! Gouty, pink, overdressed, repressed American Evangelicals sweating in the tropical heat. Missionaries paved the road for colonialists the first time around. Have the African people forgotten who in the end got the bible and piety and who got the land and wealth?