Friday, March 12, 2010

ABC News on Ugandan Situation: It's All About Hate

It’s all about hate, I just wrote, as I reflected on the organized campaign of influential members of the Catholic hierarchy to demonstrate to gays and lesbians that we are unwelcome in the Catholic church, and are second-class citizens of secular societies.

And now I’ve just watched the report that ABC news did two days ago about the situation in Uganda. 

A horrifying picture of hate on the rise.  In a Christian nation. 

Not a clip from the 1930s in Germany, as Hitler took one Christian nation after another down the path of mass murder of despised minority groups.  And not a report from the Jim Crow era of the American South, when men burning crosses, who sang hymns about God’s love of brown and yellow and black and white children on Sundays, tied up black men, hanged them like animals, and eviscerated and castrated their corpses.

A clip from here and now.  A glimpse into the actions of hate as it just gets underway, in a nation with the same proportion of Catholics that Germany had, roughly speaking, when the Nazis came to power.

A glimpse into how easy it is for a group of people certain—absolutely convinced—that their faith not only approves but commands their hate to whip themselves into an orgy of self-satisfied murderous rage against a minority group.

And so, as much as I find the clip I’ve just watched horrifying in the extreme—my stomach is in painful knots, now that I’ve seen it—I recommend it to readers.  Because we have no choice except to inform ourselves about the development of social hatred with murderous potential in our own world, in the period of history in which we live.

We have no choice unless we want to stand under the verdict of history down the road, as my racist Christian ancestors of the American South now stand under that verdict for the horrifying actions they/we did in God’s name in the past, or as the people of Germany (and France, Italy, Austria, Poland, the Ukraine) now stand under the verdict of history for what they did to Jews (and the mentally and physically challenged, and Gypsies, and gays) in the middle of the 20th century.

Some thoughts about the clip . . . .  Rather, here’s what I see in the clip, though I suspect that there may be many people who will watch it and who will simply not see what’s there.  When it comes to seeing, it makes all the difference in the world when you’re part of the group susceptible to murder simply because of who you happen to be.

Or when you are able to stand in solidarity with that group such that you place yourself in the spot of the one about to be carted off to prison or the execution chamber.

So here’s what I propose we might see in the clip, if we had eyes to see:

1. There’s no reasoning with hate.  The only proper, the only adequate, response to movements of social hatred like the one now sweeping through Uganda is to stand against hate.

You can’t talk people out of hate, once a movement like this gets underway.  The time for reasoning is long since gone, when things have reached this pass. 

The only possible response is to push back hard, to act in solidarity with those under attack.  To refuse to legitimate the unthinkable by arguing with it or reasoning with it as if it is one option among many, in a humane society.

2. Scott Lively is obsessed by the Nazis.  His own behavior re: gays is so eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s vis-à-vis the Jews, that it’s impossible not to wonder if his obsession with the Holocaust has to do with his own internalization, in some bizarre and inexplicable way, of Hitler’s complex.

There’s the same appallingly irrational, unfounded—not grounded in either fact or reason or in any sense at all—need to spread noxious lies about a vulnerable minority, to justify one’s own deeply personal hatred.  The Jews kill and eat Christian babies.  They control the media.  They rob us through the banking system.

They want to infiltrate and infect our Christian society by mimicking our behavior, so that we don’t even know who they are.  In that way, they will marry our Christian women and dirty our blood.  They are licentious and immoral, corrupting our morality as a Christian people.

The gays are dirty, immoral agents working from inside to destroy Christian civilization.

And Germany’s response to the rhetoric about the Jews was, of course, simply to eradicate the dirty, infectious agent undermining its Christian civilization.  Should we be surprised that when Lively and his cohorts chose to ramp up the hate in Uganda, a similar project has developed?

Irrational, unfounded, not grounded in fact, reason, or in any sense at all: it’s not important to Lively and his cohorts to determine what’s true or false.  What’s important is to smear someone you’ve decided to define as the enemy with so much filth that people will act with murderous revulsion towards that despised object.  When the ABC reporter points out that scholars laugh at Lively’s bizarre, totally unfounded attempt to blame the Holocaust on gays, Lively simply scoffs back.

Facts and reason don’t count here.

3. Though there’s a concerted effort nowadays to deny the American evangelical engineering of the situation in Uganda, the signs of that involvement are everywhere.

Literally so: look at the signs the mobs are carrying in the ABC clip, and you’ll immediately recognize them, if you’ve followed this movement in the U.S.  There’s the Phelps family’s icon of two men joined in anal intercourse—to reduce the humanity and lives of gay men to one coarse reductionistic symbol that is all about eliciting hate.

There’s the Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve meme that is everywhere in right-wing American protests against gay rights.  There’s the “Think about the children” sign to remind us of that equation of homosexuality and pedophilia that folks like Scott Lively work hard to keep alive through phrases like Lively’s “flashing neon sign” statement to the Uganda conference that got the orgy of hate underway.

4. There definitely is an orgiastic dimension to social movements of hatred like this, and it seems that orgiastic dimension may be particularly pronounced when the hate is fueled by a sense of religious righteousness.  

Watch the people that Lively and Ssempa are working up into a frenzy of hate, and you can see them—you can watch this happen right before your eyes—fall gleefully into the frenzy of hate.  You can watch themselves give themselves over to the revulsion, hate, and murderous intent with obvious enjoyment of those shameful impulses.

There’s no reasoning with hate when it reaches this level.  There’s only the choice either to collude in it or to stand against it.

5. Ssempa is totally infatuated with his power.  Watch him as he rides through the crowds, receiving their adulation.  Watch the knowing, self-congratulatory look on his face.  He’s riding the current of hate—and controlling it—for his own ends.

He’s, in a word, sleaze personified.  But he’s not uniquely slimy.  And to a certain extent, he deserves pity, since his strings are clearly  being pulled by ideologues who have set him up as their puppet.  The Martin Ssempas of the world and the Christian churches are a dime a dozen.  What sets him apart, tragically, is that he’s an uninformed, narrow, opportunistic little man who happens to find himself in a position of tremendous power, which he intends to exploit to his own advantage.

Ssempa’s response when the reporter asks him, “Does all of this fit in your mind with the spirit of Christianity, which is to help the oppressed?” is astonishing.

Ssempa replies: “Very much.  Very very much.  We need to know what are they doing in their bedroom.”

In one swift movement, he has stepped from a question about the spirit of Christianity as helping the oppressed—which he professes to understand!—back to the bedroom, to their bedroom: we need to know what they do in their bedroom.  A seamless transition, as if there is no discernible rupture at all between the obligation to stand with the oppressed and investigating what “they” do in “their” bedroom.

And so from there to his astonishing fixation on scatology and coprophilia as the definition of homosexuality.  But not astonishing at all, since this is obviously not about finding and telling the truth, but about smearing a group of people with the kind of filth that elicits revulsion and hatred on the part of others.

When the reporter points out that you could show congregations examples of heterosexual pornography that would shock people just as much as the gay depictions Ssempa is now playing in churches, Ssempa completely—and deliberately—misses the point.  He simply returns to his litany: “Anal activity, anything having to do with eating of poop.  Heterosexuals do not eat poop.  Sex with a dog, sex with a cow.”

Ssempa claims he’s done online research and has been shocked to find that gays routinely engage in scatological activities.  And yet one quick search of Google for terms like “scatological pornography” or “coprophilia” or “anal sex”would surely show him that these activities are as likely to occur among heterosexuals as among those who are gay—and so it would be utterly unjust to define all heterosexuals and their erotic lives (and their humanity) by these activities of some heterosexuals as it would be to define all gays and lesbians by the activities of a portion of their group.

This is not about truth, or reason, or research, or facts.  It’s about hate.  In the background, behind the scenes  in the darkness back of the stage, Ssempa’s strings are being pulled by right-wing players in the U.S. who know perfectly well what they’re doing, when they egg Ssempa on to claim that he has suddenly discovered the gay scatological porn sites with which they've provided him, and is shocked to find out that all gays are coprophiles.

The Ssempas of the world are a dime a dozen.  Ssempa is simply a manifestation, and a tragic one, of a  type of “Christian” pastor who exists, sadly, in many places in the U.S. and other parts of the world as well.

The real question that Ssempa’s activities and the orgy of hate now brewing in Uganda raise is how on earth any of this ever came to claim the title of Christianity.