This is What Oppression Looks Like: Iran’s Gay Hanging

16 10 2009

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This just in from The Petrelis Files: it seems our new dialogue partners and burgeoning nuclear power Iran hanged a man last week for being gay. According to the story at IRQR:

On October 6, 2009, Rahim Mohammadi was executed in Tabriz, a city in northwest Iran, after being convicted of sexual abuse and rape during sexual relations between males (a homosexual act called Lavat).

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what oppression looks like. I think what scares me about the current state of American politics is less the partisan rancor, which we’ve always had, than the debasement of the language that we’re using to describe our opposition. When any and all resistance to the President is referred to as “racist,” (to say nothing of the last eight years of facile Nazi and execution references) that really doesn’t leave much room to describe incidents of actual racism.

When we’re now more outraged by a blowhard radio host’s NFL bid than by reinstating an admitted dog-fighter I’ve got to wonder where the Hell our priorities are. I realize I’m screaming into the wind here, but can we please ratchet down the rhetoric? Ladies and gentlemen, there’s genuine evil in the world and we really need to be able to recognize it when we see it and what’s merely an honest difference of opinion.

In case you’re wondering — this is evil:

gay iranian execution, mashad, july 2005

This is a right-wing entertainer:

rush-limbaugh

See the difference? My great fear is that many of us will say “no.”

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Attention Gays: Democrats are not your Friends

13 10 2009

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I found this little tidbit from from NBC News fascinating. It’s certainly thrown the gay Left into a tizzy. Just a day after the National Equality March where Barney Frank was quoted as saying “The only thing they’re putting pressure on is the grass,” NBC reporter John Harwood says that an anonymous White House source said:

Barack Obama is doing well with 90% or more of Democrats so the White House views this opposition as really part of the Internet left fringe… For a sign of how seriously the White House does or doesn’t take this opposition, one adviser told me those bloggers need to take off the pajamas, get dressed, and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult.

To that, the only thing I can say is welcome under the bus, gay Americans! It’s getting pretty crowded under here what with all those racists and tea partiers and Green Jobs advisers and angry reverends and other people that aren’t the people Barack Obama once knew. What is it with this President that no matter how often he lashes out and vilifies anyone with the temerity to disagree with or oppose him, people are still shocked when it happens? Is it because you’re on the Left that you’re supposed to be safe? Is it because you’re gay? Excuse me while I laugh for a moment.

Here’s the bottom line, people. It’s not just that Barack “marriage is between one man and one woman” Obama merely gives you lip service to your agenda, it’s that the Democrats are not and have never been your friends. The biggest difference between the Democrats and the Republicans has always been that Democrats are a fractious alliance of left-wing splinter groups who have agreed to unite and help advance each other’s agendas — despite the fact that they very often have little to do with or often have conflicting beliefs. The Right has its factions also, but there’s a lot more common ground between social conservatives and libertarians than there is between a global warming doomsayer, a militant feminist and a “tax-everything-till-it-can’t-breathe” socialist.

Very often all that holds these groups together is the fear of the “evil religious right” and the Taliban-like regime that would undoubtedly take over the country if we allowed a Republican to win an election. This is encapsulated in the classic question — “What are you going to do? Vote Republican?” Well here’s my question. If you’re gay, is there a difference between how far your agenda advanced under George W. Bush than there was under Bill Clinton who ushered in DOMA and “Don’t ask, Don’t tell?” Bush was in power for eight years, six of them with a Republican-controlled Congress, yet somehow those lavendar-colored gulags remained just a figment of some overheated imaginations.

Gays have always been a reliable source of votes for Democrats and as such, they’ve never felt the need to do more than give lip service to the issues that matter to you and as long as you vote monolithically Democratic, they never will. I’m not suggesting that you start voting Republican, but there are plenty of other ways to get your point across. Start running candidates whose first allegiance is to your agenda in Democratic primaries. Reach across the aisle to people you think of as being “on the right” and you might find more allies than you think on issues that don’t pivot on your sexuality. As I’ve said in the past you don’t have to be straight to want lower taxes and less government interference in your life and you’re not betraying your sexuality if you don’t think single-payer health care is a good idea.

As for me — if you want to get married, good luck God bless. Everyone should have the right to be miserable with the partner of their choice.

For you, you’ve already come out of the pink closet, it’s OK to come out the blue one too.





Is it Right to Boycott? Peter David Responds to “The Turn of an Unfriendly Card”

9 09 2009

One of the great things about living in the Internet age is sometimes the little bit of attention you garner for your work can draw in the very people you’re discussing to put in their two cents. That’s what happened with my Angry Bear article “Turn of an Unfriendly Card (Read the original article here.) In the comments I came across a response by none other than Peter David himself who has a decidedly different take on the whole issue. Here’s what he wrote:

I think you make a lot of valid points in your very balanced and well-reasoned view of the situation (and thanks for the shout out on my work on X-Factor.)

The one place where we diverge, I suppose, is whether boycotts are a free speech issue. I feel they most definitely are, because the endgame (as you put it) is ultimately to restrict free speech. They are designed to put people who have voiced unpopular ideas out of business, and they are designed to make sure that anyone who possesses unpopular ideas think twice or three times about saying anything for fear of facing economic sanctions and potential loss of livelihood. The underlying strength of a free society is, “I disagree with what you have to say, but will defend to the death your right to say it,” not, “I disagree with what you have to say, and will do everything in my power to punish you for saying it.”

Should free speech mean freedom from consequences? Well, no. But the answer to free speech is always more free speech, and that should be the only consequence of speaking your mind. Boycotts are not free speech, no matter how much the practitioners of them claim that they are. Boycotts–particularly as utilized by those who take issue with opinions that are in opposition to theirs–are attempts to bludgeon someone into submission economically.

It’s not that people are offended because, for instance, the CEO of Whole Foods has opinions they don’t like. They’re offended because they KNOW his opinions, and the reason they know them is because he availed himself of free speech in a free society. So they’ll boycott Whole Foods and shop at Pathmark or Shop & Stop, and for all they know the CEO of the former is opposed to gay marriage and the CEO of the latter thinks that abortion should be criminalized. So unless they’re performing due diligence to check and see the corporate record of every store they’re frequenting, I’m forced to conclude that this is entirely about free speech, because it’s the use of free speech that’s getting people in trouble and it’s the intolerance of free speech that’s causing the boycotts.

I suppose what it comes down to is this: Protecting popular ideas is easy. Unpopular ideas are the ones that need the most protecting, if for no other reason than that many of the ideas we accept today as truth or even simple common sense, began their existence as unpopular ideas. The Church boycotted Galileo because he opined that the Earth moved around the sun; is that really the lead we want to follow?

PAD

As much as I respect Mr. David, I’m afraid this is an issue where he and I are going to have to disagree. I told him so in an e-mailed reply:

“Boycotts aren’t free speech. What they ARE are other elements of freedom that are just as important — freedom of association, freedom of commerce and freedom of conscience. Note that none of those things necessarily make boycotts moral or ethical to use but by your argument I give up some freedoms (association, commerce, conscience) to protect the freedom of speech of a man I disagree with.

1xfv1

I’d have to reject that. I don’t believe my choice to buy or not buy a game prevents Card from saying what he will. If he chooses to modify his speech in the face of such things, that too is the free market in action and it works for both the right and the left. I have the right to, for example, choose to purchase my groceries only at markets owned by Caucasians or refuse to buy a game created by a designer who has donated to the Republican party (bye bye Sims!) and I should bear the full moral burden of exercising those rights (including the disapproval and possible boycott of those who disapproved of my actions). In doing so though, I don’t believe anyone else’s rights are endangered. These interactions are how societies get ordered in the first place.”

Peter responded again with the following:

I don’t think boycotts are free speech either. We don’t disagree on that point. What I was pointing out was that people who believe in boycotts contend that they ARE a form of free speech, of free expression, equal to and on par with voicing one’s opinion through the media or on line or wherever. And that if someone says something or puts forward an opinion that they find disagreeable, then it is an equal and appropriate response to declare that they are going to cease supporting that individual’s work and, even better, try to get as many people as possible to follow suit.

Except it’s not. Boycotts are not free speech (as you yourself say). They are a punitive measure designed specifically to get someone else to shut up, or to destroy their income in retaliation. Does the act of buying or not buying a game prevent Card from saying what he will? No. But it is an ATTEMPT to STOP him from saying what he will. It is an attempt to punish him for doing so. What else is punishment except trying to ensure that the target of the punishment ceases the behavior that the person inflicting the punishment finds disagreeable?

To say, “I have the right” to shop wherever you wish is utterly beside the point. I’m not contending that you don’t have the right. But just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean that you SHOULD do something. If you truly believe in a free market society, then where you shop should not be determined (to use your example) by the color of the shop owner’s skin. It should be determined by who has the best product for the best price. Everything else is beside the point unless you choose to make it the point.

Boycotts that are started up purely to shut people up have a chilling effect in a society that is supposed to value the free exchange of ideas. There’s a superb book on the subject by Nat Hentoff: “Freedom of Speech for Me, But Not For Thee.” It’s about the lengthy history of the right and the left to shut each other up.

I didn’t want to respond directly to Peter (though he is, of course welcome to elaborate further and I’ll be happy to print it) because I think we’ve each outlined where our disagreements are and while we’re actually not that far apart, they come right to the crux of the morality of using boycotts. Put in simple terms, each of us agrees that boycotts are a private act and as such, shouldn’t be subject to some sort of government interference. Each of us as individuals have the “right” to boycott. The question is — and this is what I was wrestling with in the article — is it “right” to boycott? Is it morally and ethically correct and if so, what are the rules for doing so? These are the questions we as a society are not answering, although Peter’s already given his. He says “no, boycotts aren’t moral.” I envy him that level of clarity because I haven’t found my answer yet.

In a larger sense, we’re throwing economic clubs and brickbats at each other and we don’t seem to be concerned with where they’re landing. It’s really easy to envision a future where every corporation and small business has to have a position paper on every controversial issue in the public domain in order to do business at all. That is after all, what the “Buy Blue” campaign was all about and is what powers sites like Buy Blue USA (no commercial endorsement implied in that link). I don’t think I like that very much and I’m a little frightened about whether we can get off the ugly road we seem to be on.

On a lighter note, if you’re interested in Mr. David’s work, why not check out his blog? I’m also adding it to my blogroll at the right.

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