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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Gay > Rubrieke | Columns > Christina Engela: Fundamentally Speaking

Yes, he can


Christina Engela - 2010-11-10


The past few days have given me some things to think about. The recent cabinet reshuffle in South Africa seems, so far at least, to be something to be glad about. Lulu was reposted somewhere else, away from arts and culture, presumably where she won’t be able to criticise and condemn works of art as "pornography" and "anti-family", and deputy minister of home affairs Malusi Gigaba was also "redeployed", hopefully where neither of them could cause further trouble by pushing their xenophobic religious fundamentalist agendas.

I wonder if Errol Naidoo is happy with the cabinet reshuffle. I would love to be a fly on the wall in his office in Parliament Street! Since his main contact in Home Affairs has now been moved somewhere else, I mean. I guess getting all those juicy right-wing homophobic Bills shovelled into parliament will be a little harder now. Whoops.

On the other hand, there are already several Bills lying on the table in parliament, Bills which threaten the civil rights of Joe Public and - like that other nasty piece of legislation in Uganda – are awaiting legislation, pending the outcome of decisions which will presumably be made while taking media and international public reaction into account. Of course, certain kinds of people judge the morality of, well, a morality law, by how many lives it can destroy, or by how many people they don’t like can be killed by it.

We need to keep an eye on religious fundamentalists, you see – they bear watching. Close watching, or before you know it, they will legislate all kinds of nasty little religious laws into effect, and then claim they were legitimately passed even though they were never publicly approved, or even opened for public discussion or input. One morning you will wake up and suddenly you won’t be allowed to open your shop on a Sunday, or hear or see anything but religious programming on TV and radio. The internet will be restricted, and possibly you might need a licence to access it, just like those ridiculous TV licenses the South African public still get ripped off with by the SABC. (Did you know you used to have to pay a radio licence before that? Interesting fact. But wait, now I’m giving away my age.)

What better time to pass draconian laws in the under-developed world than when international attention will be deflected by events such as yesterday’s Republican triumph in the USA? Lest we forget, Republican rule in the USA saw to the increase in religious fundamentalist "abstinence only" education and homophobic social programmes in the developing world, and for a decade or longer, Republican support saw to the devastation of human rights and equalities and the rise of xenophobia in countries like Uganda, whose homophobic leaders were wined and dined in the White House and praised for their efforts in "combating HIV" - and given aid and support to do it. These heroes of the Bush administration are now, once again, on the verge of passing a law which will unleash a state-run Pink genocide in the central African state, and presumably put this aid to work. But that’s just my opinion.

The way the Teabaggers have been campaigning in the US lately, trying to unseat the Democrats, one is almost inclined to believe that the only issue they are riding on is the race of the president. Yes, he’s black (in South Africa we would call him coloured), but because of that and his unwillingness to elaborate on his religious convictions, and because he supports equality and sound social and economic policies - and because he opposes homophobia, he’s a bad, bad president. And how can they blame the state of the economy on a government that has been working hard to rectify the mess they inherited from the Republican administration when George "Master of the Gaffe" Bush took his exit cue? I have to wonder at the gullibility of some people, considering how easily they can run back to the same people for leadership.

I was quite surprised to learn the other day that the Republican Party wasn’t always a bunch of mad, foaming-at-the-mouth religious fundamentalist loonies. Apparently that was a fairly recent development, from about the 1960s or so. Go figure. But yet again, I digress.

Okay, no government is perfect - I know, because I spend a great deal of time criticising the government of my own country for the silly and sometimes brutally stupid things they get up to - but Obama should have acted more decisively to make good his promises he made at election time. For one thing, DADT should have been gone long ago. DOMA should have been scrapped long ago. There should have been a public health insurance system long ago. Discrimination on grounds of any immutable characteristics being illegal should have been in the Constitution years ago. Democracy is a popularity contest. If you don’t live up to your promises, you stop being popular, you sink. Failure to live up to expectations can sink an administration.

If Obama wants to turn this thing around, if indeed he can, he should start putting his money where his mouth is.

In the past two years the cause of human rights and equality has advanced a lot in the USA. Imagine how the Republicans will try to undo all of that if they press home their attack. Imagine them resuming their attack on human rights and their Culture War in the Third World with support of the US government as it was under Bush. And with people like Sarah Palin wanting to run for the presidency in the next election I feel pretty pale myself. Goodness knows what the future holds. Scary.