The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about at all
Uganda’s Odonga Otto has finally gotten it. And what he has gotten is fairly simple; homosexuals are winning the argument simply by the argument being had.
Yes! The paradoxical element to the homosexuality debate anywhere is that the detractors are best advised to suppress the discussion. Everywhere the debate has been allowed to flourish, the argument for tolerance has won out. Everywhere!
Martin Ssempa is not the first crusader who has taken on the gay lobby and ended up isolated and ignored. In recent memory, you have to go back just 30 years to the era of Jerry Falwell (1933-2007) who took up the anti-gay fight in the United States and run away with it.
At the height of his fundamentalist prowess, Falwell held the entire America transfixed with his fire and brimstone condemnation of homosexuals, prostitutes and abortion advocates that he lumped together as the greatest evil facing the United States. In 1979, he formed a movement called the Moral Majority which was going to take America by storm and give the country back to the evangelical fundamentalists. Gays trembled in their Timberlands as images of the 17th Century Salem witch hunts flashed through their minds. Jerry Falwell was on a roll and presidents literally ate out of the palm of his hand.
But then something Falwell hadn’t counted on started happening. The more Americans listened to Falwell’s fulminations, the more the polls showed that opinion was shifting towards tolerance and acceptance. The pace was speeded up in the age of Bill Clinton who even made an attempt at removing the stumbling blocks that prevented gays from serving openly in the military. Even though that attempt failed, gays progressively enjoyed more acceptance from states as diverse as liberal California to introverted Florida.
Falwell grew desperate. Just as Ssempa has just done with his church pornography, Falwell pronounced the attacks on the twin towers of New York in September 2001 as the fault of homosexuals, abortionists and feminists who, he said, were responsible for America’s ills for “throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools … because God will not be mocked.”He was forced to offer an apology a few days later but it was too little too late. Even the most ardent evangelical decided that Falwell had gone too far and denounced him.
Falwell never recovered from that empty-mind utterance and his influence waned completely. By 2007, he was a sad, forlorn old man who no one took very seriously. He died of a heart attack, alone in his office in West Virginia, a melancholy end to a man who had single handedly held America spellbound for years with his firebrand attacks and uncompromising Biblical vituperation.
But by the time Falwell died, the debate on homosexuality in America had moved on from gay rights to other things such as gay adoptions and gay marriages, even in such conservative states as Ohio and Texas. Falwell’s publicity had educated those who paid attention to the arguments and led to the spectacular fall from grace that he suffered in the late 1990s, as America gradually realized that he was talking nonsense. Falwell’s extremism and the publicity he garnered while espousing fire and brimstone in the 1980s was a godsend to the gay community he so relentlessly hounded for so long. A classic case of one’s enemy weaving the rope that hangs him, surely.
|MP Odonga Otto
That is what Odonga Otto gets. He likely has read Oscar Wilde’s quote about not being talked about. And in truth, Ugandan gays have been suffering from the worst fate anyone fighting for civil rights can face; being invisible. Ssempa has led our fight for equal rights, helping our cause with every outlandish utterance and tasteless comment about gay sex.
Ugandans might not be as well educated as Americans, but they are a fair-minded people and they are certainly not idiots. When they look around them for the threat that Ssempa claims the homosexuals pose, they don’t see it. The tide is definitely shifting, imperceptibly for now, but shifting it is. And poor Ssempa senses that he is losing the battle for the hearts and minds which is why he has resorted to desperate tactics such as showing pornography in public. All that helps the gay lobby.
How do I know all this? I have witnessed it first hand. I have seen it with the accepting silence in my family where I would have expected horror and lengthy lectures. I have seen it in the accepting silence in the families of my friends who, after the horror of realization and the lengthy lectures from relatives, an unspoken truce has been reached and they have been accepted back into the family without, however, trying to force them to be anything else. All this would have been unthinkable even 10 years ago, and you would have had an avalanche of arranged weddings to hapless girls had these gay stories broken in 1990. None of that is happening because Ugandans are more intelligent than Ssempa thinks they are. And Odonga Otto gets this.
In Luganda we have a saying that “akub’ owuwe; akuba awumba engalo” (we take extra care when disciplining our loved ones) and this has never been more true than on the issue of families finding out that their children are gay. Forget the silliness of people like Bahati who has said that he would turn his brother in to the police if he discovered that he was gay. That is just hot air and no Ugandan will turn against his own on a matter of sexual persuasion. No one. Odonga Otto gets this which is why he now hopes that the discussion dies away. Odonga Otto gets it that the more the homosexuality debate maintains traction, the more Ugandans will learn about their children, brothers, sisters and, ahem, spouses, who are gay.
Then the argument will be lost utterly, irretrievably.