Thursday, May 27, 2010

Making The Difference

I want to focus today on Africa, and African affairs. Of late, African countries all around us have been flaunting their peculiar brand of homophobia, laced with ignorance on matters of medicine, science, fact - and tasting remarkably of religious fundamentalism. Relating to this, an item came across my inbox today, which was forwarded to me by a friend. It was a message from an ACDP support group on Facebook, and it went as follows:

"Jo-Ann Downs May 27, 2010 at 2:28pm Subject: DRC visit

I am off to Lubumbashi in DRC tomorrow to teach about 1000 Church leaders about getting involved in improving the country. Need lots of prayer. There are so many terrible things happening to women and children I hope to really make a difference."

This of course, is Where the ACDP completely crosses the line between religion and politics, and works to blur the line separating church and state as well - which it does, simply by existing.

We all know the ACDP, or African Christian Democratic Party. At least, those of us with the inclination to take an interest in affairs which affect us, do.

The ACDP are to South Africa as the Republican Party is to the USA. They are partisan Christian religious fundamentalists, and as is typical of people of this persuasion, their political outlook cannot be separated from their religious outlook. For them, the two are as one and the same - and to that end, government should be inherently Christian and fundamentalist too. By that reasoning, people who commit ritual religious offences (a.k.a. "sin") should also face criminal charges under the law of the land, and in particular as described in the Old Testament - which is rather odd if you consider that the Christian faith is actually based on the New Testament.

The ACDP is on record for its homophobia ever since its founding in 1993 - when it was founded as a reactionary homophobic response to the then theoretical inclusion of gay rights in the new South African Constitution. The ACDP is today still resoundingly religious fundamentalist in terms of its nature, support and policy, and has bitterly opposed every single human rights victory we have won since 1993. Their media spokesperson at the time, Christine Mc Cafferty, co-wrote "the Pink Agenda" with Peter Hammond - which was released by his homophobic group "Christian Action Network" back in 2000. This book was filled with propaganda designed to spread bare-faced lies and gross exaggerations about gay people, and intended to incite opposition and hatred against their obtaining equal rights. The pair utilized as sources, "experts" on homosexuality such as Paul Cameron - a discredited former psychologist who drew on Nazi extermination masterminds for inspiration and even advocated the genocide of gay people as a "solution" for the AIDS pandemic in the 1980's. Nice folks. Nice book too. I have a copy, which so far I have managed to avoid tearing apart while using it as a reference. White-knuckled reading I can only describe as "gripping".

If you read through all the press releases and articles by the ACDP over the past 17 years, the resemblance between them and that little wingnut "church" in the USA headed by Fred Phelps becomes rather frightening. However, I have written ad nauseum about them in the past, and the last thing I want to do is to waste more space giving them undue free publicity here. Besides, if I ever get married, the last thing I need is them coming to South Africa to picket. And believe me, if they are crazy enough to go to the UK and Canada to picket a play about Matthew Shepperd and a funeral of a hate crime victim, I wouldn't put it past them.

To ask a legitimate question however - what will the deputy leader of the ACDP be talking about to a bunch of church leaders in the DRC? A while back she was also reportedly in Uganda, drinking tea and "praying" with the president's wife. Uganda has recently been made infamous as the country that wants to make "turning in the queer" a national sport - and to legalize the state-sponsored genocide of GLBTI people.

Religious fundamentalists, particularly from the USA and Canada have been shown to be key in influencing African nations with their paranoid brand of homophobia. One particular high-profile example is rampant "abstinence only" so-called "education" campaigns - a religious-right sponsored disaster which has been costing the continent dearly, and will for years to come.

So now I ask myself - what business could representatives of this South African minority political party have "visiting" political leaders and churches - particularly in countries which are proving themselves (coincidentally, I might add) more and more homophobic, religious extremist and anti-human rights, day by day - and to "improve" them? I have to wonder what she is going to "teach" them to do? What exactly do the ACDP intend to "improve" in the DRC, and how? And why exactly does it seem that despite the noble efforts of nice fundamentalist folks, things across Southern Africa are not exactly improving - but seem to be getting worse? Perhaps I am just looking at it from the wrong perspective - the wrong "world view", to borrow their favorite term?

According to Jo-ann Downs, she is going to a foreign country to intercede in foreign affairs by teaching church leaders how to "get involved in improving the country" and defend "women and children". How noble of the ACDP, standing up for the poor, weak, defenseless, voiceless people of Africa.

Yet, I also have to ask if representatives of the ACDP have been to Uganda to respond to the overwhelming hatred there? Have they made any appeals to Uganda's government to turn down the religious-fundamentalist hatred, and to rescind completely the Genocide Bill? Have they pushed for an end to homophobic colonial-era "morality laws" which criminalize people's own immutable natural sexual orientation and gender identity? Has Jo-ann been back to visit Museveni's wife to plead with her to intercede on behalf of those whose lives have been, and are threatened with destruction daily? Have they even once criticized President Zuma's appointment of homophobic journalist Jon Qwelane as South Africa's ambassador to Uganda - and the continued silence of the SA government on the human rights abuses in ANY country in Africa? No? Why not?

The ACDP seems very vocal in the press, sending out more press releases than any other party - but of course, I could be mistaken in thinking this, and appearances certainly can be deceiving. After all, these people claim to represent all "true" Christians in what they call "a Christian country", and yet they are still not winning any elections.

They have a lot to say about minor, trivial bullshit things which catch their fancy - like gambling, prostitution and pornography - and that annoying law that allows women to have a say over their own bodies and people the freedom to love each other without living in fear of them. Yes, I can see how that is much more critical an issue than the rampant crime, water and electrical crises we currently face in South Africa. A very topical party indeed, with the interests of the common people at heart.

Full points to them, I can really see them winning in the next election. And that's just it, isn't it? Perhaps they don't have to.

Funny how today I saw articles in a few papers reporting that emails in general circulation which claim that children are being abducted into child-prostitution in preparation for the World Cup, have been flatly debunked by the police. It seems that of all these "reports" - at least eight - the police could only verify one - marking the rest as "irresponsible" rumors being spread by a public eager to believe the worst. And why not? We are so often proven right - so when more bad news comes along, we automatically believe it. South Africans have become so desensitized that we only become stung into action when something personally affects us. It does however tend to make me wonder who would gain anything from starting a country-wide panic about prostitution? Hmm.

Again, moving on - the SA government is already leaning hard in the direction of conservative ideology - with ministers storming out of art exhibitions because of a few semi-nude photographs (or was that just because they happened to be pictures of gay people?) and tabling Bills to outlaw prostitution (as if it was ever actually legal in this country in the past 300 years) and to institute censorship under the cover of "protecting women and children" and "the Family" from the supposed scourges of pornography in the public media. I wonder - when have we EVER seen actual porn on TV and in the papers in this country? I haven't.

I smell a rat there, and frankly - with all due respect - if you don't, then you bloody well deserve to have your media censored by autocrats with a penchant for playing "Simon Sez".

Apparently the Minister of Home Affairs and FPI (Family Policy Institute) leader Errol Naidoo have been burning the midnight oil together over this one for months. That is, if you believe the newsletters Errol has been circulating lately. Ironically, this started out with concern about child-pornography - and has now somehow expanded to cover all pornography. I wonder if anyone else even noticed? Funny how things change when fundamentalists get involved, isn't it?

Also funny enough, I haven't seen any protests or letters in the press about this matter - except from the fruit loops of course, who like to mind other people's business for them. I have to wonder again, are you folks being cowed into not standing up to defend YOUR democratic right to freedom of expression and speech and access to information because you are afraid people will think you actually like pornography if you speak out against this move? Hmm. Makes me think about that.

It's a smart move on the right wing's part here, I think. Nobody wants to speak out to defend their freedom of speech because they are afraid it will make them look like "perverts" - but meanwhile back at the ranch, how many of you out there have a little stash of porn in that hidden folder on your PC? Or a collection of blue movies in your bedroom closet for when you and the missus feel a little frisky? So what if they make it illegal - nobody will know about it, right? Uhuh. I hear you.

Who knows what they will censor under whatever new law they pass to ban "pornography" in public places and media? These are religious extremists, so we should have a fairly good idea by now.

A rope-a-dope is a boxing term to describe fooling your opponent into thinking you're going left, when you're actually going right. And when they fall for your ploy and head left to cut you off, you circle right and deliver the knock-out blow. In hindsight, this is often referred to as someone having zigged when they should have zagged - and that one little word "hindsight" should enlighten you - as in once it's too late.

And as for the ACDP and Errol Naidoo, uncle Errol has had a close association with the party for years, in fact he and old associate Peter Hammond tried to convince them to form an alliance with all the other little crackpot God-hates-fags parties before the last elections. Lucky for us they couldn't stop arguing over logos and limelight and who was more holier-than-thou.

Once again, I am asking if they have made any attempt to work against the hatred behind the homophobic activity in Uganda's neighbor, the DRC? Has the ACDP made any appeals to the government of Malawi to free Steven and Tiwonge or to repeal the uncivilized, inhuman laws that put them in jail? No? Why not?

Have they ever written to Zimbabwe about the hate speech and incitement to violence against a minority group of that barnacle of a dictator, Mugabe? Have they written to Morgan Tsvangerai to protest his incredible agreement with Mugabe that the human rights and equalities of GLBTI people will not be included in the country's new Constitution and discussion on the matter will not be entered into? Why not? (I have to take this opportunity to point out that keeping the human rights of GLBTI people out of the Zimbabwean Constitution is so far, the ONLY thing the MDC and Mugabe have EVER agreed on. Based upon this principle, perhaps some bright spark peace-maker should approach the Israeli's and Palestinians with a new peace proposal - hate us Pink folks instead. Think it'll fly? Seems to work for most conservatives and right-wing politicians. It sounds like a bonus to me, and it will only cost them each ten percent of their populations, what a bonus!)

Has the ACDP ever ONCE admitted that they accept the conventional viewpoint held by the international medical and psychiatric profession that sexuality is a natural inborn trait which cannot be changed by ridiculous "pray-away-the-gay" so-called "therapies", or admitted to the overwhelming evidence supporting the mainstream view and the sheer lack of evidence supporting theirs? Have they accepted that there are mistranslations and historical and cultural contexts in original biblical scriptures which have been ignored by them, so that religious scriptures could be misapplied as weapons of hatred against GLBTI people? No? Why?

Another little question popped into my head just now, and that is: What would Jesus do? One thing is obvious, if there is one thing Jesus would NOT do - is to behave like they do.

It is odd to me that people who claim to uphold "Christian values", speak and act nothing at all like the person upon which their faith was founded. After all, Christ never worked to exclude anyone from society, or from the love of God, or to devaluate anyone's dignity, equality or worthiness. Christ never told his supporters to take government away from the people and to place it in the hands of a religious extremist few. He never preached hatred or persecution or even punishment for perceived crimes. He never once tried to make a scapegoat of any particular community for the ills of the whole - which seems to be a common trait among little right-wing parties such as this. In stark contrast, he preached inclusion, peace, tolerance, forgiveness and love.

It is odd to me that people who claim to uphold "family values" work so hard to exclude GLBTI people from the families they are an intimate part of, and make them out to be a threat to those very families - and a threat to their own religion and society as well. It is odd to me that people who claim to be "Christian" have done nothing at all to justify the name or to do honor to the person or the ideology they name themselves after - but instead, by their conduct, disgrace themselves and all others calling themselves "Christians".

Strangely enough, homophobic fundamentalist "Christian" figures are every so often reported visiting these funny little backward countries, whose church leaders always seem to appear in newspapers, dripping venom and looking for someone convenient to blame for their own self-inflicted troubles, someone who they think nobody will bother to defend. Strangely enough also, quite a few of them seem to be offering advice to and "making a difference" in these same countries. In closing, I think the track record of the ACDP in terms of its conservative and radical views on human rights as applied to GLBTI people, speaks for itself.

So I'm done for now - I already know what I think. The important thing for you should be what you think. Adding it all up, I am left to wonder just WHO exactly IS the real "threat" here? After all, homophobia just doesn't matter to most people if your human rights aren't considered as human as the rest of society, does it?

Perhaps you can answer these questions for me - or for yourselves. Perhaps sometime, the right people will be asking these questions too. And I hope then, at last, that will make a difference.

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