Wednesday, January 07, 2009

No Gay Leftist Left Behind?

by Al Falafel

Looking back on the Story of the Century so far...

It may be said that the Democratic Party won the Presidency in '08 on the strength of an unprecedented voter coalition forged over a long and hard-fought campaign among divided Party loyalists who finally gave in to the demands of virtually every existing nonpartisan Progressive and Liberal organization's dark horse candidate, Barack Obama. This includes, of course, many LGBT constituents and LGBT groups. The last minute endorsements by prominent Republicans just capped off Obama's winning effort when it became a fait accompli.

The President-elect's campaign -- which only now we may properly call historic -- presumably succeeded as well with a huge percentage of the votes from every unaffiliated minority community, many of whom consider themselves apolitical or even Conservative. A number of these may have only tended to vote Republican before this.

For historical significance, factor in the effect of so many first-time voters all this includes - youthful, previously disenfranchised or just normally apathetic - who were also were moved enough by something in Obama's candidacy to back his election enthusiastically. In working for this campaign some involved themselves for the first time ever in a purposeful group activity of any kind.

Meanwhile, contrary to the distortions of Obama's positions and associations promulgated by his Republican opposition (and turncoat Sen. Joe Lieberman), the relatively few radical leftists that exist joined with fringe elements of the progressive movement. They either backed their own long-shot candidates or showed only lukewarm acceptance of the one non-Republican Party ticket that had any chance of humiliating the despised ruling party.

Any real Leftist in fact would have found little to support in either of the two major parties' candidates. Both would be seen as representing just one or another faction of the Right-sided brain that single-mindedly commands the American body politic.

It is no accident that a substantive Left is nonexistent in American politics today. The political spectrum here runs the gamut from Far Right straight to the Center, and no further. There is absolutely no representation of an independent Left in the American halls of power. No Workers Party, Labor Party or even Green Party in America balances the Management and Investor interests to which both the Democratic and Republican Parties are more or less beholden.

Even as our failing Capitalist economy lays waste to the working middle class and as industry moguls grovel before Congress for state intervention to save themselves from ruin, we average Americans continue to buy into the out-dated dualistic paradigm that holds: Capitalism (as we know it) = All Things Good; Socialism (as we fear it) = Pure Evil.

The Left is so reviled in America that Sen. John McCain, in a last ditch attempt to save his failing campaign, makes screaming headlines by simply uttering "the 'S' word" - avoiding the offense of using an expletive on TV - in a scurrilous reference to fellow Senator Obama's political viewpoint.

Obama had offhandedly commented that "spreading the wealth around" might not be such a bad idea. McCain jingoistically cited the sound bite as proof of his opponent's hidden Marxist agenda. At the same time Republican Treasury Sec. Henry Paulson presumptuously requests $700 billion of tax payer money to save the reputation of fat cat swindlers who had already laid off thousands of lower-level employees of our biggest financial institutions and other companies. In the process they brought our whole economy to the brink of ruin with little effect to the wealth and well being of those top-level managers and owners who made out like bandits relative to the fate of the workers who had their very livelihoods pulled out from under them.

In rational, pluralistic democracies, the interests of the working class are represented by political parties that openly promote far Left Socialist perspectives that vigorously counter such outlandish impositions from the extreme Right. This just provides a reasonable complement to the spectrum of political viewpoints and nary an eyebrow is raised when the word when the word, "Socialist" is spoken in polite company.

But after decades since the implosion of our national nemesis, The Soviet Union, our paranoid American power establishment still craves a boogeyman in order to validate our default super power status and dubious claim to be a moral leader on the world stage.

All this really does, of course, is just keep the balance tilted in favor of the dominant Right.

Despite the absence of a Russian super power boogeyman, US patriotism remains a hot commodity, now co-opted by the Religious Right. So neither major Party can afford to allow their volatile constituencies to draw much of a distinction between a Socialist and a Terrorist. Nor, coincidentally, between a legitimate marriage and a same-sex relationship. Far right extremists in the Republican Party still call the tune while Centrist Democrats dance just close enough to one side of this narrow spectrum to give the appearance of a "safe" political alternative.

No serious candidate for office dare step over that scary line of demarcation by, say, solidly endorsing same-sex marriage rights or by calling for an end to the fake war on terror, the un-winnable war on drugs or any of those other wastes of time and money we've waged endless metaphoric wars on.

After the atrocities we have committed to promote wars both real and imaginary and after all the ruinous injustices we have suffered right at home because of them in recent years, the only way we can claim moral superiority as a nation is by way of exploiting the "natural" American fear of the unknown. There is precious little on earth that our collective imagination can dream up that is scarier than war. As a political metaphor its abuse is doubly effective as it compels a taking of sides on any issue. And the Right side is always the patriotic one.

Vying for their continued hold on power, the Right Wing therefore willfully demonizes the alleged "Socialist Tendencies" in the Democratic agenda -- including same-sex civil rights (again coincidentally) -- because they know this can still send a shock through the lopsided sensibilities of the American electorate. It works in precise disproportion to the extent of familiarity the average American may have with an actual Left Wing Agenda. In the public eye, even the Log Cabin (Gay) Republicans organization is a "leftist" group.

The furthest departure from Republican extremism that is familiar to Americans is this fragmented Progressive Movement which is only now poised to build for itself a broader base of acceptance, if not support, within the mainstream governing establishment. This comes at long last after decades of increasing fits and starts under Liberal Democratic Administrations and periods of regrouping after so many futile battles with obstinate Republicans when that party has held power.

For most of this country's existence the federal government has been dominated by reactionary politicos who often attain national office after rising up through the ranks of local governments: those provincial pockets of small-mindedness that make up so much of the vast American landscape.

Think of the prospect of someone in Alaska (pop. 670,000), for instance, moving on the strength of their narrow local appeal in a tiny burg like Wasilla (pop. 5,469) to Juneu as Governor of the state, then moving on to a position of power over the entire United States (pop. 306 million+) from elected office across the continent in DC.
Far from blazing any kind of trail, Sarah Palin in '08 was actually looking to trod, piggyback, a long-established path to the nationwide authoritarian mantle, bringing her narrow backwater values with her, intending to impose them on the whole lot of us.

The American experiment with democracy, once unique in the Western World, intended that anyone could theoretically rise above their class to claim the highest ruling positions in government without causing a total upheaval to the established system. In the waning years of the 20th Century, however, that experiment had reached a point where it was in danger of becoming little more than a parody of itself.

At the same time, much of Western Civilization was moving deliberately toward the threshold of the 21st Century, arriving more or less on schedule, with America lagging embarrassingly behind in many, largely political, ways. In some measure, this is certainly the result of that lack of balanced representation in our political system.

Western European countries, on the other hand, along with our neighbors in North and Latin America, still respect real leftist party agendas, if only grudgingly so in some cases. The balance provided by this inclusiveness tends to temper the Far Right forces in their governments and engenders ready tolerance of a socially progressive agenda along with an expansive tolerance of those promoted by conservatives such as Christian traditionalists.

Our government's long ago purge of the least bit of tolerance for real Left representation came by way of McCarthy-esque witch hunts waged on the basis of nothing more than paranoid suspicion. Europeans, by contrast, survived ruthless and bloody coups under fascist dictators and Communist regimes in the 20th Century but survive nonetheless and flourish in the 21st without having instilled mass fear of any broad array of mainstream political viewpoints. France, Belgium and Holland were all invaded by Nazi Germany during WWII but have embraced the legality of same-sex unions, including full marriage rights in the latter two. Even in contemporary, Catholic dominated Spain - once under the nearly 30 year rule of dictator Francisco Franco - same sex marriage is now completely legal. In all of these countries there are also strong and high-profile Leftist parties, Far-Right parties and strong religious influence as well.

In the 21st Century, before and after 9/11, the one extremely audacious and detestable terrorist strike on American soil, many of our European allies sustained terroristic disruptions to the order of their lives and political systems more persistent than we ever have. Yet (until Israel lately picked up on our lead in dealing with Hamas), our right-wing government has been singularly disproportionate in its response to the attack of 9/11- 2001. We sustain curtailed civil liberties at home (including a suspension of habeas corpus), occupation of a nation uninvolved in the attack after unilaterally invading them eight years ago. We sent more than 4,000 American men and women to a bloody slaughter meddling in Iraq's civil war and bankrupted our economy in the process... among other reactionary impulsive mistakes.

The current culture clashes inflamed by the spread of radical fundamentalist Islam in the Western World affects our long suffering EU allies in much more tenacious home-hitting ways than we have yet to see in America. Still, those overseas allies of ours have not allowed themselves to be nearly so distracted, so disastrously consumed by the "culture wars" within their borders nor by the "war on terror," that they faltered in adapting to the changing realities and demands of modern civilization as we have.

The evidence for all this comes from recent news out of the United Nations.

Last year all European Union countries signed a draft declaration drawn up by France, which currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, condemning "discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity." A draft of the progressive declaration was submitted at the UN General Assembly on December 10th, the sixtieth anniversary of the UN declaration of human rights.

The same delegation that is currently blocking a rational, humanitarian Israeli/Gaza cease fire resolution with its Security Council veto, the United States, a former beacon of hope for those involved in struggles for human rights and dignity around the world, also refused to support the LGBT resolution.

Both efforts, coincidentally, were championed by the French Delegation.

The following is excepted from the December 18th issue of the New York Times.

In a First, Gay Rights Are Pressed at the U.N.

Over 80 countries in the world currently outlaw same-sex relations, with punishments ranging from short prison sentences to life imprisonment and even death by execution. The UN declaration will not be binding, but gay rights movements hope it will lead to a UN resolution. The French minister of human rights and foreign affairs, Rama Yade, said that the EU should also "take the lead in stopping violence against women worldwide."

The United States refused to support the nonbinding measure, as did Russia, China, the Roman Catholic Church and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Holy See’s observer mission issued a statement saying that the declaration “challenges existing human rights norms.”

The declaration, sponsored by France with broad support in Europe and Latin America, condemned human rights violations based on homophobia, saying such measures run counter to the universal declaration of human rights.

“How can we tolerate the fact that people are stoned, hanged, decapitated and tortured only because of their sexual orientation?” said Rama Yade, the French state secretary for human rights, noting that homosexuality is banned in nearly 80 countries and subject to the death penalty in at least six.

Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, speaking by video telephone, said that just like apartheid laws that criminalized sexual relations between different races, laws against homosexuality “are increasingly becoming recognized as anachronistic and as inconsistent both with international law and with traditional values of dignity, inclusion and respect for all.”

The opposing statement read in the General Assembly, supported by nearly 60 nations, rejected the idea that sexual orientation was a matter of genetic coding. The statement, led by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the effort threatened to undermine the international framework of human rights by trying to normalize pedophilia, among other acts.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference also failed in a last-minute attempt to alter a formal resolution that Sweden sponsored condemning summary executions. It sought to have the words “sexual orientation” deleted as one of the central reasons for such killings.

Ms. Yade and the Dutch foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen, said at a news conference that they were “disappointed” that the United States failed to support the declaration. Human rights activists went further. “The Bush administration is trying to come up with Christmas presents for the religious right so it will be remembered,” said Scott Long, a director at Human Rights Watch.

The official American position was based on highly technical legal grounds. The text, by using terminology like “without distinction of any kind,” was too broad because it might be interpreted as an attempt by the federal government to override states’ rights on issues like gay marriage, American diplomats and legal experts said.

How does it feel to know that our enlightened government -- of the people, by the people and for the people -- is squarely aligned with the Islamic Conference and against our European Allies when it comes to a non-binding declaration of support for progressive rights and protections of sexual minorities?

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