Saturday, December 26, 2009
A Modern-Day Holocaust In The Making?
While we all gathered with family and friends yesterday to celebrate Christmas, halfway around the world in the East African nation of Uganda, there is a modern-day Holocaust in the making. The Ugandan Parliament, backed by Uganda's President Yoweri Musaveni, is about to pass legislation which would impose the death penalty against HIV-positive gays and lesbians, and mete out life sentences to anyone convicted of having gay sex. In addition, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill Of 2009 includes provisions for the mandatory imprisonment, for seven years, of any friend or relative of a gay or lesbian person, who does not turn that individual in to the authorities.
Uganda already has the most severe anti-gay laws on the books anywhere in Africa, and homophobia among the populace there is so rampant that Uganda's Ethics Minister warned gays and lesbians to leave his country in 2007. The current, pending anti-gay legislation is "likely" to pass, and despite earlier reports, President Museveni will not try to "soften" the bill's harshest measures. This is real-world terror, sponsored and encouraged by a contemporary state government, against gays and lesbians of color just like many of you who read The FUTURE. Alas, however, it is neither new, nor unique to the African continent. Several states, such as Texas, have anti-gay laws on the books, in spite of the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court ruling making them unconstitutional. Texas' statute, (which it is known to be enforcing despite its unconstitutionalty) reads:
Sec. 21.06. Homosexual Conduct.
(a) A person commits an offense if he engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.
This clearly demonstrates that state-sanctioned persecution of the LGBT community isn't limited to faraway lands. It's not an abstraction. Nor is the growing trend of anti-gay legislation over the past several years. Again, it's a very old story. When Adolf Hitler took over Germany's government as the last democratically elected Chancellor before WWII, one of the first things his Nazi government did was to criminalize homosexuality, and demonize Germany's gays, making them easy targets for extermination under the Final Solution.
Almost two million gays and lesbians perished under the Nazi regime, both in Germany and in the countries Germany occupied in WWII. The modern-day symbol of gay pride and the gay-rights struggle, the Pink Triangle is, in fact, the symbol gays were forced to wear, for easy identification and removal by the Nazis. In light of the recent developments across the globe (and indeed, here at home, with gay-marriage bills either being defeated or once passed, overturned) the question arises: is history about to repeat itself? No argument about Uganda being a "backward" or "primitive" nation will hold currency here; Germany before WWII was the most advanced, well-educated society on Earth, and they still planned and carried out the Final Solution when they (of all cultures) should have known better. What can we see in a future that includes mandatory executions for us in some countries? Rwanda is right behind Uganda in its adoption of anti-gay laws. Iran, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the Russian Federation, and Jamaica, W.I. all have severe anti-homosexuality laws on their books. On top of all this, Utah, Kansas, and, surprisingly, New York State have all seen recent movements to recriminalize homosexuality appear.
I want to end this article with a famous quotation, attributed to Rev. Martin Niemoller, a Protestant minister sent to the concentration camps by the Nazis:
"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
WE must always speak up, NOW more than ever, or we will one day wake up, and find ourselves where Rev. Niemoller found himself one very cold, dark morning. It's time.