So Vladimir Putin has pretty much annexed Crimea, ignoring the inconvenient fact that it belongs to another sovereign nation. In doing so, Putin has shown complete disdain for the opinion of the rest of the world and the rights of Ukrainians.
Who could have predicted such irrational behavior?
The homophobia that is rampant in Russia is not just about bigotry. It’s a barometer for totalitarianism. Russia didn’t just pass a law that violated human rights. It enabled — even celebrated — violence against LGBT people. That’s what the protests surrounding the Winter Olympics in Sochi were about.
It’s no surprise that one of the first Russians sanctioned by the U.S. government is Dmitry Kiselyov, a Russian news anchor who has called on gay people’s hearts to be posthumously “burned or buried” after we die.
The problem is too many people, even those sympathetic go gay equality, were blind to the connection between virulent homophobia and totalitarianism. It was all too easy to look at the antigay policies as isolated pathologies and not part of a larger pattern. When Putin sent Russian troops into Crimea, Angela Merkel was quoted as saying the Russian president was “in another world.”
But how could anyone who has heard Putin’s unbelievable denials of Russian homophobia ever have thought otherwise? This is the man who said that Russia’s antigay law is “no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities.” That doesn’t comport with reality on any planet that we’re aware of.
(As a side note, it’s worth pointing out that the Malaysian government’s complete lack of transparency regarding the missing Malaysia Air jet could be predicted by its vehement homophobia. The government has long used antigay hysteria as a political tool against its opponents, signaling its totalitarian bent.)
In fairness to Merkel, she probably had fewer illusions than other leaders about Putin to begin with. But that’s not true of American antigay conservatives. They are trapped by their own tunnel vision about LGBT rights. Franklin Graham says he’s not endorsing Putin when he offers praise for his antigay policies. But Putin’s homophobia is a of a piece with his totalitarianism. If you like the homophobia, you are implicitly arguing against Western-style democracy because you don’t like its acceptance of LGBT people as, well, people.
Perhaps the most revealing example in this regard is Scott Lively, the longtime antigay activist who is proud to claim paternity of Russia’s homophobia. In through-the-looking-glass reasoning that would do Putin proud, Lively says that Russia’s embrace of traditional values is a reasonable response to an increasingly gay-friendly West.
“I ask you, which is the greater threat to human rights: Russia’s law preventing homosexual activists from disseminating their propaganda to children, or the lawless decrees of these American federal judges?” Lively argues.
And there you have it in a nutshell. If you think that the federal judiciary is “lawless” and that marriage equality is a “brazen disregard for the Constitution” — in short if you are unhappy with being on the losing side of the democratic system — then maybe totalitarianism is what you really want.
In that sense, Lively is at least honest. In a recent interview, he said that “nothing short of revolution” can stop the advance of LGBT progress, and that conservatives need to be prepared to “give up our lives if necessary.” Those are not the words of a man committed to the democratic process.
All of this is just another sign that the antigay right is stuck with a lost cause. In their hearts, they know that the only way they succeed is if an authoritarian is calling all the shots. That’s why they’re so enamored of Putin. And that’s why they are so dangerous. It’s one thing to try to keep fighting within the system. It’s entirely another to think that a corrupt, oppressive system is the one to emulate, especially when that system is Russia’s.
During the Cold War, that belief would have been called un-American. We’ll leave it to others to decide whether it still is.