Ugandans, American Evangelicals, & the Soft Bigotry of Liberal Expectations
Homosexuality is a serious crime in Uganda, and has been for more than 100 years. Gay Ugandans are subjected to unfathomable atrocities ranging from beatings to jail time to the horrifying practice of correctional rape. Public outings are a popular political weapon, leading not just to shame, but to violence, discrimination, and imprisonment.
And now, members of the Ugandan parliament are considering a draconian piece of legislation known as the Anti Homosexuality Bill of 2009 (PDF). Written by freshman MP David Bahati, the proposed law could institute the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” including acts that involve HIV-positive individuals and repeat offenders. The penalty for other homosexual acts would increase from 14 years to life in prison. In addition, friends, neighbors, and even clergy would be deputized as informants, and imprisoned for “aiding and abetting” homosexuality.
Who is to blame for this inhumane proposal? Surely not the Ugandan people, all of whom are pure in thought, word, and deed. And certainly not the beneficent legislators, eager to do what’s best for the people. So who bears the blood of Ugandan gays on their hands?
American evangelical Christians, of course!
You see, not one, not two, but three American evangelicals visited Uganda last March to speak at a conference about “the gay agenda – that whole hidden and dark agenda.” When these evangelical serpents arrived in Uganda, the noble savages fell from gay-loving grace upon tasting the forbidden fruit of homophobia and hatred. And as the sweet, sweet juices of Western exported Christian fundamentalism ran down their chins, the epiphany set in: death to Sodomites!
At least, that’s the implication of the meme that’s been sliming its way through the liberal smear machine, culminating last week with the publication of “Americans’ Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push” in the New York Times:
For three days, according to participants and audio recordings,thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”
Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.
NYT writer Jeffrey Gettleman eventually gets around to a grudging admission that anti-homosexual bigotry existed in Uganda before three American nobodies showed up to enrapture thousands. But the intended takeaway is clear: it is not Ugandans, but American evangelicals who are to blame for the Anti Homosexuality Bill. And untainted by the nefarious influence of three Americans you’ve probably never heard of – Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmierer - the good people of Uganda would have maintained their anti-gay status quo.
Western homophobia: it’s magically delicious!
Without a doubt, the trio of American anti-gay activists are among the rankest of human garbage, and the Ugandan event was permeated by the unmistakable stench of hatred and bigotry. There is even video evidence of Scott Lively at the Ugandan conference describing gays as serial killers, child molesters, and sociopaths.
These are the same falsehoods spread by anti-gay groups in the United States. Are we to believe the average Ugandan is far more susceptible to hateful rhetoric than the average American?
Sounds like the soft bigotry of low expectations to me.
And it’s precisely those low expectations of the poor, unwitting Africans that we hear echoing throughout the liberal mediasphere.
The Seattle Times editorial board makes it clear the Ugandans aren’t to blame for the anti-gay extremism in their government:
Gays and lesbians are a frequent target for those who preach a theology of exclusion and holier-than-thou dividing lines. Familiar language at home, but now it is a vile export.
Homosexuals in Uganda are literally in fear for their lives after three American evangelists traveled to Africa to find far-flung converts for the rhetoric of the U.S. culture wars.
Shakesville blogger Melissa McEwan theorizes (conspiracy-style) that “the extreme anti-gay legislation under consideration in Uganda was underwritten by the secretive American evangelical organization known as ‘The Family.’” In her defense, McEwan didn’t expel this steaming pile of crazy on her own – she picked it up on MSNBC.
Professional moby turned liberal lapdog Charles Johnson writes:
What a shock — preaching hatred leads to hatred. Who could ever have guessed?
Just appalling. This is where the rhetoric of the religious right leads, and don’t fool yourself — there are many people on the right who support Uganda’s persecution of gays, and would like to see the US do the same thing.
True to sycophantic smear formula, Johnson then attempts to tar the entire right based on anonymous comments of unknown origin at Free Republic.
PZ Myers calls the three evangelicals who attended the Ugandan conference “the people responsible for inciting hatred of gays in Africa.” He continues, “The only reason they are running from it now is that it happened far faster in Uganda than they expected, and they’re suddenly standing their with a smoking gun and blood on their hands, rather than at a safe remove with the apparatus of the state peeling away the rights from people, one by one.”
And Jill at Feministe relieves the Ugandans of culpability like this: “This is a tried-and-true pattern among religious radicals. They set a fire, fan the flames and then feign shock when something burns down.”
Sure thing. In a matter of hours, an entire country of Africans was radicalized by a trio of inconsequential Westerners. These evangelicals must be to Uganda what David Hasselhoff is to Germany!
The thing is, anti-gay sentiment is rampant in Africa, much more so than in the United States. While American gays are fighting for the right to marry, many of their African counterparts are fighting against imminent execution. Are we to assume that the same three idiots from America been running amok in Africa, filling innocent, impressionable minds with Christianist hatred and bigotry?
And here’s a question: if even “Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has linked gay practices to Western influences,” why would the country’s leaders turn to the imperialist West to pile on with more advice? Couldn’t it be that the Ugandan conference organizers were using Lively and company as pawns to promote their anti-gay agenda?
“When you demonize lgbts as predators, just what do you think would happen?” asks a blogger at Pam’s House Blend.
What do I think? I think the Ugandan people aren’t unruly teens succumbing to peer pressure at a kegger. And they aren’t smooth wax tablets awaiting the stylus of their Christianist overlords. Ugandans are just as capable as Americans of shrugging off outrageously bigoted rhetoric, but the fact is, the bigotry was already there.
So let’s put an end to fetishizing the Ugandan people as noble savages sullied by the West. And let’s stop infantilizing Africans by relieving them of their moral responsibility and capacity for self-determination. If Fred Phelps and the Westboro bigots haven’t managed to Pied Piper the vast majority of Americans into the river of hate, three self-important American evangelicals aren’t responsible for pervasive bigotry in Uganda.
Unless, of course, you don’t think Ugandans are capable of thinking for themselves.