Many African reactions to Obama’s gay marriage statement focus on the hypocrisy of the “small government” stand taken by so many conservative Americans.
Social issues like marriage percolating to the top of a political campaign for president of the world’s yet most powerful country confuses many in Africa. America is among all known for “freedom” and “small government.” But you can’t have a small government that enforces laws on social habits like sexual orientation or marriage.
Consider the strong anti-gay forces in places like Uganda, that among many other legislative attempts are still trying to criminalize knowing that someone is gay and not advising authorities.
This is government intrusion of the greatest sort, of course, yet it is supported whole-heartedly by America’s right: AIM’s Cliff Kincaid argues that Ugandan is simply trying to “create a Christian society.”
Enlightened Ugandans see forcing any social ideology onto society as too much government:
Religious intellectual, Ugandan Kizito Michael George, argues that emphasis on social issues like gay rights is not the purvey of the government. He goes further: keep the church out of the state, at the church’s peril.
But Kizito and many other pro-gay rights’ advocates recognize that the current Ugandan regime is publically pro-big government. It’s one of the only ways that the dictator president Yoweri Museveni can stay in power.
So it reveals the incredibly irony of America’s right that argues for “small government.”
Many Africans see additional hypocrisy in America’s constant push for human rights in China and elsewhere, with such forceful attempts by America to limit the rights of gays and women.
“Africa is hardly what we consider a progressive continent at the forefront of human rights,” says one person commenting on South Africa’s News24. “However we seem to be far ahead of the USA.”
The Africa that is maturing through its Spring Awakenings is forcefully for small enough governments that human rights are aggressively protected. Universal suffrage and freedom of expression are considered no more important than freedom of expressing one’s sexual orientation.
Both the new South African and Kenyan constitutions replaced “man and woman” as the definition of marriage with “spouse.”
Those youthful societies have little intolerance of sexual orientation left. South Africa has been tolerant of gays for centuries. Its famous early politician and Prime Minister of the Cape, Cecil Rhodes, was openly gay.
Kenya is newer to the opening and so there is still some vocal resistance, although its fading in the face of the public’s wide-spread support for gay rights.
As a result analysts in both countries see Obama’s move as political:
John Ngirachu reporting this weekend from Kansas City explained to Kenyans back home that Obama’s move “boils down to the electorate.. Both candidates know the issue can cost them the election in states where the conservative Christians are influential.”
Ngirachu and others in Kenya and South Africa see the whole episode as a scripted ploy that began with Biden’s announcement. It’s particularly poignant in Kenya where the presumed successful candidate for President next year has begun to disassociate himself from the man who had been presumed the successful candidate for Vice President.
I think it fair to point out, too, that many in Africa see America’s religious right as something akin to a social flash-in-the-pan, and that with less time than many African societies took to become truly free, America’s right will fade into history.
The hypocrisy is just too stark.