Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Exportation of Hate: Should U.S. Citizens and Organizations be Accountable for Spreading Anti-Gay Discrimination, Violence and Murder Abroad?

Like many Americans, particularly us gay Americans, I have watched a few of the videos circulating around the internet showing Neo Nazis in Russia brutally tricking, stalking, harassing, bullying, torturing and humiliating gay teens. I was especially disturbed and angered by a photo showing two smug, militant-looking guys posing proudly next to a humiliated young man they apparently just tortured as if they were hunters standing beside their trophy.

Russian Gay activists report a dramatic increase in violence against gays these past few weeks by people motivated and inspired by anti-gay words, attitudes and policies. Not only has Russian President Vladimir Putin spoken harshly against gays and supported anti-gay laws, but Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, referred to same sex couples as a “sign of the Apocalypse.” Such potent words and policies can provoke horrific actions. A few weeks ago a 23-year old gay man was murdered in Volgograd. Beer bottles were stuffed up his anus, his penis was cut off and his head was smashed in by a rock.

As Neal Broverman points out in a recent OpEd for the Advocate, “Russian Gays Aren’t the Only LGBTs Suffering” (July 31, 2013), similar atrocities are happening elsewhere in the world. He tells of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s call for the “decapitation” of gays. A gay activist in Cameroon was recently brutally tortured and killed. In Nigeria, where being gay is already illegal, a law is being considered that would imprison people for 14 years if caught in a same sex relationship.     

It’s infuriating and frustrating to read about and watch the horrifying human rights violations being carried out against innocent people in lands so far away, simply because of who they are and genetically wired to be, and yet feel so helpless knowing that there’s not a whole lot we can do.

Ironically, I harbor regrets about policies I was naively part of while serving as a young U.S. Marine during the height of the so-called “cold war” when Russia was deemed the “Evil Empire” by then President Reagan. We were geared up for war for all the wrong reasons. Now the Marine in me wishes we could send well-trained troops in to protect innocent lives; I’d be the first to volunteer. But I also know violent responses to violence usually just fuels more violence. Anger-induced revenge fantasies accomplish nothing.   

But what to do?

Many of us do what we can and at least help increase awareness. Calls to Boycott Russian Vodka and the Olympics are, if nothing else, definitely bringing needed attention to the atrocities occurring in Russia. But we Americans cannot really expect to have much direct influence on foreign politics and policies, right?

At least that’s what I thought. A U.S. citizen named Scott Lively claims otherwise.   

An attorney, pastor, self-proclaimed “human rights consultant,” founder and president of Defend the Family International and the president of Abiding Truth Ministries in Springfield, Massachusetts, Lively conducted a 50-city speaking tour of Russia six years ago and says current anti-gay laws reflect policies that he advocated at the time when he urged Russia to “criminalize” the public advocacy of homosexuality (a policy he has unsuccessfully advocated for in the United States as well). 

"The purpose of my visit was to bring a warning about the homosexual political movement which has done much damage to my country," Lively wrote in an open letter to Russian citizens. "This is a very fast-growing social cancer that will destroy the family foundations of your society if you do not take immediate, effective action to stop it."   

He said such actions would make Russia a “model pro-family society" and suggested that “people from the West would begin to emigrate to Russia in the same way that Russians used to emigrate to the United States and Europe.“ (Lively is also coauthor of a book called “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party,” which claims that "homosexuals are the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities.")

Lively’s not the only U.S. citizen fueling the flames of discrimination, intolerance, hate and violence against gays in Russia and elsewhere.

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality based in Naperville, Illinois, wrote: "Russians do not want to follow America's reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual perversion, and anti-biblical ideologies to youth."

The World Congress of Families based in Rockford, Illinois, is planning to hold its eighth international conference at the Kremlin's Palace of Congresses in Moscow next year.  “Russia, with its historic commitment to deep spirituality and morality, can be a hope for the natural family supporters from all over the world," the organization states on its website.

"You admire some of the things they're doing in Russia against propaganda," says Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (yes, they actually have the hypocritical audacity to use the words “human rights” in their name), which has offices in New York and Washington, D.C.  He laments the fact that such laws can’t be passed in our nation.  The institute is seeking accreditation from the United Nations (and also claims the U.N. is “risking credibility” by pushing for support of gay rights) and Ruse plans to travel to Russia this summer to meet with government officials and civic leaders. "We want to let them know they do in fact have support among American NGOs (non- governmental organizations) on social issues," he says.

Stefano Gennarini
Stefano Gennarini, also of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, speaks favorably of Russia’s new anti-gay laws and refers to parades, rallies and protests in support of gay equality as “ludicrous and disturbing behavior on show in the squares and streets of Europe and America."  (I couldn’t find comments from him about the disturbing behavior of stalking, harassing, beating, torturing and murdering innocent gay people in the squares and streets of Europe.) Instead, he says, people in other regions, such as Africa and the Islamic world, might “look to Russia as a positive example when considering laws of their own.”

How do these so-called Christians sleep at night? Are they oblivious to, or in denial about, or perhaps actually satisfied with the discrimination, intolerance, hate, violence and suffering to which their words and actions contribute? Do they truly believe that the Christ they worship – the Christ who, from my understanding, advocated for peace, love, non-judgment, tolerance and acceptance – would be pleased with them? 

I would never advocate for violence against these people, nor deny them their Constitutional rights to free speech and freedom of religion.  But can they, should they, be held accountable in some manner?

President Obama has said he would make gay rights a part of his foreign policy and Secretary of State John Kerry says "We just have to keep standing up for tolerance and for diversity."  Perhaps I’m just too angry and frustrated, and I know I’m treading on tricky ground: But when U.S. citizens and organizations travel to foreign countries and help promote and incite intolerance, discrimination, bigotry, hate and violence are they violating any U.S. Laws? Can they legally work against our own nation’s stated interests and foreign policy? Aren’t these people “aiding and abetting the enemy?” Can their actions be considered traitorous? Shouldn’t it be illegal to export anti-gay discrimination, intolerance, hate and violence from the United States?

 Austin Ruse
Scott Lively has already been sued in U.S. federal court by a Uganda-based gay-rights group accusing him of promoting and influencing laws that persecute gays in that country – earlier versions of which called for the death penalty in some cases. Lively is working to have the case dismissed.  Perhaps this is more of my anger-induced revenge fantasies – But I hope the case is not dismissed.  I hope he loses a significant amount of money and credibility. I hope more and similar lawsuits are filed against him and others.  I so badly want these people held accountable for the suffering for which they are partly responsible. Can they at least be denied their nonprofit, tax-exempt status?

In addition to boycotting vodka and the Olympics we should do everything and anything we can to help draw attention to and create awareness about the appalling, horrific consequences of the words and actions of people such as Scott Lively, Peter LaBarbera, Austin Ruse and Stefano Gennarini and the organizations they work for – people and organizations right here in our own country.    

If nothing else, I want them to tell us how they feel -- I want to see and hear their reactions; I want to see the looks on their faces and hear their thoughts -- if or when they watch the videos circulating around the internet showing Neo Nazis in Russia brutally tricking, stalking, harassing, bullying, torturing and humiliating gay teens; look at the photo showing two smug, militant-looking guys posing proudly next to a humiliated young man they apparently just tortured as if they were hunters standing beside their trophy, and hear about a 23-year old gay man being murdered, having beer bottles shoved up his anus, his penis cut off and getting  his head smashed in by a rock.

Just Because he was gay.

Does their Christ approve?  

1 comment:

  1. Would Christ approve of your hate speech when the disrespectful names you called me? ... because I disagree with your hate mongering labeled as sarcasm? I didn't attack you personally, just your words. Truth will out.. as they say... and you seem no more than another type of extremist that preach one thing but practice another and cannot stand to be questioned. You are part of the problem with your demeaning name calling. Your slogan is bogus. You obviously have NO room for truth, meaning and acceptance except in your own narrow terms.