Wednesday, December 1, 2010
It Must be December 1st, Let's Blame "The Gays"
When the Republican Party ignited the Culture Wars in the late 1980s, it was after the failure of the Ronald Reagan and then George Bush governments to lead the country out of the economic crisis that followed the 1987 stock market crash.
Now that two decades have passed and that out-of-control deregulation (it's the point of deregulation to be out of control, isn't it?) and the ferocious greed engineered by Bush The Second and his cronies have unleashed on the United States its worst recession since the Great Depression, they are at it again.
If you've been following a bit what happened, you know that Senate Majority Boehner, He Of The Ridiculous Name, has decided to curate the current Hide/Seek exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington instead of, I don't know, doing more pressing legislation.
For example, voting on extending the unemployment benefits of several millions Americans whose sudden lack of funds will mean more economic hardship for everybody.
It's a no-brainer, really: unemployed people lose benefits, therefore can't pay the rent/the mortgage, landlords/banks lose money, housing stock go derelict, less money gets into the economy to encourage consumer spending, Santa won't come this year for the millions of little Christian offspring of the unemployed (take that, Glenn Beck - or is it O'Reilly?- and your idiotic rants about the "war on Christmas"). It's 2 millions people who are going to lose their benefits. Out of a population of roughly 300 millions Americans. You likely know one of them. I know one, a hardworking grandmother whose benefits have been cut and who may find herself homeless in a couple of weeks if she can't come up with the rent.
In a nutshell, Mr. Boehner got his penis in a tick because of a David Wojnarowicz video, demanded that the video be removed after being alerted to it by a right-wing religious organization, and the Smithsonian powers that be caved in. It's the video above, which you can find easily on YouTube, obviously.
This all should remind you of the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition being canceled at the Corcoran in DC which, in fact, did much more for Mapplethorpe's posthumous fame than if the show had processed ahead.
Now let's be clear here: as an art lover, former curator, writer, and plain old human being, FBC! is resolutely against censorship of any kind. I find censorship abhorrent mainly because I resent the fact that anybody would think they can decide in my name what should or shouldn't be allowed to read, watch, see, listen to, attend, witness, enjoy, react to, or even dislike. Heaven forbid. If I'm going to be shocked by a David Wojnarowicz video, I demand the right to see for myself whether I will, in fact, be shocked or not. For the record, I'm not. But even if I was, I'd want to see it to decide for myself.
And, I also feel that if I have moved all the way to a country that embedded the right to free speech in its Constitution, I should demand that this right be respected. In France, we don't have a right to free speech embedded in our Constitution.
Lastly, we are constantly bombarded by tons of right-wing propaganda from the likes of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and their ilk. You just need to long on the internet and go to a newspaper homepage to see their last idiotic, outreagous comments.
Do I demand that their pictures and videos and speeches be removed from the airwaves, medias, the internet and all that because they shock my atheist and progressive core beliefs?
No, I don't, because I think wingnuts should be allowed to express their own baseless, fact-less beliefs if they want to, even if they disturbed my Cartesian, scholarly and scientific values.
To be fair, what really shocks me about US right-wing propaganda in general is how stupid it is and how it assumes that the American People at large are a populace largely constituted of morons.
It may very well be, but I have a bit more faith in human decency and intelligence than the condescending Republicans have in their own constituency.
In any case, I strongly feel that the National Portrait Gallery shouldn't have caved in to Mr. Boehner's demand and should have kept the Wojnarowicz video in the exhibition, even if threatened with federal funding cuts. If you put something in your exhibition, it's because it has a place in it, so removing it is senseless and spineless, intellectually speaking.
I'm pretty sure that in real life, Mr. Boehner doesn't give a damn about David Wojnarowicz, who has been dead for 20 years and can't therefore defend his own work.
What Mr. Boehner, as a politician, is likely to be interested in, is to find a way to distract the public opinion from the project of his own party to stall all bills until the Bush-era tax cuts in favor of the wealthy are extended, instead of creating a strong fiscal policy that would help reign in the nation deficit.
A large part of it being inherited from 8 years of George Bush's administration, including the TARP banks bailout (remember? it was before the Nov. 2008 election). As were the useless, senseless wars waged in Iraq and Afghanistan that have drained the nation of the blood of its youth and of the money in its coffers to enrich the arms dealers and private contractors in cahoots with the people who initiated the slaughter in the name of the Nation. Your "representatives".
Which leads me to the Pentagon study released yesterday in favor of repealing the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, and to the date chosen by Senator Boehner to target an artwork made by an openly gay artist who died 20 years ago.
Have you noticed today is December 1st? It's World Aids Day?
Instead of writing about Republican's smokescreens created to dissimulate their own economic ineptitude, I would have much preferred spending the time remembering the wonderful people who died of Aids, gay and straights alike, anonymous and famous artists alike, and look at the work of Gonzalez-Torres or maybe watch a Dominique Bagouet dance piece. Many great artists died of Aids, and today should be a day to remember them and their contribution to world culture.
Instead, I can't help but reflect that each time conservative political parties are in a bind, they like to deflect the attention from their lack of results, from their criminal inaction or worse, from the corruption that is endemic to political life (hello, secret corporate donations to parties!) by blaming the Other.
Now, since the atrocities of World War II, Western democratic governments can't really go on blaming the Jews as their political forebears did for a couple thousands years, so they have to find another Other to blame.
In France right now, Mr. Sarkozy has found a perfect build-in minority to point the finger at and enact discriminatory measures against, the Roms, after distracting the French from his failed economic policies - which also favor the rich - by making the wearing of the burqa illegal in public.
It should be noted that less than 2,000 women were wearing it in France, out of a population of 60 millions.
I have no idea how many Roms are currently living in France (ethnic statistics are illegal in France because they are inherently a racist tool of oppression, and because we have quite an ugly history with our own Jewish population, as I'm sure my erudite readers know), but I'd be ready to bet it doesn't hover much more above 200,000 people.
In the United States, the two Others that the Republican party has been trying to blame for the last couple of decades at least are either the illegal immigrants; a minority that is easy to construct because immigrating legally to the United States is almost impossible, or "The Gays".
For clarity's purpose and because this is a long post, "The Gays" encompass all LGBT, a category of Americans whose core identity is in fact increasingly being accepted, albeit slowly, by the American people a large (see: repeal of DADT above).
There are setbacks to gay marriage, obviously, but just the fact that it is a legislative issue is a big advance, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were definitively legalized everywhere in the States within the next two decades or so. The instance of gay teens bullying have generated a large viral online campaign in support, the It Gets Better one, though your truly thinks it would be more effective to ban bullying in all schools, period.
Now *that* would be a piece of legislative work the Republican Party could enact and I'd totally support it. I can be bi-partisan that way.
The GOP has to thread a thin line when targeting illegal immigrants because they are trying to attract the legal Latino ones who are bound to become a huge political force in the next few decades. Since many Latino are catholic, what's best than manufacture a symbolic scandal that costs the Republican Party nothing, can be disguised as fighting "anti-catholic propaganda" (whereas no one gives a damn about defining the US as a "nation of Christians", which I personally resent as anti-Jewish, anti-secular, anti-other religions propaganda), and that targets the work of a dead gay artists on the eve of World Aids Day?
What I'm trying to say is that the date chosen by Rep. Boehner to enact censorship is a highly symbolic one, one to warn the LGBT part of the population that they are being the next target.
The Republican majority is rearing its ugly head, and already prepares whatever symbolic action it can take to hide the fact that is has become the party of the ultra wealthy and not of the poor millions schmucks who voted them back into power.
The next few years are going to be hideous economically for 80% of the American people, and the Republican policies are going to make them worse. Because the Republican Party knows it is bound to fail economically, it is now choosing a convenient scapegoat to divert the attention from its own future political and economic disasters, be it at the price of discriminating against The Gays.
If you feel as strongly as I do about the issues at hand, please join this Facebook page where the email address of the various concerned officials are given (including Mr. Boehner's) for you to express your disappointment at this act of censorship and its deliberate attack against the gay community at such a symbolic period.
Meanwhile, give as much support as you can to your LGBT friends, to artists and to the arts, and fight senseless discrimination.