Tuesday, January 06, 2015

May be coming back ...

I've been away from this blog for almost eight years. It was a bit of an obsessive experience back then, and I discovered that it's hard to seriously blog and also be "something else", like a full-time scientist, etc.

A lot has happened since then. I'm married with a 16 month-old son, and another child on the way. I've switched jobs twice (from PhD bench biologist to management consultant to tech product manager). Who knows what's next?

Back when I was writing the blog, I thought of Political Spaghetti as a forum to express my thoughts around a very specific problem in Nigeria: the use of persecution of LGBT Nigerians as a political lever in Nigerian politics, and in global Anglican politics. I learned several things from that experience:
  • The Anglican Church in the United States (i.e., post-schism Episcopalians) was finding itself in bed with congregations in Uganda, Nigeria, and elsewhere with really nasty views on homosexuality, and an eager desire to restrict the rights of LGBT citizens in their countries to even talk about their homosexuality, let alone themselves in public.
  • Anglicans in the US were very uncomfortable with the associations they had carved out for themselves in Africa, but were unwilling to take a stand against some of the more egregious examples of church-led persecution.
  • Many conservatives in the US and in Africa were using the excuse that speaking against such persecution would cause them to lose face with their Muslim counterparts (especially in Nigeria). Inter-religious violence (especially in NE Nigeria where Boko Haram has been most active) becomes the the primary reason to engage in a persecution arms race, with each side eager to establish their anti-gay bona fides.
  • That said, at its root, the religious conflict is ultimately about the challenge of sharing of scare resources or key commodities (e.g., oil in Niger Delta), which naturally collapsed along the most dominant social/political lines. In Nigeria, this played out (and continues to play out) as a North versus South or Christian versus Muslim conflict. For instance, a common complaint among northern Muslims is the torpor with which oil revenue makes it to the northern states, to which a Muslim might say (in the abstract), "Why do you Christians keep us down? Maybe you eat poo-poo like the gays?" Yes, it really is like that.
Throughout my time writing this blog, I left out two personal details about myself that at the time didn't seem to be relevant to the arguments that I was making. Upon reflection, I should have been more up-front about the first, but I still think the second didn't need to be said at the time.

First, I am the son of an Anglican clergyman in the United States, who in "schism" with the Episcopal Church aligned himself with the Anglican Church of Uganda, a church that has a deeply troubled history of advocating for the open persecution of its LGBT citizens. I was very disappointed with my dad for making this decision (although it was his to make). At the same time, Nigeria was playing around with the idea of making it illegal to speak, write, or assemble as an LGBT citizen, and conservative Anglicans in northern Virginia (near DC where I live) were aligning with the then Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, an ambiguously overt supporter of the bill. In a country where LGBT citizens were regularly beaten and harassed, this new bill seemed like it would only add fuel to the fire. And it INFURIATED me that no one was really taking them to task for the blinkered way they were attempting to remove themselves from the Episcopal Church. It was as if they were themselves endorsing bills like the one in Nigeria, as well as the later one that passed in Uganda last year. However, I've decided to let that go now. It's a critical issue for a great many people, but there are other voices, and mine hasn't been needed for some time. Also, I love my dad, and back in March of 2007 it finally felt like it was time to leave it alone.

Second, while many assumed that I am gay, it turns out I'm straight. Back in 2006/7, I guess it seemed really odd to people that a straight person would see LGBT rights as universally important. I didn't think it mattered that I say one way or the other when making the kinds of arguments I was making. Political Spaghetti was never intended to be a "gay blog" -- rather, I wanted a forum to talk about humanity's deeply flawed understanding of our own nature (at all levels of organization, from molecule to political ecosystem). And so I happened upon the nonsense in Nigeria. I believed and continue to believe that whenever anyone EVER says that it should be or is illegal for another human being to speak their mind (even if that person is insane, an idiot, a bigot, of another religion, or, yes, LGBT), such efforts must be vigorously and conscientiously opposed.

So I may start posting soon. I'll focus on my thoughts on the nature of conflict in specific instances. More often than not, conflicts are not about the superficial and facile reasons that everyone supposes -- the real stories are often far more fascinating.

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