Saturday, October 2, 2010


I had a funny thought today ... well, not funny: sad, I guess.  Sad in the way that my mind still works sometimes, and funny that I sometimes have to remind myself of things like this.

A friend sent me a link to a New York Times opinion piece, which details the sorry state of the American character today.  You probably don't need me to give you the details ... you know:  an assistant state attorney general who cyber-bullies the openly gay student body president at the university he once attended, otherwise intelligent gay young men who kill themselves in large part because some dick doesn't like the kind of sex they're having, the extension of U.S. military bombings in countries (Pakistan, for instance) we are not at war with, media hogs who scream "class warfare" when working-class people complain about being drained dry by faceless corporate financial institutions, the mindless and incessant rallying over values which are, in effect, just prejudices and issues which are, in effect, just hurt feelings.

In response I said, wittily, "Kind of makes me wish I lived in a socialist republic.  Cuba, anyone?"  Then immediately I thought about what I had said and wondered to myself whether I could indeed live in a country like Cuba, ... given its history of human rights abuses, particularly the campaign against gay men during the 1960s, so stirringly depicted in Nestor Almendros' 1984 documentary Bad Conduct and poet Reinaldo Arenas' 1992 autobiography Before Night Falls.

Then I had to laugh (the funny part) ... and asked myself how I manage to live in the United States, given its history of human rights abuses (the sad part).  Slavery, massacres of its original inhabitants, the biggest prison population in the world, extreme interrogation techniques, carpet bombings, and evisceration of its own middle class are hardly things a country can boast of ... not even a god-fearing yet tolerant democracy with a laissez-faire free market.

And in the '60s, while Castro's henchmen were rounding up gay men into concentration camps, the state and local police in the USA were still raiding gay bars and shaking the patrons down for no-contest fines, a state of affairs that eventually erupted in the Stonewall Riots.  In the 1960s, the American Psychological Association still categorized gays and lesbians as mentally ill, subjecting them to apomorphine aversion therapy to "cure" the disease.  Last month, Castro apologized for his contribution to the persecution of sexual minorities.  Last year, Fort Worth and Atlanta police raided more gay bars, beating some of the patrons severely.

The blessings of liberty, folks.

(Photos:  slave with whip scars, a medicine man after the Wounded Knee massacre, 2009 police raid on a gay bar in Atlanta, lynched black man, the Stonewall Riots, child killed by poison gas near a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, lynched black man, incarcerated Japanese-Americans during World War II, and Abu Ghraib.)

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