Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance of Human Rights ... Prop 8 is the tip of the icebeg

Humans are a curious species. As a whole, we seem to have a knack for self-destruction ... not that any specific individual actually wants to to self-destruct, but so many people around this world would like to see their neighbors vanish into the ether, never to return, if the whole world got its one true wish on Tuesday morning ... no one would be left.

We're one species, pulling in about a thousand different directions.

Right now, the biggest issue in many people's lives in the US is certainly Prop 8 -- and its racial backlash, which in retrospect was unavoidable ... though one might wish otherwise.

For the absolutely definitive perspective on Prop 8, I'm going to pass you right into the capable hands of Harvey Fierstein, who said it all, said it right, and said it like a gentleman:


The fight for human rights ... civil, gay, religious, racial ... is particularly poignant today: November 11. I was in the grocery store at 11:11am, and it hit me like a load of bricks --

I realize this isn't a tradition in the United States, but in the Commonwealth countries, Remembrance Day is 11/11 ... and it's observed at 11 minutes after the 11th hour, people stop for one whole minute and -- well, you're supposed to "remember," but for most younger people it's actually more about "stop and think about it for godsakes," while a bugle plays the Last Post over TV or radio. Sporting events will stop in their tracks; cashiers and tellers will stop in their work. Classrooms and clinics go silent for sixty seconds.

Now, the traditional take on Remembrance Day is summed up by various verses which are customarily read:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

(from the "Ode of Remembrance", excerpted from "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon)


Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.
("Here Dead Lie We" by A. E. Housman)

In both verses, we're exhorted to stop and think for a little while, about the lives that were given by millions of young men who were fighting for the very liberty we're blithely abusing right now.

And in first world countries, many people -- particularly those who are complacent and even smug in their cozy, convenient religious niche; which in our world sadly means Christian -- act as if the battle has been won. From their comfy, sitt'n-pretty perspective, it was won a long time ago, and folks like gays are just being damned pesky, trying to rock the boat for everyone.

Stop for one minute ... give the sixty seconds which are asked of you on 11.11, and read this:


Read it and pick your chin up off the floor. And when you're capable of thinking clearly again, read this:

Fate of Karimojong women [and gays] lies in the hands of tradition

In neither instance am I going to give an outtake from the articles, because their pivot points are so way out there, some readers will certainly be disturbed.

At least, being gay or pagan or female in the US, you don't have to lie awake nights worrying about the legal system killing you in the most barbaric ways. A couple of weeks ago, it was a 23 year old woman in Somalia, being stoned to death for adultery ... these executions, and the abuse and murder of children on the most devout Biblical grounds are happening right now.

Human rights are fragile, and once their integrity is compromised, they can fly away like smoke. In the US even as you read this, the Prop 8 backlash is ugly ... and it was always going to be ugly:

Racism has reared its nasty head again -- and anyone with half a functional brain would have predicted it. So, in the name of anyone's god, or God, or any plurality of same, why would the Catholics and the Mormons pump untold millions of dollars into California, to persecute peaceful people who are not even in their own jurisdiction -- knowing (as they must have! Or are they completely insane?) that the result could only be an upsurgence of racism that must wound America as a nation?

Answer me that, someone. And while you're trying to work it out, imagine how far that money would have gone to rescue innocent people -- including young children, whom first world governments will go to almost idiotic lengths to protect against against something so easily Net-Nannyable as sex on the Internet. Internet porn is an insignificant moral blip when measured against the unbelievable, government- and church-sanctioned crimes that are actually happening elsewhere on this poor planet.

The Australian government is planning to spend over $125 million to filter the Internet against porn (using methods which will cripple the Internet in Australia). Meanwhile, legions of innocent children -- who're no less worthy just because they're a different shade of brown from the Canberra politicians (!) -- are being tortured, maimed and killed, in the name of Christianity.

(For more on Australian Internet censorship:

Something, somewhere is disastrously wrong. The Mormon church pumped US$22m into a campaign in someone else's state, to wipe out civil liberties, while little kids, illiterate and helpless women, and gays, are being treated with a contempt which makes a mockery out of church, faith ... even the very name of Jesus. Sorry guys, but there it is, out in the open. Someone has had the courage to say what you've been thinking.

A very few decades ago, legions of young men gave their lives willingly, believing they were fighting for liberty. For the rights of citizens like you and me to live in peace and freedom. Civil liberties are bought with blood ... and apparently, they can be expunged on a religious whim.

There's a statistic which has come out in the post-Prop 8 analysis ... and get hold of this bit of info before you blow your stack and get rowdy and rude toward the Black American community. (Here, I'm not going to say "African American," because in this column I've already talked about Africa itself, and I want to differentiate the two communities ... Black Americans are not Africans, no matter how European Americans phrase it).

Here's the cold, hard statistic: exit polls show 65+% of aged Americans voting with their Bibles.

And with the rapidly aging population of the first world, the demograph is already skewed ... there are many more elderly in current communities, especially in warm, climatically gentle states (such as California and Florida) than there have ever been before.

As I've remarked elsewhere (http://mel-keegan.blogspot.com/2008/11/looking-for-up-side-to-prop-8-fiasco.html), the aged are extremely vulnerable, since the Pearly Gates are looming large at that time of life. They are therefore easy prey for churches with more money than decency, more funding than compassion, more wealth than brains.

The popular vote in California would appear to have been swung toward hate not by the black population, but by the aged ... who were mercilessly targeted by an advertising campaign orchestrated and conducted by the church. Religious leaders preyed on the vulnerabilities of the old and the very old, whose immortal souls have begun to weigh more heavily than liberty, freedom, justice, peace, compassion, fairness -- even democracy itself.

Someone somewhere coined this phrase, and I wish I knew who said it: "Democracy means not always getting what you want."

I actually do believe that it'll turn out to be utterly unlawful for any constitution, state or federal to be rewritten to uphold a bias for a religious group. I believe that evangelism should be examined ... people have the right to proselytize up to a point, and no further. And constitutional law would draw the line -- where? Right at the point where religion starts to stick its unwelcome nose into law, government, and the constitution itself.

It hit me like a load of bricks, in the supermarket ... the Last Post was played on the radio and the whole store stopped. 11/11 -- 11:11am. Everyone stopped and remembered the legions of young men who died, willingly, in the cause of freedom and justice.

And I thought, "The sound you can hear is those young people spinning in their graves as they see what's happening right now, and wonder why the hell they really gave their lives for." Because it's over 90 years since the First World War concluded, and liberty, justice, remain frighteningly elusive, fragile as snowflakes, even in the United States of America, which has for many, many years been held up as the home, the very bastion, of the free.

I'll be back tomorrow with happier subjects, but today is Remembrance Day, and if there was ever a time to say these things, this is it.

Best wishes,
Mel Keegan


Suzer said...

It is ironic that we elect our first minority president and also override what was an advancement against discrimination on the same day:(

Are you also a Yank expat in Adelaide? We have a monthly expat meet up; you should come join us (it's not just Yanks but peeps from all over the world).


Mel Keegan said...

Many thanks for commenting -- and also for the invite!

In fact, I have a foot in three political camps, and often feel like I'm being ripped apart in three directions. My family are nominally from the UK; one half fled the IRA "troubles" in Ireland about 90 years ago and went to England for work. The other half went to America. The folks who went to the UK hived off yet again ... some of them went to the US too ... some of us came to Australia. And here we are. I've lived and worked in the US ... loved the people and the country, but the political arena and the religious ferrvor leave me shivering. I "still call Australia my home," at least for the moment. Who knows what the future will bring?

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