Wednesday, December 14, 2011

US African policy: a gay-rights souperism

Do you know what "souperism" is?

First of all, realize that in its scope and effects, the Irish Great Famine of 1845-1852 is very comparable to the Holocaust. To this day, the number of people who died due to disease and starvation can't be fully reckoned; the official tally of 422,490 was even acknowledged at the time to be too low, "for not only were whole families swept away by disease ... but whole villages were effaced from off the land." Beyond that, the abysmally poor handling of the crisis by the British government (verging on genocide through intentional neglect), when combined with other failures of Ireland policy, created an atmosphere of despair that eventually drove millions of Irish Catholics to Britain, the US, Canada and Australia; even after thirty years of increasing prosperity, the population base is still about 3/4ths what it was prior to 1845.

Some religious organizations did try to help, including Anglicans and Quakers, without seeking anything in return. However, other Christians made proselytization, even conversion, from Catholicism the price of the food they offered (usually soup). While many Catholics rejected such coercion, others "took the soup", abandoning their faith and their community for food; in anger and disdain, those who remained faithful called these converts soupers.

Souperism specifically refers to this practice. By extension, a country practices souperism when it makes foreign aid contingent on the receiving country changing its laws or culture. At that point, it stops being charity and becomes a devil's bargain for the nation's soul. It's arrogant and demeaning; corrupt is not too strong a word for it.

Nwachukwu Egbunike, a Nigerian who blogs at Feathers Project, wrote a fine piece for denouncing the Obama Administration's attempts to export gay rights to Africa, especially State Sec. Hillary Clinton's equation of gay rights to human rights during her speech in Geneva on Dec. 6. Shortly thereafter, according to Forbes, Pres. Obama made the fight against gay and lesbian discrimination "a central point of its foreign policy," and announced that "transgressing nations like Nigeria could be denied aid". Egbunike writes, "The reaction of a presidential advisor in Uganda to Mrs Clinton’s speech might be typical: 'If the Americans think they can tell us what to do, they can go to hell.'"

Allowing two men or women to not only have sex but to “marry” has now turned into a human right? What about the majority of Nigerians who hold – and rightly so – that marriage is an exclusive union between a man and a woman? Don’t they have a human right to democratic self-determination?
"If there is any country that does not want to give us aid on account of this anti-gay law, it should keep its aid," Senate President David Mark has repeatedly said in light of the foreign criticism of the law. Information Minister Labaran Maku was blunter: "Let me make the point clear, our country is an independent country; we reserve the right to make our laws without apologies to other countries".
Nigerians have made it clear that they would neither be stampeded nor bullied. The United States and Mother England can rant from now till eternity but gay marriage will never be accepted in Nigeria. The Union Jack was lowered at midnight on October 1, 1960 in Lagos. Which also struck midnight for the master-slave relationship [bold font mine].
By the way, who needs foreign aid? Are we dogs salivating at the crumbs from its master’s table? Nigerians living abroad have remitted US$11 billion back home, the highest for any African country, says a recent World Bank report.
Frankly, given the money we have to borrow and tax just to pay the interest on our national debt, we're in no position to play "sugar daddy to the nations". Besides, I can't blame them; to "take the soup" is to surrender one's dignity, even one's manhood, for short-term gain. Even if I believed in same-sex marriage — a contradiction in terms — I'd have less respect for a country that buckled under these circumstances.

Let's let Egbunike have the last word:

Has President Obama forgotten what he told Africans in Ghana in a major speech in 2009? “Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not … Africa's future is up to Africans ["... with their just powers of government arising from the consent of the governed ..."].” Amen. So why not let us govern ourselves without interference from Hillary Clinton?