Culture and Religion

He had it all, and survived to relish it. Beauty, stardom, even an okay love life. The epitome of Hollywood in its heyday. And it was all a (well-meant) ruse. Tab was happy to stay ‘in the closet’ right to the end. He accepted his sexual orientation but was ‘not comfortable discussing it.’ His work with John Waters and Divine were ‘the high point of my professional life, even though it led to another label being hung on me that I have no use for: Gay Icon.’


Ne Arthur Gelien, rechristened Tab Hunter (Art loved riding and shooting) by sleazy agent Henry Willson, who Art/Tab insists never got his lecherous paws into his pants. Tab survived the poison of Hollywood long enough to leave his mark and then have a real life afterwards, despite his ‘secret’. And that’s the way he wanted it.

Reviving the ‘House of Peace’ as the peace movement's guiding principle


Those of us lucky/unlucky enough to live in the West see the rest of the world revolving around us, like Europe's 17th century sun, which, of course, orbited around the earth. So goes the western narrative: pre-Greece, Greece/Rome, Christianity, renaissance/ reformation, enlightenment, industrial revolution, nation-states/empire, WWI&II, cold war, democratic capitalism, end-of-history.


But Galileo tried a counterfactual: what would things look like, if I were standing on that blazing sun? Well, the rest-is-history. Maybe we aren’t the centre of the world. What if I were born and learned history as a Muslim?


This is Ansary's project in Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes (2009). Born Muslim in Afghanistan, he arrived in the US in the 1960s and jumped right into western life, seeing his new home through both his and the countercultural eyes of his new age young friends, so he knows the value of changing skins and seeing things anew.


In a nutshell, the Islamic narrative: pre-Islam, Islam, khalifate (quest for universal unity), fragmentation, catastrophe (crusades, Mongols), 3 empires (Safavid, Ottoman, Moghul), western occupation, reform movements, secular modernists, Islamist reaction. The two narratives overlap in Palestine-Israel, their core Mesopotamia and Persia-Iran.

Proust’s law: you always get what you want when you no longer want it.


Gay is everywhere. Canada's new loonie celebrates 50 years of official gaydom, Ontario lived under 4 years with open lesbian premier Kathleen Wynne. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves at the crowds at Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade, like Queen Elizabeth, along with Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (Much love and happy pride to all!), and Toronto Mayor John Tory. The marchers were probably less than 10,000, but spectators  50,000+.


The police were denied their own delegation, resented for taking so long to find serial killer Bruce McArthur, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to murdering eight men with ties to the gay village. The sole dissenting political voice was Ontario Premier Doug Ford, fresh from an election victory that was subtley anti-gay, who refused to participate in the march. He covered himself in the now stridently pro-gay media, by attending a small gathering in York Region earlier in ‘GayPride Month’ for the de rigueur photo-op.


The over-the-top celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York (150,000 marchers, 3m spectators), the birthplace of World Gay Pride, was preceded by the Queer Liberation March, sans corporate floats and police, protesting the gentrification of the event and the movement in general.


All the celebratory marches ignore the stark truth that the height of gaylib was long ago, 1978 (novelists Holleran, Kramer, photographer Mapplethorpe, choreographer Joffrey). The next 40 years has been a slow motion hangover, the homosexualization of America, which has left the US in a moral mess.


Who better to turn to for assessing the state of the union than Edmund White, author of The Joy of Gay Sex (1977), who lived through those 50 years and has written more than anyone else about it?

Mohamed Morsi will be more remembered in Canada and the US (if at all) as a textbook case of how the internet can catapult someone to fame and just as easily destroy him.


The Muslim Brotherhood benefited from a revolution largely facilitated by social media, which was able to catalyze widespread anger with Hosni Mubarak in January 2011, and gave the Egyptian army the chance to dismiss a dictator who was despised by all. Once the logjam was broken, transparent elections catapulted the MB to power.

 

As Afghanistan enters its last dreadful lap, much like Vietnam circa 1970, I have been looking back to what fiction from those ‘golden days’ had to say, when students were alive with antiwar politics and sexual revolution, the empire at its peak of power and savagery. The parallels are bleak, and very, very enlightening.


In Norman Mailer’s Why Are We in Vietnam? (1967), the rich Texan D.J.’s son spends the night in a tent with his best friend. They feel lust for the other, but intuit that the only response to such desire is violence; they will never be lovers, but only ‘killer brothers’.

 

They (and their fathers) worship their high-powered guns. They revel in shooting an exquisite fox, standing nobly at dawn, a magnificent grizzly, wounded and running crazily in pain. The atmosphere is full of cruel violence against the natural order and lack of understanding of reality. Then, in the final sentence, ‘off to Vietnam we go.’ Argh.

 

It was then that I turned to Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge (1968) and Myron (1974).

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html