The Republicans and the Commissars

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the platform that the GOP is presenting this week at the Republican National Convention is more “conservative” than any in the modern history of the party.

Don’t be misled by that word “conservative.” The Republicans are not conserving anything. Not liberty, not freedom, not equality. They’re committed to radical retreat, and not even to the glory days of Ronald Reagan, but to some time around the Salem witch trials, when upstanding male citizens could burn up anybody they didn’t like the looks of.

In this case, they want to keep people of color perpetually on guard, replicating Arizona policy where Hispanic citizens risk being deported to places they’ve never been if they forget to carry driver’s licenses and birth certificates.

Women aren’t full citizens either. Republicans want to remove the choice of abortion altogether, even in cases of rape or incest. And if abortion is allowed, to force women to get ultrasounds and submit to invasive procedures. Forget the morning-after pill or anything that gives females control of their own wombs or acknowledges status superior to cows.

In the military, women would also be banned again from combat roles, while the GOP opposition to “anything which might divide or weaken team cohesion, including intramilitary special interest demonstrations,” seems like a coded promise to reinstate Don't Ask Don't Tell. Which would only be the beginning of their attacks on LGBT people.

The GOP platform commits them to ending same-sex marriage everywhere and banning civil marriages between same-sex couples. Why? Because these “counterfeit marriages” might start giving us the idea that we are “normal”.

When I see delegates applauding this kind of crap, I try to breathe deep and think of the long term. There are cycles in history. Things repeat themselves, like Phillip Glass with slight variations. They attack. We push back. We make a gain. They try to unravel it.

But patience isn’t part of my make-up as an activist. Everybody that steps into the streets is going for the win. Sometimes I dream of how great it would be if each queer in the universe could put in two or three years of work and at the end of it, we have the same civil rights as anybody else and the culture has shifted enough for us to not only breathe, but thrive. And that whatever we won could be locked in somehow.

Instead, you can put in a whole lifetime, and 20 years later you have the new Pat Buchanan declaring the same old Culture War where the targets are still women and queers, immigrants (all illegal), and racial and ethnic minorities (which all feel sorry for themselves and want handouts).

Russia is apparently on the same wave length; they’re rolling things back, not only past inconvenient democracy but past the commies and the commissars, right back to the Tsars, when breaking religious laws could land you in jail.

On August 17, three members of the all-girl Russian punk band Pussy Riot got sentenced to two years in a prison camp — prison camp! — for doing a quick “punk prayer” in February in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral asking the virgin to “chase Putin” from power. They had been in jail since then awaiting their trial. Two others are in hiding.

They scoffed when their lawyers wanted them to ask for a presidential pardon. In fact, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said Putin should ask her pardon. She, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich intend to appeal on purely legal grounds.

After all, Russia’s supposed to be a secular state and a democracy, with free speech and everything. The judge who sentenced them, though, had a clear religious bias, characterizing their prayer as “sacrilegious, blasphemous, and against church rules.” And allowing witnesses against them who declared the grrrrls were “evil forces,” engaging in “diabolical leg movements.”

Pussy Riot marked their conviction on “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” by releasing their first single, called “Putin Lights Up the Fires,” welcoming even more jail time — and envisioning a protest movement taking to the streets and led by feminists. Go Grrrrls!

The same day, in a decision that passed almost unnoticed in the midst of the international frenzy over Pussy Riot, another Russian court upheld a 100-year ban on Moscow gay pride parades “to prevent public disorder, and because most Moscovites don’t want them.” Of course, plenty of Moscovites don’t want Putin either, but that’s a minor detail. Last year, St. Petersburg banned “homosexual propaganda” that includes any neutral or positive statement about lesbians and gay men.

I can only imagine the Republicans looking with envy and awe at the Great Bear and wishing they had as sweet a deal as Putin — prison camps for big-mouthed female protestors, courts banning displays of queer pride for a hundred years. Poor Republicans. All they have is the jail that the Tampa police chief emptied out for protesters. Here’s hoping we follow the example of Pussy Riot, push back against the bigots and demagogues, and fill the thing to the top.