Liz has asked me to write something political, and I expect she meant something about advances in gay rights in the last decade. Certainly they are a joy to acknowledge. As a lesbian ‘d’un certain age’ I have witnessed a sea-change in the recognition of gays in the west. Where we once were pariahs and treated with disgust, derision, electroshock, prison time and occasionally murder, we now have the right to serve in the armed forces, to marry and to adopt, and to star in television and movies. And the wrath (and lunacy) we elicit in the fundamentalist community is a sure sign we are emerging into the light. I rejoice in this victory. However, with apologies to Liz, other political issues spring to my mind.
Having long researched and then published The Witch of Stalingrad, a war romance abut female Soviet fighter pilots, I could not help but compare the Soviet Union with the United States. Of course there is a huge difference between Soviet life of the 1940s and the US of today. For one, the Soviet state was dictatorship organized militarily in an all-out war for survival. The US…well…is not.
And yet, we should not swagger about our rights and freedoms. To save myself a lot of paraphrasing, let me shamelessly quote John Feffer:
“We have more people in prison — in total and by percentage of population — than any developed country on Earth. Our political system has been taken over by a club of the rich with corruption so embedded that no one dares call it by that name. The deterioration of public infrastructure has, as in the Soviet Union in the 1970s, turned the country into an embarrassment of falling bridges, exploding gas lines, bursting pipelines, backward railroads, unsecured power plants, and potential ecological catastrophes. Add in spreading governmental surveillance and secrecy, unsustainable military spending, and a disastrously interventionist, military-first foreign policy and the United States is looking a lot like the old Soviet Union.” (“Why the world is becoming the un-Sweden” Tomdispatch.com).
We do not live in a dictatorship, but the National Security Act not only allows all our electronic communication to be monitored, but also permits the executive – if he says the magic word “terrorism” – to indefinitely detain and even execute an American citizen without trial – IN SECRET. Our government practiced and — it is widely believed — still practices torture, extraordinary rendition, and drone assassinations, and supports and finances Israel’s military occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians – in the name of national security. It fights wars (Iraq) or threatens war (Syria, Iran) against countries that are no threat to us. And I haven’t even mentioned global climate change, the militarization of our police forces, gun madness, the funnelling of money upward to the rich 1%, , and our inability to change any of those things. Have we focused on the freedom to marry at the cost of other, greater freedoms?
I am convinced that LGBT people are in general above the national average in imagination, talent, liberalism, compassion, and political awareness. We’ve been outsiders to the American Dream so long, we see it with detachment and are not taken in by its blandishments. And when, as seems likely, the Supreme Court hands down its decision guaranteeing marriage equality in the US, we will party hearty for one day and then regain our scepticism. I hope so. I hope we will be wary of “pink-washing” political candidates who advocate for us but also show every sign of maintaining the political status quo regarding the rest of our rights.
That’s all I have to say to all of my LGBT friends as, nationwide, we celebrate our annual parades. Let us sing out joyously, not only to our friends in the streets, but to our government and its agents.
We’re here, we’re queer, we think you’re full of shit.
And just so you don’t think I’m a grumpy old dyke, here’s a picture of a kitten.