Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Great Divide

As yet not far advanced into the 21st century, we in the US have experienced momentous changes in the quest for sexual equality. The sodomy laws, DADT, and DOMA are gone. For all time, we trust, a stake has been driven through their hearts. 

To be sure, there is more to be accomplished by way of extending same-sex marriage throughout all the 50 states and establishing trans rights, but we can look back on this brief slice of time in the 2000s with some satisfaction. And there is more, for our gaze must not be restricted to our own nation. We are joining a vast swathe of countries--comprising Western Europe, Canada, Latin America, Australasia, and Japan--where sexual enlightenment has come to prevail. To their credit, the great nations of India and China seem to be joining the ranks of this great comity.

Over against this fortunate array, however, stands the rejectionist bloc, comprising the Muslim-majority states, much of sub-Saharan Africa, and some Caribbean nations. In all these lands, same-sex behavior is severely sanctioned, sometimes with the death penalty. In some countries efforts are underway to increase the penalties.

In this way, there has arisen a Great Divide, two diametrically opposed ways of understanding same-sex love, which perforce must characterize our understanding of world culture. It is in this perspective, I believe, that the current Russian efforts to curb “homosexual propaganda” must be understood. Uncomfortably, even freakishly, Russia seeks to straddle the boundary between the two camps. It is uncertain how long this mugwump stance can be sustained.

There are four significant causal factors in this rejectionism: 1) Islam and sharia law; 2) evangelical Christianity; 3) survivals of British sodomy laws in some Commonwealth and ex-Commowealth countries; 4) survivals of Marxist puritanism in ex-Communist states. Of these factors. Islam is the most obdurate.  While much of mainstream Christianity has "graduated" from its traditional homophobia, by and large Muslims have not. 

ADDENDUM.  A further question is this.  Why have the "original" British dominions--Canada, Australia, NZ, and South Africa--have been so successful in discarding the baneful English legacy of the sodomy laws, while more newly enfranchised Commonwealth states have not?  India is (recently) an honorable exception. I think that the answer lies in two factors: 1) the evangelical Christianity that thrives in the Caribbean and parts of Africa (sometimes allying with bigoted elements of Anglicanism and Catholicism); and 2) the false sense that same-sex behavior was not indigenous to Africa, but was imposed by imperialists as an act of humiliation. The campaign against homosexuality is thus seen, insidiously, as part of the decolonization effort.


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