Bain beheaded by gay Taliban
Back in December 2011, I watched the debate between Queen Portia and Prince Andrew in a crowded bar downtown in the company, quite by chance, of some who The Gleaner editorial would call 'community leaders'. By the time Dionne Jackson-Miller asked about whether the candidates would admit a known homosexual into their Cabinet, the most fearsome one had already ploughed through what seemed to me gallons of white rum and milk.
Andrew flailed and waffled about respecting human rights, but also respecting the sensitivities of homophobes. I don't blame him, poor guy, because, under the spotlight and asked to square that circle, I'd probably crash and burn the same way.
I don't think many anticipated Portia's answer that she wouldn't discriminate. It opened up a space, politically, that hadn't existed before. Quite shocked by her response myself, I looked around searching other faces for a reaction. Everyone was quiet. Then Mr White-rum-and-milk, by this time utterly sozzled, said to his drink with almost mournful resignation: "Portia seh wi nuh fi beat de bybwoy dem ... . (Pause ... sigh ... .) Awright!"
Even today remembering it, I crack up. You will recall the backdrop to the question was Golding's "Not in my Cabinet!", which defiantly telegraphed a completely different attitude. Sitting at the bar, I thought to myself, as I still do, that the path to greater empathy and tolerance - some would say moral advance - can be spectacularly non-linear. And speaking of advances and reversals, consider how the heavy-handed overkill where Dr Bain has been told "Not in our Cabinet either!" has outraged and galvanised the citizenry.
The anti-buggery law should be reviewed, but my opinion is not doctrinaire, just weak and provisional. It is based on the intellectual appeal of a basic 'live and let live (die?)' libertarianism where, when possible, we allow people to lead their own lives. But even more so, it's based on an emotional aversion to the cruelty against homosexuals that I have witnessed.
There's another reason. If the settled opinion of serious and sane epidemiologists is that public health is actually hurt by these laws, I pay very close heed. It is with that background that I view the Professor Bain controversy with alarm, for while I see that his apostasy on the advisability of repealing anti-buggery laws could cause some tension with others who feel differently, it's such an emotive and complex issue that his removal says less about him and more about those demanding his head.
Before getting to that, let's clear some intellectual underbrush. We've all been hearing the mantra that "Government has no business in what consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes". Who really believes that? Sometimes the Government has every business in it. A mundane example: When consenting adults decide to keep their house like a pigsty, it affects everyone, however much they might maturely consent to living with cockroaches and rats.
Similarly, when consenting adults breed carelessly, it becomes our collective business pretty quickly. Now let's touch the red button: When consenting adults, male or female, choose to engage in 'boogerism', an activity known to be an efficient vector of illness and disease, it may well be our business.
Although I support tolerance, I don't hold the basic moral instincts of my forefathers in contempt. We today, with clean running water, neighbourhood health clinics, and working antibiotics, are at liberty perhaps to tolerate some behaviour that they were quite prudent to reject. Stigmatising certain dangerous behaviour may be a crude collective instrument, but attaching it to things like sodomy looks like incredibly sound early epidemiological precautionary reasoning.
And though I don't want homosexuals to suffer discrimination, I am not ready to desist from discriminating against some other people because of their sexual orientation. So I refuse to stigmatise stigma itself without careful consideration. In fact, I plan to continue to stigmatise and discriminate against practitioners of paedophilia, incest, bestiality, necrophilia, and a host of other perversions.
Social censure, communal disgust, and the mechanisms of shame and guilt that underlay them, are far too important to give up. Another annoying shibboleth: "We must be intolerant of intolerance." Really? Ought we be intolerant of intolerance to NAMBLA (The North American Man-Boy Love Association). Look here: We can't be so open-minded that our brains fall out.
So, although universally acknowledged as a tireless worker for the relief of HIV sufferers, Bain offended the Taliban enforcers of 'tolerance' by committing the unpardonable offence of authoring an affidavit used for a purpose disapproved by the mujahideen of MSM. Mere association with opponents of the creedal commitment to immediately abolish anti-buggery laws rendered him haram, and hence, jihad was declared. His job, although officially about halting HIV, in reality was, he learned, about decriminalising buggery.
Nobody challenges the accuracy of Dr Bain's affidavit, save and except that Bain reserves judgement on whether repeal of anti-buggery laws helps suppress the epidemic, while majority activist opinion is that it will. Whether, on balance, the law is worth keeping because it suppresses the primary cause of HIV spreading, or worth ditching because it impedes access to health services of those who already have HIV, seems to be a matter on which reasonable minds can disagree, even while working against the disease.
But the official wording of the fatwa said that Bain had a 'conflict of interest', meaning there is no room anymore in the anti-HIV activist community for heresy on this point, and the ayatollahs of anal will brook no dissent.
Ultimately, advocacy for tolerance suffered a major setback. Vitriol spread like a mutating virus, balkanising opinion. What are the campaigners trying to do? Impress international funders? And that space I mentioned had been opened up in the 2011 debate? It's closing fast. Yeah! Pass mi de white rum and de milk deh.
Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.