Barack Obama’s first visit to his father’s homeland of Kenya as US President has generated a great deal of fanfare, including some controversy. Since before the first African-American President was sworn into office, the Right of the US political establishment has rebuffed him at every turn in an effort to frame Mr. Obama as the worst President in US history, which has forced him to rely on greater support from the Left. Indeed, President Obama has grown increasingly vocal in his support for gay rights and this gay rights agenda has created so much friction that Kenyans have promised to throw rotten eggs at the US President, if he speaks about LGBT rights.
Although it is tempting for Western LGBT activists to simply frame Kenyans as “ignorant” and “intolerant,” Kenyan backlash against Obama’s gay agenda is part of a much broader culture clash. As such, the controversy surrounding President Obama’s visit to Kenya is an opportunity to discuss broader issues in play. Clearly, it is not just Kenyans who take issue with the topic of homosexuality as much of the world tends to be more conservative when it comes to sexuality and gender identity, but it is not just LGBT rights that provoke outrage. Recognizing America’s myriad of foreign policy plunders and the reality that the United States is the most influential country in the world, allies and rivals alike are extremely resentful when it comes to the US imposing its views onto others.
Africa’s brutal history of European colonialism and flagrant human rights abuses at the hands of Europeans has left Africans particularly sensitive to the influence of Westerners. This is no more apparent than when Westerners try to use their economic, military, and diplomatic influence to force shifting cultures practices and norms onto Africans. Kenyans and other Africans respond so fiercely to outside indoctrination, because they are struggling to cope with a history that convoluted and obliterated cultural identities throughout the Continent. As such, the last thing Africans want to hear is President Obama preaching down to them about what is right and wrong.
It is important to recognize American LGBT supporters can easily be seen as hypocritical when bashing those who simply disagree with their views. Where Westerners are more inclined to accept homosexuality and reject polygamy, even though these cultures embrace serial polygamy, which Americans dishonestly call serial monogamy, many parts of the world are more inclined to accept polygamy and reject homosexuality. A large part of this has to do with modern Christianity and Western feminism. Western intolerance of polygamy demonstrates how supporters of the LGBT community can be very hypocritical in the eyes of those who view homosexuality as improper while creating unnecessary social conflicts that will eventually result in backlashes to the LGBT community and LGBT individuals around the world.
In Africa, there is great dysfunction; however, there is also misplaced blame when it comes to traditional practices. Western democracies, such as the United States, are liberal democracies, i.e. they place individual freedoms and rights above social and cultural rights. Failing to recognize not all democracies will function in the same way, or adopt the same characteristics, it is easy to incorrectly fault African countries for placing a greater priority on cultural rights. A cultural the right is the right to maintain the integrity of a culture’s identity without government interference. Favoring cultural rights can, for example, mean government retains little or no authority over tribal affairs and territory. It can also mean nondemocratic tribal leadership is included in a national democratic government.
Furthermore, sexuality is a component of a person’s identity. Religious beliefs, as well as other values, are also a major component of a person’s identity. In fact, it is part of their overall social and cultural identity, which is shared with other people within their community. The clash between individual rights, which includes gay rights, and cultural rights occurs when a community is forced to accept the expression of one’s individual identity and that expression is prohibited by the defining characteristics of the cultural identity. In other words, LGBT behavior creates a cultural clash when it violates the rules (values) of communities. When an entire Country shares the same broad cultural identity, the preservation of the cultural identity is likely going to take priority over the expression of the individual identity, which is why African and Middle Eastern democracies are more likely to be illiberal democracies.
Instead of respecting the cultural rights of others, LGBT activists can exasperate a culture clash by trying to redefine the religious (cultural) identity of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Jews to include LGBT Christians, Jews, Muslims. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam define homosexual behavior as immoral; therefore, these religious communities can never accept LBGT lifestyles as appropriate, unless they are untrue to their Faith. In which case, some conflict of Faith, a.k.a. an identity crises, will eventual arise and there will either be backlash against the LGBT community or a rejection of one’s religious identity. Christians, Jews, and Muslims, at best, can accept a “hate the sin; love the sinner” approach when it comes LGBT behavior and lifestyles.
There are times when the United States must defend its principles and criticize countries for their misconduct, but this requires we build a reputation for respecting other cultures while engaging culturally sensitive issues in a manner that does not reflect our cultural bias. Hate speech, violence, and other attacks on LGBT individuals will always be unacceptable behaviors under American values, yet those who find LGBT behavior and lifestyles to be inappropriate for religious and nonreligious reasons also have a right to their beliefs. Consequently, President Obama must be careful in how he protests anti-gay policies in order to demonstrate the US actually respects the rights of other cultures and those who dissent from his stance on LGBT issues.
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