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Homos in high places

BY BRUCE LABRUCE

It's comforting to know that after all these years I can still be shocked. Who knew, for example, that Hamid Karzai, the head of the interim government in Afghanistan, was formerly an advisor to UNOCAL, an American oil company, and in fact facilitated negotiations between the mammoth corporation and the Taliban (before it was deposed), to build a trans-Afghanistan pipeline, a project which is now going ahead with the assistance of Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf? Or who knew that the recently assassinated Dutch extreme right-wing leader Pim Fortuyn, famous for his anti-immigration stance and for calling Islam a "backward" religion, was a gay? It's just like Richard Burton described it in Tennessee Williams' Boom: the shock of each moment of still being alive.

But wait a minute. After the initial shock wears off, is it all that surprising? Everyone should know by now that, with regard to Afghanistan, as one U.S. Green Party candidate puts it, what we're really seeing is "a clash between two fundamentalist ideologies: theocratic extremism (manifested at its violent worst in al Qaida and the Taliban) versus global corporate dominance." I suppose what's truly shocking is the fact that Karzai's affiliation with UNOCAL (and, allegedly, the CIA) is well documented on the internet, but somehow never seems to make it elsewhere in the media, and certainly hasn't been acknowledged by the U.S. government.

As for Pim Fortuyn, it should never come as too big a shock when an extreme right-wing leader is revealed to be a homosexual. Gay Hitler rumours aside, there is the indisputable fact that Ernst Roehm, the head of the Nazi secret police, was a pansy, and two post-World War II Nazi leaders, Michael Kuhnen and Bernhard Ewald Althans, secretly followed in his light footsteps. In England, Martin Webster, the national organizer of the National Front during the seventies, was an infamous fag, as was the neo-Nazi skinhead posterboy Nicky Crane, a notorious fag-basher who, before he died of AIDS, allegedly had a long-term relationship with an older Jewish man.

Ignoring that cue, I won't comment on the current trend to associate extreme Zionism with Nazism, but I will say that just as the whole spectrum of the Jewish experience runs the gamut from the highly secular and liberal to far-right fundamentalist extremism, it's probably time to stop thinking about homosexuals in terms of a progressive, easily quantifiable and reliably liberal entity and start acknowledging that gays can be just as conservative and reactionary as everyone else. This acknowledgment at the very least makes the current selling out of the radical roots of the gay movement to corporate concerns a little more understandable.

As someone who is in a homosexual relationship with a devout Muslim, I must admit I found the idea of an openly gay, right-wing politician in the Netherlands spewing anti-Islamic rhetoric particularly delicious, especially considering the fact that homosexual expression is commonplace in Afghanistan and other predominantly Muslim countries in Central Asia. Even Karzai himself is not above suspicion. After all, he's a Pashtun, a culture within which the practice of homosexual sodomy is -- ahem -- deeply imbedded. And consider this passage from Afghanland.com:

"Unlike most Afghan men, who marry in their early 20s, Karzai remained a bachelor until [he was 42]. Having a wife was not a priority to him. He was only dedicated to Afghanistan. Family members say it was the final illness of his mother, who had expressed the wish to see him settled before she died, that led Karzai to marry at last, in January 1999."

Hmm. An inveterate Pashtun bachelor and mama's boy who was later crowned by Gucci's Tom Ford as "the world's most chic man." Draw your own conclusions.

Certain journalists have tried to downplay Pim Fortuyn's extreme right-wing stance, distancing him from the platforms of Jean-Marie Le Pen in France and Jorge Haider in Austria (the latter also an alleged homosexual, along with Russia's extreme right-wing leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky). But what's frightening about someone like Fortuyn, always noted for his sartorial splendour and attention to aesthetics, like all good fags, is the way he allowed his homosexuality to soften his hard-line political position, effectively making it more palatable. He may have lauded the Netherlands' constitutional acceptance of homosexuality, but he was simultaneously pushing for a key anti-discrimination clause to be struck from the constitution, presumably one which obstructed his anti-Islamic policies. Like Haider, this well-educated, smartly dressed, and flashy homosexual exploited certain of his outwardly liberal tendencies to make his discriminatory views seem proper and civilized, particularly to those with traditional leftist sympathies. Similarly, Karzai and his precious hat (made from lamb's uterus, no less) props up a dandy ideal of Western civility as a smokescreen for his collaborationist agenda with imperialist U.S. oil concerns.

It's this kind of "homosexual" behaviour that is truly shocking. More shocking, even, than recently witnessing local artist Andrew Patterson perform a lewd pole dance at Remingtons, Toronto's premier gay strip bar, to promote impresario Will Munro's new line of outrageous underwear.