Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Déjà vu

Déjà vu. I almost lost my lunch. I remember the feeling of nausea and outrage very clearly. It was South Africa 1989 and I was in an editorial meeting for a campus news magazine I co-edited. We’d been sent some photographs of the victim of a ‘sjamboking’ – the whipping of a detainee in police custody that left huge open welts on his back. The picture was sickening, and we ran one on the cover and another inside (see below) with our feature story on police brutality. I remember the (guilty) feeling of gratitude that as a white student, it was likely that I’d be handled with a much lighter touch. Though, that might have been false confidence. Still, when I was picked up by “branch” for questioning, I was let off with a stern lecture.

Flash forward. 2005. I had the same feeling yesterday while preparing a story for the OutRage! News Service about Amir, a 22 year old gay Iranian sentenced to 100 lashes and told that he would face the death penalty if the court-appointed doctors found evidence of anal penetration. Amir was fortunate to live to tell his tale. He managed to flee to Turkey with photos of his injuries. He was able to speak to US journalist Doug Ireland about his terrible experiences and about the persecution of gay Iranians.

I found myself having the same guilty feelings. How lucky I am to live in a country where my sexual orientation won’t get me whipped or executed. But the revulsion I now feel is for those of my fellow-citizens who glibly dismiss Amir’s suffering because it is inconvenient to their political agendas. For example, these morons who left comments on Indymedia who think that speaking out for Iranian gays means supporting George Bush’s Middle East policy. What type of person can be so dismissive of people’s suffering?

The truth of the matter is that huge sections of the so-called “Left” secretly hate gays. Complaining about the abuse of gays in Jamaica or Zimbabwe makes us “racists” and “imperialists”; complaining about the treatment of gays in Algeria or Saudi Arabia makes us “Islamophobes”; complaining about the treatment of gays in Palestine makes us “Zionists”; complaining about the attitude of the Catholic Church makes us “militant secularists”; and complaining about the torture and execution of gays in Iran now makes us “pro-Bush”.

We can’t win. We should know our place. We should not introduce all these “shibboleths”. We should be good little faggots and shut the fuck up. If we remain victims, the Left can humour us with platitudes. When we stand up for ourselves, well, then we’re a threat.

Back in 1989 I was fighting against racism, imperialism and injustice. When I saw pictures of a man bleeding from his welts after a whipping by a fascist and brutal State, I felt filled with a righteous rage! I still do. I haven’t changed, but the Left sure has! It is no longer recognisable to me.


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