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Doctor, heal thyself

Clinton says U.S. will campaign for gay rights


Published Dec 15, 2011 9:49 PM

African-American lesbian activist, poet and writer Audre Lorde wrote that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Published in 1984, her statement is a perfect response to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Dec. 6 announcement that the U.S. will supposedly be championing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people around the world. Clinton gave her outrageously hypocritical remarks at an event recognizing International Human Rights Day in Geneva, Switzerland.

While Clinton speaks lofty words about the needs of LGBTQ people around the world, LGBTQ people in the U.S. continue to be discriminated against, denied marriage rights, harassed, subjected to police brutality, beaten and murdered. The rates of suicide and homelessness amongst LGBTQ youth in the U.S. continue to be appallingly high. Most importantly, LGBTQ people in the U.S. continue to resist the numerous attacks against our lives.

Once again, the U.S. has the audacity to present itself as some kind of authority with regard to human rights. While Clinton remarked that “we have more work to do to protect human rights at home,” the overwhelming bulk of her speech was directed at what other countries are doing wrong — making apparent that, in fact, the Obama administration has no plans to do any such work at home. In response to Clinton’s statement, writer and activist Sarah Schulman said: “What if a country has some gay rights but denies some residents fair trials, equal education and ­basic citizenship and employs racial supremacy, imposes one religious paradigm and runs illegal and immoral wars? Oh wait, that’s [the U.S.].” (Huffington Post, Dec. 7)

Clinton’s statement would be laughable if it were not so dangerous at the same time. For the U.S. has consistently used the “championing” of human rights around the world to facilitate its imperialist goals, including imposing brutal sanctions and waging outright war against countries that the U.S. claims don’t measure up to its own “standards.” The U.S. picks which countries to attack on their human rights record not based on their lack of human rights — which, of course, the U.S. has no moral standing to judge upon anyway — but on whether or not they bow down to U.S. imperialism.

A prime example of this is Afghanistan, where the continuing U.S. imperialist war being waged there is still presented as a war to liberate Afghan women. In 2010, WW writer Joyce Chediac pointed out that “some gains for women in Kabul had been reported since 2001, as opposed to women in the countryside, who face the dislocation, death, hunger, hardship and lack of social accountability caused by the U.S. bombings. But today even women in Kabul face a severe backlash.” (“U.S. occupation increases violence against Afghan women,” Aug. 26, 2010) Assassinations of prominent women, beginning in 2005, have kept many women in Kabul from engaging in public life.

As with LGBTQ rights, one can look at the U.S.’s track record on women’s rights to see just how manipulative assertions about liberating women in other countries are. Just last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services overruled a Food and Drug Administration decision to make over-the-counter emergency contraception available to women of all ages.

It’s telling that Clinton’s announcement comes on the eve of the presidential election season. For four years, the Obama administration has had the opportunity to fight for LGBTQ rights in the U.S., and, with the exception of the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law banning openly LGBTQ people from serving in the military, it has done nothing. Now, in an attempt to woo the ­LGBTQ vote, comes the announcement that the oppression of LGBTQ people in other places is wrong. The irony of it is that with the repeal of DADT, in the middle of a devastating economic crisis, the U.S. can now recruit LGBTQ people to fight in the very imperialist wars that they claim are being waged for “human rights.”

Lorde’s statement is incredibly apt — a system that uses special oppression as a tool to keep the working class divided can never be used to dismantle that oppression. Clinton’s paying lip service to the equality of LGBTQ people will not change the fact that LGBTQ people, along with our true allies in struggle, will necessarily continue to challenge and ultimately defeat imperialism’s wars against us at home and abroad.