On a cold winter’s night I watched Verdi’s La Forza Del Destino. Verdi was agnostic, yet this opera is suffused with Christian themes.
“Come find thy salvation in the shadow of the cross.”
The story is too confused and complex to tell in one blog posting. At its simplest: Leonora is in love with an aristocrat of Indian blood. Her father opposes her love. Her lover inadvertently kills her father. The lovers flee their separate ways. Leonora seeks sanctuary in a monastic retreat where the father offers her forgiveness if she spend her days worshiping God. Her lover finds her, they all die, seeped in revenge and racial hatred.
The essential tragedy of the opera is that the hero is of Inca Indian blood and the heroine’s father and brother are republican racialists who cannot accept love by others not of their kind. If only they had sanctioned the love of Leonora and her Indian prince—-well there would not have been an opera.
Watching this opera and revelling in its music, these thoughts coursed through my mind and I must record them, in spite of the fact that this is a blog about mining, and occasionally about opera. For these thoughts are boiling my blood and making me sad about places and people I love.
Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has at last spoken out:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has condemned Uganda‘s proposed law against homosexuality, saying there is no scientific or moral basis ever for prejudice and discrimination – and accusing the Ugandan president of breaking a promise not to enact the law. The new law would extend the prohibitions and penalties in a country where homosexuality is already a crime, to include acts such as “suggestive touching” in public.
Tutu equated discrimination against gay people with the horrors of Nazi Germany and apartheid-era South Africa.
“We must be entirely clear about this: the history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste, and race. But there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. There is only the grace of God. There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification. Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, among others, attest to these facts.”
The retired archbishop recalled apartheid-era police raids: “In South Africa, apartheid police used to rush into bedrooms where whites were suspected of making love to blacks. They would feel if the bed sheets were warm, crucial evidence to be used in the criminal case to follow. It was demeaning to those whose ‘crime’ was to love each other, it was demeaning to the policemen – and it was a blot on our entire society.”
I was brought up in the Anglican Church. I rejected religion at fifteen as a farce, as a Nazi face justifying apartheid. The priest would not let our servants into the church for my father’s funeral. That was it.
I recall my mother’s horror when I sent money to the ANC and Tutu in their fight against apartheid. So now I must write this.
Another place I love is Arizona. I spent two happy years in Tucson and have gone back often. Yet now the Nazi strain has burst forth in hate in Arizona.
Arizona’s Legislature has passed a controversial bill that would allow business owners, as long as they assert their religious beliefs, to deny service to gay and lesbian customers. The bill, which the state House of Representatives passed by a 33-27 vote Thursday, now goes to Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican and onetime small business owner who vetoed similar legislation last year but has expressed the right of business owners to deny service.
In a statement, Anna Tovar, the state senate Democratic minority leader, said: “With the express consent of Republicans in this Legislature, many Arizonans will find themselves members of a separate and unequal class under this law because of their sexual orientation. This bill may also open the door to discriminate based on race, familial status, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.”
The bill is being pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative group opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage. The group has justified the measure on grounds that the proposal protects people against increasingly activist federal courts.
“As we witness hostility towards people of faith grow like never before, we must take this opportunity to speak up for religious liberty,” the group said on its website, asking people to contact Brewer and urge her to sign the bill. “The great news is that SB 1062 protects your right to live and work according to your faith.” Cathi Herrod, the center’s president, told CNN on Friday, “The Arizona bill has a very simple premise, that Americans should be free to live and work according to their religious faith. It’s simply about protecting religious liberty and nothing else.”
But Robert Boston, a spokesman for the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told CNN the legislation would “fling the door wide open to discrimination, not just against gay people, but basically to any class of individuals that a religious fundamentalist decides he or she doesn’t want to deal with.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona called the bill “unnecessary and discriminatory.”
“What today’s bill does is allow private individuals and businesses to use religion to discriminate, sending a message that Arizona is intolerant and unwelcoming,” the group said in a statement.
Some Republican legislators have defended the bill as a First Amendment issue. Democrats dismissed it as an attack on gays and lesbians.
“Let there be no doubt about what this bill does. It’s going to allow people to discriminate against the gay community in Arizona. It goes after unprotected classes of people and we all know that the biggest unprotected class of people in the state is the LBGT community. If we were having this conversation in regard to African-Americans or women, there would be outrage across the country right now.”
These Arizona arguments are the same reasoning used by the Nazi and those in South Africa in the Anglican Church who would not let our black servants into my father’s funeral service.
While an atheist, I can still ask what of the Christian edict: love thy neighbour. Is this empty lip service to Arizona Republicans and Christians? Are they of the same silk as Nazis and South African apartheid upholders? I am amazed and disgusted. And proud not to be a Christian in Arizona or Uganda. But still impressed that at last Tutu has spoken out about Uganda. Maybe now he can speak out about Arizona.
Of course I have a personal interest in this debate. I have twelve grandchildren. At least one of them is struggling with the idea that they may be gay. And maybe there is more than one. How can I countenance a state that would discriminate against them in the name of God? I must speak up and do so here.