Sunday, February 09, 2014

Something I never thought I'd live to hear


Speaking before Sweden’s Parliament a few days ago, Mr. Holder called fighting for gay and lesbian rights one of “the defining civil rights challenges of our time.”

The remarks on Saturday by Mr. Holder, the first black attorney general, cast the gay-rights movement as a continuation of the civil rights efforts of the 1960s.

“As all-important as the fight against racial discrimination was then, and remains today, know this: My commitment to confronting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity runs just as deep,” his speech said.

New York Times

If the gay rights movement is a continuation of the 1960s civil rights movement (and I think it is, though also, vitally, a continuation of the women's liberation movement), how do its rapid advances in the United States share one of the underpinnings of that previous struggle? African American civil rights insurgents of the 50s and 60s struggled for justice with great bravery, smarts, and moral clarity. At the same time, they benefited from the U.S. national need to be "on the right side" of progress in a rapidly de-colonizing world framed by Western capitalism's competition with Soviet communism.

So I ask myself: what does the United States get today from positioning itself as an international champion of LGBT rights? We certainly didn't go first. Most of western Europe, parts of Latin America, even the post-apartheid Republic of South Africa were at least nominally ahead of us on this. Is our international advocacy a kind of "ethical shower" after a decade and a half of being the world's most violent rogue state? After all, we seem to claim the right to "defend" ourselves by lobbing Hellfire missiles liberally into other peoples' countries and occasionally invading if we feel like it. We've forced international air travel to conform to our security theater and we make crossing our borders far more troublesome than most countries. Is advocacy for LGBT equality supposed to give us a pass on human rights concerns while our gulag in Guantanamo continues to operate? Can we really pose as "the good guys"?

Don't get me wrong. I like having my government more or less on my side. It sure beats the alternative. But I'm not going to give them props for altruism on this.

Further, I wonder whether Holder realizes how much larger a can of social worms he is opening by championing not only the rights of persons defined by variant "sexual orientation" but also those with variant "gender identities"? Somehow I doubt that our authorities understand that contemporary culture is undermining "gender" itself, the "natural" locus of historic hierarchy -- and that has the potential to change human societies in ways we do not yet imagine.

1 comment:

Michael Strickland said...

I feel the same way when the Israeli PR machine uses gays as props to prove they are civilized and the Arabs are a bunch of backwards cretins. In other words, "We have gay rights in Israel, but in the Muslim countries you can be killed for same-sex activities, which means everything we do is good and everything they do is evil."

Well, not really...

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