Sunday, December 12, 2010

Denounce religious extremism - in all its forms: M. Cook's sporadic dose

Man, was I ever naive - not to mention wrong.

When I left the position of director of AIDS services at HES more than a decade ago, I really thought the worst of the fight for gay civil rights was behind us.

Ironically, one of the reasons I thought that was because of the AIDS epidemic itself.

As devastating as the epidemic was to gay men of my generation, it also forced the opening of countless thousands of closet doors, and the building of bridges within families and communities , as families and communities began to recognize and accept the gay men and lesbians within their midst.

That recognition and acceptance played a critical role in prevention efforts that helped stop AIDS from becoming a far more wide spread sexually transmitted disease in the United States, as we feared it might become in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

The gay community's response to the AIDS epidemic was a collective profile in personal and political courage that served as a model for other communities and prevention programs targeting other diseases.

But, with all that, it's become increasingly clear the rights of gay Americans are perhaps in greater jeopardy today than they have been since 1978, when Dan White, the San Francisco city supervisor who, literally, got away with committing a double homicide because one of his victims, fellow city supervisor Harvey Milk, was gay.

I'm writing this right after attempts in the Senate to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" went narrowly down to defeat.

The forces of anti-gay bigotry and ignorance prevailed- at least for now.

What is unsettling is those forces seem to be gaining strength in the United States today.

In the last week, as I've kept abreast of news in the States via my laptop, it's gays who are increasingly being blamed for almost every issue confronting the nation today.

Whether it's the Wikileaks controversy or the economy, bigoted voices in the US are trying to make gays responsible for most, if not all, of what ails the US today.

It might all be comical if it were not so ugly and dangerous.

In addition, a few days before DADT fell three votes short of being repealed, Rachel Maddow had the Ugandan politician who is the driving force behind that country's "kill the gays bill" on her show.

What is fascinating, not to mention frightening, is the fact this man is also a member of "The Family," a secretive, right wing, Washington based, international, Christian fundamentalist/political organization that includes many GOP and Tea Party congressman and senators in its membership, many of whom cheat on their wives while rooming together at a notorious townhouse on "C Street," commonly referred to inside the Beltway as the "born again frat house."

Interestingly, all this happened the same week Gloucester's own Jim Munn wrote a compelling column for the Gloucester Times in which he reminded us that all religions of the world, including Christianity, have been known to resort to violent and brutal tactics in attempts to impose their particular theology on others.

Needless to say, the GDT blog thread in response to Jim's column lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree, mostly with comments expressing contempt for Jim's observations and outrage at his suggestion that Christian extremists have used violent means to advance their interpretations of Scripture.

But the truth is they have, time and again.

How many physicians have been gunned down, how many women's health clinics have been bombed, and innocent people killed in recent years by Christian extremists in the United States who believed just as fervently that they were carrying out their God's will as the equally monstrous extremists who carried out the attacks of 9-11 believed they were carrying out Allah's will?

The number of victims is irrelevant, murder carried out in the name of religious extremism is a particularly vile crime.

And today, as I write this, there are so called Christians in the United States, some of them sitting members within our government and powerful members of the Republican Party, who are welcoming and embracing a man from Uganda who is working to impose life prison sentences, and to even execute, members of that country's gay community - all in the name of Christ and Christianity.

If that isn't violence being carried out in the name of religion, will someone please tell me what is?

As I said, it all might be funny if it was not all so frightening.

Thanks Jim Munn for a spot on column, and all your years of dedication to Fishtown and its youth.

Michael Cook
Puerto Viejo de Limon, CR
& Gloucester, MA

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