Tag Archives: United Kingdom

Of Brexit and Bigots: The Dowager Countess Goosenberry Weighs In

27 Jun
The Dowager Countess Goosenberry

The Dowager Countess Goosenberry

The past three days have been nonplussing at best, as voters in the UK have decided to leave the European Union. I was fortunate enough to catch up with my dear friend, The Dowager Countess Goosenberry by phone. She was exceedingly animated during our conversation and I fear given to the drink again while we were talking. Here is an excerpt she has allowed me to share.

Michael, I must tell you that at first, I had no idea what Brexit was. In fact, I was talking with my dear son Tarquin ( still a lovely bachelor, ladies), and he cleared it up for me. You see, I thought Brexit was some new type of American breakfast sandwich. Michael, I mean no disrespect, but you Americans seem so bent on vulgarizing everything you touch. 

I hear a long pause. Countess, are you still there? Oh goodness, I fear we Brits no longer have the moral high ground, do we? Our departure from the EU, motivated out of ignorance, fear, and outright racism, seems to put us in the same category of Swiftian Yahoos. 

I must confess, I have not been a fan of the EU, but leaving it just never made sense to me. Then I started seeing that awful racist, Nigel Farage talking about UKIP. Well, Michael, at first, I thought he was making some deranged command for us all to take a nap … and Farage does tire me. Finally, my dearest Tarquin explained to me that Farage and the UK Independence Party (UKIP) were pushing for the vote to leave the EU.

I hear a long and dramatic sigh from the Countess, when she resumes: Michael, I will tell you candidly, I did vote for David Cameron, which I regretted, and my Tarquin was quite vexed with me, but now I find myself having to actually defend Cameron. 

I have been both laughing at and feeling sorry for you over there across the pond with Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, but now we seem to be the target of much similar, well deserved ribbing. It is all I can bear to have to look at Boris Johnson. As my Tarquin says, ‘Johnson is Donald Trump without all of the orange base makeup gone wrong.” Is there such a thing as an albino cheeto? Michael, can you tell me is it true that your Mr. Trump has appointed right wing Christian fanatics and homophobes, such as Michele Bachmann and Jerry Falwell, Jr? Oh my! Well, I do suppose we are not quite as bad off as you are there. 

My hope is that your country will learn from our mistake. While the dissolution of the middle class is real, and we have overwhelming evidence of the negative impact of neoliberalism, this is not a time to yield to fear and hate mongering and to racism. Indeed, your Mr. Trump seems to thrive and give voice to racism, homophobia, and misogyny. As you know, Michael, the wave of regret is currently washing over the population here about leaving the EU. I hope your Yahoo Doodle Dandy Trump and his live reality television campaign do not prevail. 

I hear ice rattling in a glass during another pause. Finally the Dowager returns. Do forgive me, Michael, but I must dash. I’m heading to my Scottish property for a bit of fresh air. Whoever thought the Scots would get politics right?! Best of luck with your election…

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Pardoning Alan Turing: Too Little Too Late?

24 Jul
Turing

Hero and Victim

Nearly 60 years after his tragic death, a hero of World War II Britain and a pioneer in computer science may finally have his name cleared. Thanks to my friend and staunch LGBT ally Jennifer Carey for pointing me to this story.

Alan Turing was born in 1912. His teachers and family noticed his immense talent for mathematics early on, and he began a rigorous education. He became a fellow at King’s College at the age of 22 and began work on computation. His pioneering work earned him the title: Father of Computer Science. During the war, he worked for the British government as a code breaker. His methods helped crack critical German codes. Some have gone so far as to give him credit for Britain making it through the war without surrender. Turing’s contributions to computer science, cryptology, artificial intelligence, and mathematics are immense, and his gracious style made his ideas approachable, helping spark further innovation.

He was also gay. He was generally careful about this fact, given that any homosexual activity was still criminal in the United Kingdom, but he did have partners. In 1952, after reporting a break-in at his home, he admitted to the police that he was in a gay relationship with the other man living there. He was arrested charged with “gross indecency.” While he felt no guilt about simply being who he was, he pleaded guilty to avoid the negative publicity of a trial. He opted for injections of artificial estrogen — chemical castration — rather than go to prison.

The conviction revoked his security clearance and ruined his career. It kept him from travelling to the United States to expand on his work. It left him alone and bitter, his promising life in ruins at the age of 40 just because he wanted to live his life honestly. In 1954, he died of a cyanide overdose that was ruled suicide. What a pointless end to an amazing life and we must ask ourselves who is culpable–who has blood on their hands?  How do we learn from this tragedy and learn how to support our LGBT brothers and sisters?

While very well known in math and science circles, the scandal kept his work and life from greater renown. It wasn’t until 2009 that the British government — in a statement from Prime Minister Gordon Brown — apologized for what Brown aptly described as “appalling treatment.” (The Brits did better than the Catholic church, of course, with its habit of taking centuries to apologize for its legal abuses…) In the past four years, a bill has slowly worked through the parliamentary process to formally pardon Alan Turing. It appears poised to pass in October.

It will be wonderful for the charges against Turing to be formally erased. But his life cannot be returned. The amazing things his mind would have accomplished will never come to pass. The horrific impact of homophobia and abuse of power cannot be fully calculated or undone. Over 49,000 men were sentenced for the same crime in Britain — including Oscar Wilde — before the law was finally removed from the books.

There are still many countries with laws like this. There are still jurisdictions in our own country with laws like this. Let the dark example of Alan Turing be a call to action — every life deserves dignity, legalized oppression and discrimination must be stopped. In the end, Alan Turing was a victim, not a criminal. He does not need to be pardoned, the British government does, and this one positive step is simply not enough to wash the blood of thousands from its hands.

Update: Apparently, Benedict Cumberbatch will play Turing in the upcoming movie The Imitation Game. I hope they do not gloss over how poorly Turing was treated for being gay.

United Kingdom Does Not Tolerate Anti-Gay Hate…

3 Mar

UK Takes Lead in Protecting LGBT Community

Thanks to my friend Larry Scott for sharing this story with me and inspiring me to write this article.  Here in the United States, where our elected civil servants attack its LGBT citizenry, a la John McCain, John Boehner, Bobby Franklin, Newt Gingrich, just to name a few, just the opposite is happening in England. Here in the U.S. it is illegal in many states for same-sex couples to adopt children, or to even be foster parents. However, it is completely legal for right wing “christians” to adopt and have foster children and to inculcate these children in a culture of hate and bigotry.

What an enormous relief to see that the United Kingdom’s Royal Courts of Justice  have ruled that Christians who disapprove of homosexuality may no longer serve as foster parents in the country.  Notice, no poll was taken, the government decided to LEAD and not allow hate and bigotry!   More potential good news. The state of Illinois is also looking into adopting a similar law that would not allow homophobic bigots to have foster children. Click here to see the full article.

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