||Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45:37 AM
In the newspaper last week, I saw a group of holy men sitting behind a big table, lined off in front a firing squad of news cameras, proudly heralding victory against a sinister and powerful agenda, the purpose of which was to forever alter our way of life here in the Bahamas. I guess we should say, “Thank you?”
To assure this victory, however, sacrifices had to be made and in this instance that sacrifice was the citizenship of some Bahamian children yet to be born, the non-Bahamian husbands of Bahamian women and protections against discrimination based on sex. Sure the referendum was not perfect and the political climate surrounding it was not either, but it was made out to be something it was not to stop something it did not represent.
In Orlando this past weekend, other sacrifices were made, but in blood. A man, angered at the sight of men kissing each other, who had also taken to beating his wife regularly, decided that enough was enough. Action needed to be taken and so 49 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people were slaughtered, along with their allies, while another 53 were seriously wounded.
Indeed, standing between the rhetoric of our would-be saviors who caution against the irreparable damage of yielding to this phantom “global gay agenda” and the mass death in Orlando is also the neat suggestion that an island internment camp should be set up to remove the scourge of homosexuality and gender variance from our communities- all stops along a road to a logical conclusion, just a matter of degrees apart.
From what I can glean, the problem seems to be that LGBTQ people have mustered the gall to ask for, of all things, the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as their heterosexual counterparts. Equal access to state services- the very same services they pay equal taxes to support- and for protection against violence and discrimination are at the top of the list, but same-sex marriage seems to dominate the conversation.
Besides three countries, 11 of the top 15 safest places on earth for LGBTQ people are also the ranked among the top 25 most peaceful places on earth. A majority of them also rank above the median country for economic stability and general happiness. None of them have been swept into the ocean, suffered plagues or have been destroyed by fire and brimstone- just lucky, I guess. Although, it could be that by valuing the lives and livelihood of minorities who are different, societies exemplify that all lives have value.
Never mind what the evidence shows, many argue that allowing for equal treatment will bring eminent destruction. We are told LGBTQ people are an abomination and to give them any rights is to endorse their abhorrent behaviors. We are even asked to remember a time when LGBTQ people cowered in fear, lying about who they are, or better still, when LGBTQ people didn’t even exist. What a time that was- when the natural order of the world was undisturbed and fear kept all who were different tucked silently away in their closets.
As a result of these arguments, campaigns in opposition to the so-called “global gay agenda” have sprung up across the world. Here in the Bahamas, they relentlessly shouted “Vote No” to take action against what they have framed as Goliath- the brutal giant in Biblical lore that stood ready to savage God’s chosen people.
It seems, however, that Goliath is less a giant and more a dwarf on stilts. Whether it is bands of crypto-Nazis in Russia dragging gay men from their homes or the executioner in Iran hanging men suspected of homosexuality or legislators in Uganda who passed laws that made homosexuality punishable by death, it is David’s savagery that worries me more than the imaginary giant haunting the minds of a few holy men.
What many of these countries have in common is their authoritarian political structures. Here in the Bahamas, opponents of the “global gay agenda” claim to be protecting our democratic sovereignty from unwanted international pressure. I would venture a guess that like their interpretation of Biblical texts, they have taken a wholly reductive and fundamentalist view of what democracy actually is; this is, my countrymen and women, where Bahamians have to make decision.
Democracies are not just about the power of the vote- if they were, they would descend into tyrannical majority rule. A central tenet of democracy is that in democratic societies every person is equal before and under the law. Sometimes it takes democracies a while to come to this reality but the forward march of democracy is always toward equality.
We forget that we professed, at the framing of our supreme law, not just an abiding respect for Christian values but also a belief in the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, the establishment of a free and democratic sovereign nation and that our lives will not be frustrated by any deprivation.
Is it considered deprivation to deny a group of people rights, equal treatment, protection and the privileges that come with being a citizen, whoever they may be?
Unfortunately, some have framed the rights and freedoms of the individual- true democracy- and the “abiding respect for Christian values” as oppositional, and set amidst the conflict of these two aspirations, a battle has seemingly emerged. But the real battle isn’t between democracy and Christian values, it is between democracy and fundamentalism.
Religious fundamentalism has seen unrelenting growth throughout the twentieth century. From Jerry Falwell’s conservative religious-right to the Taliban in Afghanistan to violent roving gangs of fundamentalist Buddhists in Sri Lanka, and yes even a man so conflicted about his own sexuality he was driven to mass murder- fundamentalism is the true enemy.
What religious fundamentalism purports to do is to reclaim order and more specifically power in a world that has changed more rapidly than at any other time in history and it gives the believer a story to justify their fear and frustrations, and even their violence.
That story begins with creation and concludes with the apocalypse. Between that history and the coming future, the believer is cast simultaneously as both victim and crusader in a wicked world with a fiery end. With all their righteous indignation, fundamentalists are tasked with protecting, “traditional morality,” at all costs. This is of course despite the inevitability of the end of days which requires the very moral decay that fundamentalists claim to fight against. In the end, fundamentalists believe that they will be judged for how vigorously they fought against the same moral decay necessary for the very cataclysm for which they hope and pray.
In the Bahamian case, as is perhaps the case in many other places, our crusaders are careful to only war against the perceived immorality of a minority. The shouts of victory against the “global gay agenda” are echoes sounding from the very center of this cycle of fatalistic thinking. Shooting up a nightclub is where we find ourselves in the extreme- the difference only depends on how vigorously some have decided to fight for their reward- 72 virgins or not.
Therefore I reiterate, Bahamians have a decision to make. It is not a simple one and it does not concern itself with who we are now but with who we intend to be.
Like the Orlando shooter we are a society at conflict internally. We can choose to hope- that the future for us is bright and that we can move forward, upward and onward together as a people no matter how we identify, depending on the strength of our unity; or we can lean on the petty divisions of the past and the apocalyptic foretelling of our future. We can choose courage- to face the world with truly Christians values- love, acceptance and a belief in the best of those around us; or we can choose to be mired in fear, building a wall around ourselves to keep out the spectres birthed from the muck of our own insecurities. We can choose to judge our values as a nation; or to judge our brothers and sisters.
The shooter chose division and doom, he let the fear of who he was and what others would think give power to his insecurities and drive him to vengeance. In the end, instead of coming to terms with who he was, he passed judgement on those around him- the cost of which is untold. Our choice as a nation is no different and I suggest we choose wisely.
Joey Gaskins is a native of
Grand Bahama and a graduate of Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY with a BA in
Politics. He studied at the London School of Economics and Political
Science (LSE) where he attained his MSc in Race, Ethnicity and
Post-Colonial Studies and begun a Doctoral Degree in Sociology. Joey
lives in Nassau and is a former part-time lecturer at College of the
Bahamas, restaurant owner and is a communications and policy strategy
consultant. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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