We tend to have a fairly blind spot for Africa in this part of the world. Above and beyond our annoying tendency to think of Africa as a single political entity (rather than a continent with 53 distinct sovereign states – there are only 49 in Europe) , we have an entirely fictitious picture of the continent as a whole. I had drinks a while back with a friend who opined to me that part of the reason Africa had such an economic problem was because it lacked the natural resources that were so abundant in North America and Europe. This is, of course, the product of thinking of Africa as a vast wasteland of desert with slim pickings that require subsistence farming by its various tribes of bushmen. That entire picture is ludicrously false – the problem is that Africans have little control over their abundant natural resources, most of which are owned by foreign multi-national corporations.
As a result of this fractured image, we tend to think of ourselves as having little in common with the African people (aside from the sort of universal things we have in common with all people everywhere). However, we can hang our hats on this little nugget: they hate gay people just as much as we do:
A Ugandan gay rights campaigner who last year sued a local newspaper which outed him as homosexual has been beaten to death, activists say. Police have confirmed the death of David Kato and say they have arrested one suspect. Uganda’s Rolling Stone newspaper published the photographs of several people it said were gay next to a headline reading “Hang them”.
Hooray, they’re just as hate-filled as we are! Of course, we should be completely unsurprised by this, as Uganda had gone from being a major international player to a haven for the most vile and disgusting attitudes in the world. There is currently a movement afoot to pass legislation that would authorize the death penalty for the “crime” of being homosexual. I watched the leader of this movement on TV a few months ago being asked why he was persecuting gay people. His response (part 1 here, and part 2 here) was very revealing for two reasons. First, he considers the international opposition to the bill to be fueled primarily by colonial interference (which is a real concern in Africa, so I can’t say I blame him). The second one is that this movement is explicitly defended on religious grounds. He claims that homosexuality is “against God” repeatedly, unashamed to wear his Christianity on his sleeve.
I’ve alluded to this before, but Christians aren’t allowed to duck responsibility for stuff like this, as much as they’d like to. This false notion of “loving the sinner but hating the sin” quickly metastasizes into outright hatred like this. I’m sure that the people who are pushing for this bill think that they’re “loving the sinner” too. The problem arises when the “sin” is an inherent component of the identity of the “sinner” – when those two things are inextricably linked, it’s impossible to actually accomplish the things that this kind of cognitive dissonance would dictate. It is for this reason that homophobes repeatedly try to case homosexuality as a choice, or some kind of disease, or something that can be “fixed” through prayer and counselling.
Things are “sins” based only on their necessary outcomes. If homosexuality necessarily results in negative outcomes, then it is absolutely a bad thing. Rape, for example, is necessarily a bad thing because it violates the autonomy and security of another human being. Paedophilia is necessarily bad because it violates the trust of a minor who lacks the ability to make mature judgments. Homosexuality is not necessarily linked to the kinds of things that anti-gay advocates thump as proof of the harm of ‘teh ghey’ – HIV, abuse, promiscuity – these things all happen regardless of sexual orientation.
It’s tragic that Mr. Kato was murdered for standing up for his human right to exist without being imprisoned or executed for being gay. We can’t pretend that the kind of virulent ideas that are promoted by anti-gay activists and “love the sinner” Christians had nothing to do with it. Pretending to do so is simply willfully remaining ignorant and pretending that the murder of gay people isn’t a big enough problem for you to care about.
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