Cross Currents

A cross cultural blog
OCTOBER 16, 2009 2:58AM

Diplomacy or Hot Air?

Rate: 6 Flag

Gay Rights Activists seem to be demanding the Obama Administration to regularly kow-tow to them. That’s the only way I can interpret the blogosphere’s condemnation of Hillary Clinton’s supposed failure to address gay rights in her “meeting” with Moscow’s homophobic mayor, Yuri Luzhkov. 

 

Hillary Clinton did not meet with Luzhkov. She unveiled a statue of American poet Walt Whitman as part of a US-Russia cultural exchange. Luzhkov was there in his role as mayor. 

 

Diplomacy is not highjacking a cultural exchange to publicly lambaste a popular leader for his beliefs, widely held by his constituents. That’s the way to create an anti-American backlash and torpedo US efforts to make real progress on the numerous areas of mutual interest or concern between Russia and America. Diplomacy is about accomplishing your goals.

 

If you really care about Gay Rights in Russia, rather than demanding public and counterproductive spectacles, ask what the US is doing. USAID provides aid to Russia on projects such as mutual cooperation on HIV/AIDS and grants to grassroots organizations working on human rights issues.  These projects could easily include support for gay issues. Providing a grant to a Russian LGBT NGO would be a much more effective way of working towards real change in the treatment of gays in Russian society.  

 

So, what is this about? Change that can be believed in? Or a bunch of hot air that does nothing other than assure the left that the Obama and his administration are flaming liberals of the sort that keep people like Rush Limbaugh in business? 

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I'm for gay rights, both in my country and everywhere else. But I agree with you that Hillary's visit to Moscow wasn't the venue to address the issue in. If there's anything we should have learned from George Bush, it's that publicly condemning Russia for it's shortcomings, real or imagined, is less than productive. I know there are some who will disagree with my take here, but there's a time and a place for everything; a visit from our secretary of state to a nation who's cooperation we need on a number of critical challenges is neither the time nor the place for grandstanding.
Nate:
I support gay rights, too. But waving banners isn't support. Support is figuring out what it takes to change. Politics is so infested with quick tick-boxes. Did you do this, say that that we've defined as being for this or against that.

Thinking has fallen by the wayside. You can program a computer to figure out if someone has ticked this or that box. You can't program a computer to figure out if a nuanced position is intelligent. So, we go for the tick-boxes.
"Politics is so infested with quick tick-boxes."

Exactly, and it's a huge problem. I think it has something to do with the Attention Deficit Disorder culture we have these days. People aren't necessarily focused on what of substance has been done to address a problem; they just want to what you've said about it. While a paragraph or two about gay rights from Hillary would have been perfect soundbite material for the 24 hour news cycle, what would it have actually done to help gay people in Russia? The answer is of course, nothing, and it might actually have done the opposite.
Spot on! Pointless confrontation is not only rude but counterproductive. You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
you make a lot of sense!
I really like you post because I think it subverts most peoples' opinions here on os. on the other hand, if you endorse gay rights at home I think it is only consistent to do the same when abroad. rated!
Nate:
It's computerized web crawlers. News agencies or interested parties can have their computers scan the world's press for key words. They then package them up and forward them to the media and special interest groups or blogs. The problem is, that not enough thought is applied.

What happened in Russia was that a gay rights activist in Russia complained that Hillary Clinton didn't mention gay rights in her speech dedicating a statue to Walt Whitman at Moscow State University. The activist wants a permit to have a gay pride march in Moscow and the Mayor won't give the permit. The comment was part of a Moscow Times piece on Clinton's Moscow visit.

Web crawlers that monitor the world press for the keywords related to gay rights picked it up. But nowhere did anyone ask, what was the purpose of that particular hour of Clinton's time. She didn't meet with Luzhkov. She didn't sit down with him and talk about issues. She dedicated a statue as part of a cultural exchange. I believe Georgetown University got a gift of a statue of Pushkin, Russia's most beloved poet.

A web crawler is a computer program. The problem is the analysis of what happened. We have too much news and too little analysis.
Carolina and Kathy:
Thanks for the support. I thought I'd catch hell for this post.
Adrian:
I do support gay rights in the US as well as in Russia. In Russia, I wouldn't march if Luzhkov did permit a gay pride march, but I do talk to my Russian friends about my gay American friends and acquaintances. I feel like I have made an impression that being gay isn't being a freak, but something that happens (not sure this is the right word) to people. It doesn't threaten anyone. Why shouldn't a gay person be able to marry his/her lover?

I think quietly changing opinions does a lot more than public demonstrations. The gay scene in Moscow (like all Moscow nightclub scenes) reportedly can get wild. A Provincetown-style march would offend more people than it converted, but actually, since there haven't been any marches, I don't know what they would be like.
The gay community felt dissed in the last election because even though the first black president was elected with a large progressive coalition behind him California (of all places) passed an anti-gay marriage amendment. This may have seemed a minor blip on most people's radar, but in the gay community it was an enormous letdown and caused an explosion of activity. Also the release of Gus Van Sant's film 'Milk' brought people together immediately following the election. This will not die down anytime soon.
BOKO
I get your frustration, but my point is having Hillary highjack her statue dedication in Moscow is not the way to effectively work towards gay rights in Moscow. It's hot air that, at best, does nothing.

Do you want progress or do you want hot air?