"The United States criticizing Russia over gay rights is like Rwanda criticizing the Darfur over genocide... "
Yes, that is what I said when asked by a listener about President Obama's condemnation of Russia over their stringent anti-GLBT laws.
"And spare me your concern for Egypt; our Revolution took eight years and cost many thousands of lives, they've only been at this two years. AND, in Iraq, each day, 25-50 die with almost 1,000 civilians dead in July and who was screaming about that? We did that! That is OUR fault!"
Yes, I finished with that. Because it's how I felt at the time.
I know what's going on in Russia is horrific. But what's going on in Mississippi or Alabama or any one of 29 states where a person can still be fired for being gay, even if it's just alleged is also horrible. And it's horrible that GLBT youth can not hear a positive message about being gay in Russia, but there are school districts and states trying to do the same here. Yes, Conversion Rape (raping a "suspected" lesbian to convert her and not being punished for it) is horrific and has been reported in Russia. But sending someone away to Gay Rehab (conversion therapy), forcing thoughts and images upon them, making them betray their very soul, well, that's a form of violation as well and can scar people for just as long and it's practiced in almost every state in the U.S.
Yes, a Russian newscaster saying gay hearts should be burned or buried if the organs are donated after a death is just wrong, but so is the FDA and American Red Cross refusing blood donations from gay men when blood has been tested for HIV and Hepatitis for decades now that's also appalling. Russian gay youth being attacked by skin heads and the perpetrators going unpunished is horrific, but GLBT youth are attacked by religious ideology in the U.S. daily and end up killing themselves in record numbers as well, dying without any repercussion to those that led them to it.
And let's not forget that in 37 states the battle for marriage equality still rages where GLBT Americans have to beg legislators, or even worse, voters, to approve their love and unions and grant them equal protection under the law. Disgusting. England has gay marriage, Uruguay for the love of all things holy, but the fight rages here? ENDA is not the law of the land. And it's only been in the last five years that DOMA or DADT have disappeared; two flawed and horrific breaches of law and Constitution that were the law of the land for years without much uproar.
The fact is this country is nowhere near where it needs to be for GLBT equality, safety and harmony in society. Yes, we are moving forward. But we are still very, very backwards.
Snowden pissed off President Obama, and Putin flipped him off by granting him asylum. So, the president tries to embarrass Putin on GLBT rights, having rainbow flags thrown in his face in countries he visited after the uproar. Celebrities called for a boycott of the Winter Olympics.
And now, a few weeks out, there's a new scandal, Egypt has erupted, Glenn Greenwald's partner has been harassed (who knew an openly gay man broke one of the biggest stories in the recent past!) and the athletes are preparing for Sochi. Mark Leno from Calif. (D-Senator 11th District) called for Calif. to stop investing pension funds in Russia in protest. I can't find one story on the progress of that or if that has died.
And Russian GLBT youth are still suffering and dying, and while their American counterparts do have it better in many areas, it's no picnic here either. It's a daily battle outside of the Calif. or New York bubbles for gay men and women in America; a battle to stay employed, a battle to be in love and be recognized, a battle not to throw it all in as a youth because of institutionalized bigotry, and we may have a name for them now, but hate crimes still happen just like skin heads attacking Russians.
No, President Obama, when it comes to the GLBT community in America you have been better than any recent president in tone, but not in substance. DOMA was bad law. It was unconstitutional. It had to be undone and I'm glad it was, but you don't get credit for repealing something that should have never been enacted (shame on you Bill Clinton). As for Don't Ask Don't Tell, when the Army needed bodies during the Civil War, they let in blacks. Why? Equality? No, they needed bodies. Our military at the time was waging war on two fronts with exhausted soldiers. It needed (needs) bodies. It also makes those people pledge valor, honor, dignity, pride, allegiance to Country so it is incongruous that it would also ask them to cover up or lie about who they are so again, glad it's gone, but it benefitted the country more than the gays in general.
No, President Obama, you want street cred over here to criticize others? Make Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) the law of the land by making it a legislative priority and make it illegal in every state to fire a GLBT person for simply earning a living. Have a congressperson introduce legislation to simply grant marriage equality, period, all 50 states and let's get this bigotry out in the open on the Senate or House floor. Stop doing half-measures and get the job done.
And as for Egypt, well, look at the Iraq Body Count. Just this past Monday, August 19, 14 people died. Seven in bomb attacks in Mosul, three by IEDs in Tuz, one by gunfire in Basra, one in Kirkuk, another IED death in Baquba with an AED death in Mahaweel. So far, in August, 495 civilians have been killed in Iraq violence. And we did that. We broke that country apart and now it is the Humpty Dumpty of the Middle East; nothing is going to put it back together again.
We spent trillions all told, and for what? We illegally occupied the country, deposed the dictator that was keeping the peace (and no, he was NOT a nice man), invaded, forced something on them they didn't really want to buy, and then left. Now, the Chinese buy up to 60 percent of the oil from the country and we have $4/gallon gas, thousands of Americans with PTST, lost limbs or lost lives and up to 125,000 dead civilians.
Move in to Afghanistan and Pakistan and just talk drones and we've killed over 3,000 from the sky, and the CIA has said up to 25 percent of those people are unknown to us, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. That means we've killed 750 civilians with drones (a conservative estimate), including over 100 children.
But we are going to condemn the revolutionary process of Egypt and be outraged at the violence?
In 2012, 131 people were murdered in Oakland, Calif. There's been 58 murders to date in 2013. Over 21,000 people have died in the U.S. from gun violence since the Newtown tragedy and estimates say gun deaths will surpass auto deaths in the U.S. this year, and we can't even get sensible legislation passed, let alone be outraged enough to actually do something about it.
The fact is, the Russian gay issue was made an issue because of mounting tensions with Russia, including Snowden, and Egypt is an issue because we support their military, they are the gateway to the Middle East and support Israel in so much as they don't attack them. We need Egypt to keep relations in the Middle East which we need for, say it with me, oil. The only reason anyone cares about a "Stan" country or the MIddle East is oil. Wait, and Israel. And we should care about both, but again, the outrage over this particular situation in Egypt... really?
There's a lot be be angry about across the world. But there's also a lot to be angry about right here. A lot. And we can't keep acting like sectarian violence isn't happening in the streets of America. Religious right, Muslim Brotherhood, what's the difference? Republicans refusing to legislate, a country in decline, a nation that excels at two things, incarcerating and killing prisoners but fails at everything else from education to equality, well...
In the 24-hour news cycle there's room for us to be involved, and care about, many issues: including Egypt and Russia. But let's be sure we know why we are involved, why we care. And then let's make sure that as we throw stones, our house is not made of glass. Because Moscow or Mississippi anti-gay sentiment, laws and oppression are everywhere and hurts just as much to the person experiencing it regardless of geography. And make no mistake, the GLBT community still bears the brunt of hatred and hate crimes in America today. And the argument that, "well, you have it better here than there," doesn't make what's going on here right. It's a false equivalent.
And as for Egypt, what's going on is horrific, from killing of journalists, rapes going on in the crowds going unreported, people dying for a simple political affiliation, revolution is indeed messy. Like France supported us, we must support the spirit of freedom and independence that burns in Egypt and throughout the world, but we must never forget that we can't share freedom or independence if all Americans are not secure in their own.
And let's not forget the horrors of Iraq. Let's not forget the terrors that still exist in Afghanistan, the death, the violence. It's a legacy we created and we seem to have left the Iraqis to die without so much as a blip on our nightly news.
Follow Charles Karel Bouley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thekarelshow