The Washington Post ran an impassioned editorial January 7, condemning the anti-homosexuality law being considered in Uganda.

Originally calling for the death penalty, the bill now calls for life imprisonment for “homosexual behavior and related practices. ”

The bill is ugly, ignorant and barbaric, writes the Post. “That it is even being considered puts Uganda beyond the pale of civilized nations.”

I hate to quibble with such righteous talk, but just who is calling whom civilized?

If by “civilized” the Post means good, western, developed, and all the rest — wasn’t this the week we learned that it was “civilized,” American fundamentalist Christians who helped inspire this legislation — and even write it?

Equating civilization with rights and justice is easy shorthand for editorial purposes, but it’s bad history and lazy journalism.

A report by Political Research Associates has called the growing anti-gay movement in African churches  a “proxy war” for US culture battles. Uganda’s long been a target for US evangelicals. Three, Holocaust denier Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, all traveled to Uganda and helped build the anti-gay foment that spewed forth this legislation.

Even such a “civilized” man as inauguration speaker Rick Warren’s praised the Ugandan ministers who back it. Anti-gay missionaries routinely tell African church leaders that gay rights are part of a colonialist agenda. It may be inadvertent, but the Post‘s use of this language plays right into their argument.

The fact is, although demagogues in many countries argue that equality is a Western value — and that gay rights activists, like feminists, are tools of imperialism —  lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people exist everywhere, as do homosexual practices, always have, and there’s plenty of history to suggest that homophobia and homophobic practices are the imports.

Traditional African religions blessed same-sex marriage. It was 19th century Victorian Christians who called that barbaric — and  their 21st century fundamentalist descendants have continued the practice. Uganda itself has had at least one king, back in the 1880s, who was arguably gay.

Indian anti-imperialist Gandhi, on a visit to Europe, was once asked what he thought of western civilization. His response?  “It would be a good idea.”

Perhaps the Washington Post should rethink its word choice when rightly condemning hateful laws. There’s plenty of “civilized” bigotry out there.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.

3 Comments