Tuesday 6 August 2013

Stephen Harper : Have you heard the news from Russia?

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario    K1A 0A2

Dear Stephen Harper,

Have you heard the news from Russia?  There’s this silly new law there, whereby it’s actually illegal to publicly promote or defend gay rights.  Not only are you not supposed to be gay, but you’re not supposed to even talk about it.  If you do, forget social taboos and communal self-censorship: the very law is against you.  Can you believe that?  How did they get that through?  What if Edward Snowden is gay?  The questions!

Anyway, I’m sure you haven’t heard about this, because as far as I can tell, you haven’t said a word.  Surely, if you guys in the Canadian government got wind of this, there’d have to be some action!

But, to be honest, I’m not surprised you haven’t heard anything.  That which is left of the CBC after your repeated hatchet jobs (and it isn’t much, if their online journalism is any indication) either doesn’t care or doesn’t have the resources to care about this one.  And the rest of Canadian national journalism doesn’t have much of a gaydar either.  So please, allow my letter to herald the awful abuse and gross stupidity from across the Arctic: the Russian government is out of line.

Oh, and it’s perfect timing too, almost ridiculously so.  To freshen your memory, they’ve got the Olympics coming up.  And it’s not just any Olympics: it’s the Winter Olympics – you know, our kind of Olympics.  So, not only does your government have the responsibility to act, as should be obvious, but now you’ve got a great opportunity.  What would the world say (well, the half of the world that knows the Winter Olympics exist) if Canada put on the pressure, or threatened to boycott?  I think a lot of heads would turn, a lot of others would consider following suit, and – just maybe – the Russians would have to actually answer the question of what the hell they’re doing beyond the typical “this is our internal affairs” line.

And, while you’re still with me (you are still with me, right, Stephen?), let me address this bogus crap about internal affairs.  What does Canada have to say about Syria these days?  You know, they’ve got that civil war going on, tens of thousands killed, over a million refugees.  And the conflict itself? Almost entirely within their borders!  I noticed you haven’t shut up about that one.  What about China, Sudan, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and formerly Myanmar (Burma), all of which you’ve had plenty to say about – and plenty to act upon, too.  So much for minding your own business, eh?  Should I mention North Korea and Iran?  Yes, those guys are throwing about their missiles and intentions on the global stage, so you’ve got a smooth and solid briefcase full of “international security” reasons to speak up there.  But I notice that when you do, you just can’t help yourself from mentioning human rights, democracy, the people, and all the rest of the so-called domestic portfolio.

Is it too cheap a shot to bring in your Office of Religious Freedom, which has a purely international focus?  Or is that too obvious?  Yeah, you’re right: protect one freedom of expression, ignore the other – definitely too obvious.

I’m also curious: would Canada support bids for the Olympic Games in Mauritania (death to homosexuals), Saudi Arabia (death to homosexuals), Chad (death to homosexuals), or dozens of other countries with abhorrent human rights and (lack of) free speech protections?  I mean, if they could prove they’d do the Olympics really well, had the money and the resources and the infrastructure and the weather – well?  I think I know your answer: no.  And I think I can just hear your soaring speech (okay, not so much soaring, but polemical, yes, polemical) to back that up, your verbal howitzer assault (okay, okay... joust?) against human rights violations, against autocrats treating people like dirt,against a pathetic lack of press freedom, and the rest of the cascade of sins in that country’s internal affairs.

Oh, wait a second…  Are you about to agree with international law, humanitarian precedent and good moral sense, and say that human rights is not an internal issue – especially to any UN member who has thus agreed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – but a global one which binds all nations and peoples?  If so, you must already be conjuring a Russian action plan, and you may now breathe a sigh of relief and skip to the end of the letter. 

But, if not – or, if you’re holding back and hiding in the closet –well, why not?  It couldn’t be that you don’t think gay rights are human rights, could it?  Because, Stephen, that’s what people will assume you think once they know that you know about what’s going on in Russia, and aren’t doing anything.So, what?  Is it not prudent?  Are you worried about a trade relationship?  Are you waiting for some other country to jump in first (which would be fantastically Canadian, you got me there)?  Or – no…  You’re not afraid of Vladimir Putin’s nuclear missile, are you?  Trust me, I really don’t think he’s going to launch it at you for criticizing how he deals with gay people.

And don’t you start giving me that turkey about Israel and its internal affairs.  There’s another story I don’t think you’ve heard: did you know the Israeli government is still (seriously – isn’t it crazy?) building settlements in Palestinian territory, and engaging in what can only amount to apartheid and long-term genocide?  Oh, so sorry, that’s their internal affairs, their sacred right to self-determination.  I guess I’m off-topic.

Anyways, there’s really no question if you care about what’s internal and what’s external in the affairs of other countries, unless mentioning that divide allows you to do nothing.

So let’s just get to it.  You are the leader of a country which has enshrined laws that uphold and advance gay rights, not just of the party which voted against them.  And, listen here Stephen, come close: you can even put gay marriage aside for now.  Really, you can!  Because I’m not saying you should rattle the sabre (or rock the bobsled – as you will) to force Russia to adopt same-sex weddings.  You don’t even have to mention it. 

No, no – this one is easy as pie.  This one is human rights, from one Olympic nation to another.

And now you know about it.  What are you going to do?

Yours expectantly,