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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

 
(Very long post, some 4,000 words. Read at your leisure.)

I have recently participated in a conversation among gay activists about Islam and homosexuality, in which I was astonished at the malice directed against all Moslems. Many of the accusations against Moslems in that exchange constitute slander, and people who pass along slander share the blame for slander, so I will place here only my statements, in chronological order, earliest to most recent, with, if anything, only such parts of the things I replied to as may be necessary to understand why I said what I said. Reading and responding to all these materials took quite some time, and I won't subject you to the full extent of those materials.

False and malicious. There is not a single Islamist GOVERNMENT run by fanatics except the Islamic Republic of Iran. That there are temptations to Islamist purity in Moslem countries and even among some Moslems who have LEFT Moslem countries but did not realize that their leaving constituted rejection of Islamic rule over society, is beyond contention. But there are plenty of Christian, and Hindu, and , especially, Jewish extremists with violent hatred in control of their minds. This past week, Pat Robertson said that Haiti was punished because it had made a pact with the Devil, so Haitians deserved the misery they have suffered for over 200 years, and deserved the mass death and destruction this past week. Good Christian Pat Robertson.
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It wasn't Moslems who burned homosexuals at the stake in Europe, but pious Christians in times of Inquisition, which burning is a possible origin of the term "faggot". Israel has killed, directly or indirectly, perhaps 3/4 of a million to 1.25M Moslems in pursuit of their insane insistence on reconstructing a country that had vanished over 2,600 years before, or, as "Judea", over 1,900 years earlier. That's quite a death toll for a country that has never had so much as 6 million Jews, and most of it was done by the good old Christian U.S. of A. at Israel's demand (in, for instance, two wars against Iraq, Israel's most feared enemy). That means that Moslems really are only pikers when it comes to extremism and mass murder of their religion's enemies.
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Certainly all religion contains within it the possibility of intolerant mass murder, and we have had plenty of that in the Christian West, from the Reconquista of Spain to the wars of the Reformation to the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. All religion is evil, because all religion tells True Believers that they are entitled to kill to defend the Faith or spread God's Word to people who don't want it.
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That Christianity today is the best of the evil that is religion doesn't make it benign. And tolerance is a recent phenomenon in the Christian world, born of centuries of murderous strife. It is for us to explode the madness of all religion, the nonexistence of any god/dess whatsoever who authorizes murder in his or her name, and promote tolerance everywhere, in Israel and India as much as Iran, Afghanistan, and the Sudan. But it does no good to single out the loons of Islam, especially since WE are responsible for their appeal, in having inflicted upon the Moslem Heartland a Jewish state backed by hundreds of billions of dollars of outside money.
There were further anti-Moslem tirades, to which I responded.
I see now the source of your problem: you are listening to Jews for your information about Moslems. That is akin to asking Communists for a disinterested and fair evaluation of Nazism, or Orangemen for information about Catholicism. And do I really need to remind you that the key passages of Scripture that are used to oppose homosexuality in the West are from the OLD Testament book of Leviticus? Judaism!?! "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 20:13)
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The assertion by Jack F. that Somalia's problems were produced by the United States is pure nonsense of the no-bird-falls-to-Earth-but-the-United-States-shot-it-down variety. Somalia was a hellhole when the U.S. first sent humanitarian relief supplies in; that was not an "invasion". Somalia continues to be a hellhole because the U.S. withdrew, leaving it to the barbarians who had ruined it long before we arrived. The U.S. has very little to do with the condition of most of the world, and especially Africa, with which we have almost no involvement. Jack F reveals his Comsymp bias in another preposterous phrase, "the Soviet regime which had come in to stop US meddling" in Afghanistan. Bullshit. The Soviets were doing what they'd been doing since the 1920s, working on worldwide Communist revolution. It had NOTHING to do with "U.S. meddling" but ONLY to do with their 'sacred' obligation to 'spread the good news of our lords Marx and Lenin', a political dogma very like the proselytizing drives of fervent Christianity and Islam.
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As for Nigeria's ruling class being dominated by Christians, I suspect that is wrong but can't find definitive information in the first Google results I tried.
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As for Iraqis fiting Americans, tho I agree the U.S. should never have gone into Iraq and should long ago have left, if Iraqis are fiting Americans, they are doing a damned poor job of it, because the cumulative death toll of Americans in Iraq has stayed at 4,373 for weeks, and only 3 have died so far this month. No, most of the violence is between Iraqis, which is the public rationale for keeping U.S. troops there, to keep the slauter to a minimum.
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"Afghans fighting Americans in Afghanistan.... again, who is the a[g]gressor here?" I guess Jack F never heard about al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, nor the attacks of 9/11.
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Despite the blatant anti-U.S. bias of Mr. F's remarks [Jack F is a convert to Islam], I agree with him on the central issue of this discussion, that we must not tar the entire Moslem world with the brush of extremism.
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As regards religious control of the United States, I suggest you look at any coin or piece of paper money. There you will see the outrageous and blatantly false assertion "In God We Trust". What "we"? I don't trust in God; I don't believe in God; and even if one were to believe in God, as in a theistic way, belief does not equate with "trust", as in trust God to intervene in human affairs. Theists believe that God created the Universe and established the rules by which it operates, but thereafter God lets things go their own way, and does not interfere.
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Please stop using the self-despising term "queer"; "rich queers" is not one whit less offensive than "rich niggers". Like "nigger", "queer" cannot be made respectable. And no one should try.
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Don't we have enuf enemies without insisting on counting ALL Moslems — all 1 billion plus, and growing — as our enemies? For someone of advanced years [Billy G is about 75 years old]seem to have a very short memory. How long ago was it that a slender gay man, whose name I do not recall, was beaten to death in an alley by the LAPD under a vicious anti-gay police chief whose name I also do not recall? I remember the beatings and deaths, the entrapment, the bar raids and more; the names, however, are too numerous (and irrelevant) to recall. Perhaps six years ago I served on a grand jury in Essex County, NJ, in a solidly Democratic area (my city, Newark, is the county seat) of a Blue State (that inaugurated a Republican as Governor on Tuesday), and listened as an Essex County Sheriff's Department cop recounted his ENTRAPPING gay men in the South Mountain Reservation (a park). I was indignant and called that entrapment "entrapment", but the great majority of the grand jurors voted to indict these entrapped gay men anyway!
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So let us not look down our noses at Moslem societies, most of them traditional, even backward and largely uneducated, despite some relatively recent wealth in relatively few hands. American society did not change in the absence of education and pressure, and brave people letting themselves be known as gay. Even today, in advanced Western countries, including areas where men are allowed to marry each other(!), the bulk of young gay boys and men are NOT willing to be known as gay. It's very easy to be bigoted against gay men when you "don't know any", but not nearly so easy when your uncle or cousin or best friend or captain of the football team is gay — and especially when ALL of those people are known to be gay.
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It took us 60 years to achieve what change we have achieved — and until every kid who realizes he is gay feels free to accept that and tell his parents and friends about it without angst, our work is far from done. The "Movement" hasn't even begun in most Moslem countries. To suggest that Islam is somehow immovable but Christianity was movable is simple-minded and almost certainly wrong. All the sins of Islam are equally sins of other religions.
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You speak about Islam wanting to sweep the world. What do you think all those Christian missionaries sent out, over centuries, to Africa, Asia, Oceania, and to native peoples across the Americas wanted?
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Will we be able to change the minds of Wahhabis? Maybe not, any more than we have been able to change the minds of Mormons and other reactionary sects in Christianity. But might there be the equivalents of Episcopalians and Unitarians in Islam? People rarely try to accommodate their enemies; they do, however, listen to their friends. If you care about gay men in Moslem countries, you need to approach Moslems as you would approach any other potential audience: with good will and an open mind.
Jack F tried to deride my pointing out his Communist sympathies. I responded.
"Comsymp" is not a taunt but a statement of what turns out to be, in Mr. F's case, absolutely factual, since he admits his Communist sympathies. Small-c ["communist", which he admitted to] or large makes NO difference. Communism killed some 110 million people in a reign of terror that is not yet over, and that 110M figure does NOT count people killed in wars to fite back against Communism. Communist sympathy is illegitimate and contemptible, and I won't tolerate it or legitimate it by letting Cold War crap designed to promote worldwide Communist revolution, pass unchallenged. Even as regards gay rights, Communism was and remains a vile enemy. Castro incarcerated gay men on the Isle of Pines, later turned into an AIDS prison. No Communist country had or today has any significant gay-rights movement that I have ever heard of. To speak of "red-baiting" in rejecting the gigantic crimes of Communism is beyond contemptible; it is intellectual criminality.
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As for "anti-Semitic", that is, as Mr. F should surely know, just a "schoolyard taunt" intended to shut down discussion of the crimes of Zionism. It is also exactly the opposite of reason, since "Semitic" properly refers to people who speak a Semitic language, and the overwhelming preponderance of Semites are ARABS. I am certainly not anti-Arab.
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People have an absolute right to point out the madness of religion, any religion, and the arrogance that allows people who claim to be "God's Chosen" to assert the right to steal an entire country out from under the people who have lived there for centuries or millennia, or of various religious lunatics to assert that (nonexistent) "God is on our side".
Jack F again tried to divert the discussion with irrelevancies, attacking my spelling for one thing. I replied.
I am an expert on spelling, and reject some of the more preposterous spellings.
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As for hatred of Jews / hatred of Zionism / hatred of Judaism, plainly the behavior of Zionists taints both Judaism and Jews generally, and otherwise decent Jews tend to permit themselves to be blackmailed into passing over or even defending the crimes of Zionism. That makes them contemptible. The longer Jews in general side with Israel over the Palestinians, the more that hatred for Zionism will convert to hatred of Jews. Some Jews don't fall into that trap, and people like Jon Stewart and Mike Wallace distance themselves from Israeli atrocities — tho I don't recall either of them, or any other prominent American Jew, calling for the dissolution of Israel and its merger into a nontheocratic, nondiscriminatory Unified Palestine where no one has special rights and no one is treated badly because of his religion or ethnicity.
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How many "gay pride" parades were there in the Soviet bloc? Communist China? How many gay publications? What is "significant" may be arguable; but a few people meeting furtively in a few locations in the Soviet Bloc era, even as the laws and culture remain rigidly and oppressively anti-gay does not constitute "significant" to much of anybody. As Billy G says, early U.S. activists met in secret, out of fear. The gay-rights movement did not become significant until the few became the proud, at least to the point of letting the existence of their organizations become widely known, and seeking ever more publicity in order to change public attitudes and then laws.
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Jack F falsifies reality by talking about "Capitalism" in a discussion of political and human rights under Communism. Capitalism is not a political, but economic form, and it doesn't exist in the major countries of the West in undiluted and unregulated form. The U.S. Government BOUGHT major corporations or huge blocks of stock in the latest Great Recession; that is not Capitalism. Communism, by contrast, is indeed a political as well as economic form, because compulsion by government in 'Socialism' (euphemistic misuse by Communists for "Communism") is substituted for compulsion by need in unmitigated capitalism. And dictatorship tends to be a self-enlarging phenomenon, which may start with economic imperatives but easily morphs into totalitarian insistence that there are no private political rights any more than there are private property rights. In capitalism, corporations are happy to sell to homosexuals, as much as to anyone else. But Communist regimes have been antihomosexual for no discernible economic reason.
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As for Nazism, which rounded up and killed homosexuals, it too had a totalitarian mindset that set upon nonconformists largely just because they would not conform. In the case of Germany, however, a relatively small part of Europe that wanted to grow larger, reproduction at a high rate was essential to man the armies and fill the conquered territories of Greater Germany. Thus, homosexual activity worked against that long-term purpose, so suppression of homosexuality could be justified on that basis. The modern world is not allowed to evaluate Nazism's good points, because the things like efficiency, social cohesion, and giving people a sense of national and personal purpose were harnessed to monstrous misbehavior. So the autobahns and Volkswagens, and advances in fields like rocketry made under Nazi government sponsorship are to be ignored. Neither the Soviets nor the United States ignored them, however, and both tried to get as many German rocket scientists as they could after the War. And the U.S. Interstate Highway System, inaugurated by the President who was the Commander-in-Chief of Allied forces in WWII, Eisenhower, proceeded from appreciation of the virtues of Hitler's superhighways.
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The problem for the intellectually honest is always to separate the wheat from the chaff, use what is useful, and learn what can be learned in a good way from a bad time. Five-year plans were given a bad name by the failures of Soviet central planning, but we have REGIONAL plans and set multi-year goals in regard to wetland preservation and restoration, etc. An idea stands on its own, regardless of who employed it. You CAN learn from your enemies. In fact, it is often IMPORTANT to learn from your enemies. But it is equally important not to EMULATE them.
I forgot to mention what I once heard as a Chinese proverb but cannot find thru Google right now, something to the effect that a good word can come from a bad mouth, or do not ignore a good word merely because it comes from a bad mouth.
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Another old-time gay activist and academic joined the discussion, and put what I regarded as an inappropriate and irrelevant historical spin on things. So I replied.
You speak of rituals from hundreds of years ago that are presumably NOT even current practice as tho they are the future. That's akin to suggesting that if Puritans are allowed to preach their brand of intolerant Christianity, we will surely see a rise in people being put into stocks and pelted with rotting vegetables, and witch trials, and people being bound hand and foot and thrown into ponds to see if they are witches or not. Or if Catholicism is allowed to grow, we will see the Inquisition consigning heretics to the flames. Or — you get the picture.
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Most if not all religions are disgraceful in their treatment of unbelievers, and many nonbelievers are grateful that Christendom was rent by the Protestant Reformation, which weakened the stranglehold of a single church on society.
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Don't you see that the appeal of Islam is precisely that the proud (infidels) will be brought low, and that the people who have suffered will rise over and oppress those who at best ignored their pains and at worst actively oppressed THEM? If that is so, then the way to fite Islamist extremism is to do justice to the downtrodden in Moslem countries.
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The main problem with Islam is that it has no Pope to pronounce upon what is and is not permitted. The Koran is apparently so poetic that it lends itself to myriad, mutually contradictory interpretations. There is nothing new in that either. Judaism, and Christian followers of Jewish myth, posit both that Adam and Eve were the only two people at the beginning of the world, AND that Cain found a wife among the people of Nod. WHAT people of Nod? Within 2 pages in the Old Testament, the Bible contradicts itself, but people claim to believe in the literal truth of a Bible that cannot be literally true because two statements are mutually contradictory, so it is not possible for a rational person to believe in both. Indeed, the Jews' "jealous God", their God of Wrath, is plainly NOT the Christians' God of Love, but people pretend He is both. They also pretend that God knows all things in advance, yet went ahead to create the world, only later to drown it for its sins. But He won't do that again, because, um, because he learned his lesson and admitted that drowning puppies and kittens for the crimes of man was the wrong thing to do, a mistake. But God doesn't make mistakes. It's like that classic Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk gets a robot/satellite that believed itself to be perfect and that its duty was to eradicate imperfection, to admit that it had made a mistake even tho it was supposed to be incapable of mistake, and posed those two "truths" against each other. The robot/satellite starts to smoke from inside its artificial-intelligence brain and is so confounded and occupied in trying to figure out what to do, that the crew has time to beam it outside the Enterprise just before it destroys itself in keeping with its duty to destroy imperfection.
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Would that we could make the religious fanatics of the world accept that they do not have the right to pretend to believe in two diametrically opposed ideas, rather than letting them get away with lame excuses like, "I don't pretend to know everything. That's where faith comes in."
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If a caliph or sultan or other Moslem Pope were to try to crack the whip on heretical misstatements of Islam, would he be able to do so? Not all Christians heed joint pronouncements of the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury as binding even on Roman Catholic or Anglican/Episcopalian priests, much less ordinary members of the church The notion that each person has his or her own direct line to God so does not need other people telling him/her what to think or do, makes imposing any version of religion upon all supposed adherents nearly impossible.
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It is, alas, not realistic to disabuse people in general of superstitions and supernatural myths, because they serve deep needs of weak and weak-minded people. At end, then, we have to pursue a paired policy of dialog and encouraging a live-and-let-live ethos. Or match Islam's missionary outreach with Christian missionary fervor. Or we have to fite the neocons' permanent war. Or surrender. Or wage a war of extermination that kills scores of millions and fills the atmosphere with nuclear radiation.
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None of the alternatives that come readily to mind are happy ones, if we radicalize hundreds of millions of people across the Moslem world. Zionism has produced vast disruptions and radicalization. Calming down scores of millions of deeply indignant, materially impoverished people is hard to do, especially if they won't take a drink. Obama can't call them together to talk things out over a couple of beers at the White House.
Implicit in the last two sentences is that part of the problem with Islam is its prohibition of alcohol. I am quite serious about that. Alcohol serves hugely valuable purposes in relieving stress and easing social interactions by lowering inhibitions and defenses and opening people to new ideas. Some peoples have problems with alcohol. Perhaps Muhammed felt that Arabs were one of those peoples, like American Indians, who can't handle alcohol; Arabs were his initial audience; and it didn't occur to him that peoples who did not have a problem with alcohol might become part of the body of the faithful of his new religion, so prohibition of alcohol was intended only for people who have a problem with it, not for all people. But Islam is now stuck with that idiotic prohibition. Will modern Moslems be able to get rid of it as easily as the Catholic Church did away with its prohibition on eating meat on Fridays?
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The next round of replies came in, and I answered.
There is a simple solution to the problem of Moslem immigration to Europe: ban it, and make up the need for immigrants, if any (as to support pension benefits for an aging population), from Latin America, a Christian region. I imagine that impoverished Mexicans, Guatemalans, Brazilians, Haitians, etc., would be delited to be flown by employers to countries in Europe — well, at least the warmer countries — and especially if the receiving country speaks a Romance language that would be easier for them than English.
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I called the Western Hemisphere the fortunate Hemisphere because the overwhelming preponderance of its population is Christian, and even parts of Latin America are relatively progressive. Witness approval of gay marriage by Mexico City.
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I certainly concede, as everyone must, that Islam does seem much more violent today than Christianity — today. And there is plainly something wrong with the structures if not actual scriptures of Islam that Algerian Islamists can think it OK to slice open the belly of a pregnant woman and kill her baby after slashing the woman's throat [I saw reports of incidents like that actually happening some years back; I did not make it up] — and think their God wants them to do that, and they will be rewarded in Paradise for doing so. But to say that ALL of Islam is barbarous and incapable of modernization and reform is ultimately defeatist, more than just irrational. It points to only one future: total war. And countries under siege rarely take that as a good time to liberalize.
That's where the conversation ended, yesterday. If there is a followup, and I have something I'd like to mention here, I'll address it in a future blogpost.



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