For some time I have been referring to our president as “Trump-the-Toad,” and it has suddenly dawned on me why this term came so naturally; he is the living embodiment of Mr. Toad from Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows. I read that marvelous book eight times in my younger days, and the images are engraved on my mind and spirit forever. Mr. Toad is loud, vulgar, self absorbed, a pathological liar, way over-privileged, and has the attention span of a gnat. Does that remind you of anyone? Short and squat, Trump even resembles him physically. There are two big differences. Even though it is Mr. Toad’s character flaws that cause the series of crises his friends have to deal with, he does indeed have loyal friends who attempt to rein him in. That does not appear to be the case with our president. The second difference is that in the end, Mr. Toad does have real courage. As we all could see in his pathetic display vis-à-vis Putin, Trump-the-Toad has nothing but bluster.
As bad as things may seem to be for us here in the U.S., under Trump-the-Toad, they are still a veritable paradise for LGBT people compared to some other parts of the world. And we do need to keep a sense of perspective in spite of all our criticisms. There is a real danger of becoming so wrapped up in our own issues that we lose sight of the terrible problems of our LGBT brothers and sisters in places like the Middle East and Africa.
In September of 2017, the U.N. Human Rights Council considered and passed a resolution. It contained the following passage; “Condemning the imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations, and expressing serious concern that the application of the death penalty for adultery is disproportionately imposed on women…” (A/HRC/36/L.6) 27 nations voted for the resolution. The U.S. voted against it. Think about that for a minute. The Trump administration didn’t even abstain. They actively voted against the measure, thus supporting the ten nations that do impose the death penalty for being gay.
A brief, mealy-mouthed explanation was offered referring to larger concerns regarding the death penalty – obvious BS. You’d think someone who lies as much as Trump could do a better job of it. The bottom line here is that countries ruled by religious fanatics can go right on stoning gays and hanging “adulterous” women with the active encouragement of Trump and his wrecking crew.
Among the worst places to be gay is pretty much the entire continent of Africa. Only in one country — South Africa — are LGBT people protected by law. Even there, discrimination and gay bashing are a routine part of life. From Egypt right on down to the border of South Africa, gays are arrested, harassed, beaten, murdered, and jailed on a regular basis. Even, as noted above, when they are lucky enough to make it to the legal haven of South Africa, these refugees are still liable to be victimized by prejudice.
In all of South Africa, only one organization is attempting to deal with the flood of LGBT refugees that have escaped from the rest of the continent. Its acronym is PASSOP (People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty). This is a community-based, non-profit human rights organization devoted to protecting and fighting for the rights of asylum-seekers, refugees and immigrants in South Africa. Based in Cape Town, PASSOP also works on LGBT advocacy and fighting xenophobia throughout all of South Africa.
Recently the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus did a history-making tour of South Africa, using the opportunity to publicize PASSOP’s work and raise funds for it. You and I have never met the people PASSOP is working to provide for. We don’t know their names. We can only imagine the suffering they have endured. They are nonetheless our gay brothers and sisters. Surely, we cannot ignore them, and in so doing silently endorse the despicable action of the Trump administration at the U.N.
Go to PASSOP’s website to learn more — much more.