Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Praise for a Great Man

The night of Barack Obama’s election, I literally danced in the street. I don’t remember whether it was Happy Days Are Here Again or Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead I sang while I cavorted in the middle of Route 9D, but I clearly remember my feeling of elation.

I’m not feeling so elated now, boy. I can’t think of a front on which the guy hasn’t sorely disappointed me. I was disgusted on hearing Ralph Nader’s post-election prediction that Obama might well turn out to be a pawn of the big corporations, but isn’t that very much what we’ve seen? When I pull myself back from the realm of woulda-shoulda-coulda and re-enter the real world, though, I realize that if it weren’t Obama in the Oval Office, it would be John McCain, with that smug, sanctimonious little imbecile Palin down the hall, and the whole situation becomes just a bit less painful.

But let us praise a great man today rather than bemoan the dismal performance of a not-so-hot one. I think it’s appalling that so few Americans have even heard of hhe great man I have in mind, the Australian-born British human rights activist Peter Tatchell, who I think might very reasonably be described as the gay Martin Luther King Jr.

He first gained notoriety in the UK in 1990, when he he founded the gay rights group OutRage! But he hasn’t been concerned solely with gay issues, having also fought apartheid and capital punishment, and assorted international despots — and having demonstrated breathtaking courage over and over agin. When he tried in 2001 to make a citizen's arrest of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe in Brussels for civil rights abuse, the monster’s bodyguards beat him so badly that he was paralyzed down his left side for days. He hasn’t seen clearly out of his right eye since homophobic thugs attacked him during a gay pride parade in Moscow two years ago. In all, he’s been attacked over 300 times, and suffered brain damage that’s left him with permanent symptoms of severe concussion.

A far, far better choice for the Nobel Peace Prize, I think, than the guy who won it.

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