Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How Dare They Taunt Us With Their Tolerance?

Here’s a story I expect will get a lot of play.

From Xinhua (Chinese) Nov. 14 article There are approximately 30,000,000 homosexuals in China:


A researcher of sexuality at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Li Yinhe, revealed to our correspondent that in the most recent survey “Does Homosexuality Influence Job Selection” [presumably questioning employers-ed.], the reply “No” surprisingly reached 90%, exceeding the figure of 86% for the United States. She happily stated: “This is a big step, indicating that Chinese society is more tolerant of homosexuality”.


20 years ago, homosexuality was a crime, and ten years ago it was regarded as a mental illness. Today, the greatest pressure on homosexuals doesn’t come from society; it comes from the family, in most cases when parents find it difficulty to accept this reality.

The article has some more interesting nuggets, addressing the traditional Chinese abhorrence of homosexuality because it would cut off the line of descendants and citing the instance of two lesbians who had experimented (unsuccessfully) with in vitro fertilization.

Addressing the issue of gay marriage, Ms. Li was characterized as an advocate of minority rights. She stated:


In China, there aren’t strong forces in opposition [to gay rights], the resistance to the struggle for gay rights is less than in the rest, and China is making continual progress.

This, I must say, is pretty neat.

The Chinese are certainly engaging in a bit of public relations kungfu, deflecting U.S. attacks on China’s human rights record and countering with a jab at America’s weak spot—the control by religious right (and the politicians that pander to them) of America’s public discourse on homosexuality.

Part of it is pre-Olympic posturing.

But if it produces articles like this in the official media endorsing enlightened public attitudes on homosexuality, it’s not a bad thing.

Sort of reminds me of how making America look good in the Cold War was an important factor in the federal government’s attitude toward civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s.

Here’s the blurb from a book we should probably all read:

Mary Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Politics and Society in Twentieth Century America), Princeton University Press, 2000

In 1958, an African-American handyman named Jimmy Wilson was sentenced to die in Alabama for stealing two dollars. Shocking as this sentence was, it was overturned only after intense international attention and the interference of an embarrassed John Foster Dulles. Soon after the United States' segregated military defeated a racist regime in World War II, American racism was a major concern of U.S. allies, a chief Soviet propaganda theme, and an obstacle to American Cold War goals throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Each lynching harmed foreign relations, and "the Negro problem" became a central issue in every administration from Truman to Johnson.

In what may be the best analysis of how international relations affected any domestic issue, Mary Dudziak interprets postwar civil rights as a Cold War feature. She argues that the Cold War helped facilitate key social reforms, including desegregation. Civil rights activists gained tremendous advantage as the government sought to polish its international image. But improving the nation's reputation did not always require real change. This focus on image rather than substance--combined with constraints on McCarthy-era political activism and the triumph of law-and-order rhetoric--limited the nature and extent of progress.

Archival information, much of it newly available, supports Dudziak's argument that civil rights was Cold War policy. But the story is also one of people: an African-American veteran of World War II lynched in Georgia; an attorney general flooded by civil rights petitions from abroad; the teenagers who desegregated Little Rock's Central High; African diplomats denied restaurant service; black artists living in Europe and supporting the civil rights movement from overseas; conservative politicians viewing desegregation as a communist plot; and civil rights leaders who saw their struggle eclipsed by Vietnam.

Never before has any scholar so directly connected civil rights and the Cold War. Contributing mightily to our understanding of both, Dudziak advances--in clear and lively prose--a new wave of scholarship that corrects isolationist tendencies in American history by applying an international perspective to domestic affairs.

Here’s a link.

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