An open letter to Vladimir Putin.

Mr. President.

Your Duma is about to present you with a bill to ban homosexual propaganda. Or, as it’s rather more euphemistically termed in the bill, ‘non-traditional sexual relations.’

88 percent of your public supports this bill. An unheard of number. Even in the west, I wouldn’t bet the farm on a politician to stand up to those kinds of odds. It would require a bravery I suspect you probably lack.

Of course, you know that number already. You’ve massaged it into being. You own the television stations, you own the radio, you own the social networks. People increasingly think what you want them to think.

Indeed, you probably had a hand in the drafting of this legislation, didn’t you? I can’t help but suspect that you at least know what it contains.

You don’t know me, and will probably never read this. But on the off-chance you ever do, from the bottom of my heart, I want you to know something.

You will never be rid of us.

The people whose very existence you are on the edge of criminalizing with this legislation? The people you’ve denied the right even to be spoken of? The right to be acknowledged in conversation?

We”ll always be there.

You can kill us all, sure. You can take every single one of the wonderful, courageous people who disrupted today’s proceedings outside your pathetic excuse for a parliament and kill them yourself, if you like. You can trawl through the internet for us and find us, one by one, and kill us all. You can kill everyone we’ve ever loved, and millions more who we’ll never meet. Camps, shootings, whatever you like.

We will still be there. We’ll be all around you.

We’ll be your friends, your neighbors, your staff, your ministers, your flunkeys, your supporters, even your tame priests. We’ll be smiling seraphically at you from the front row of every throng of adoring fans. We’ll be glaring at you with hatred from the protests outside your walls.

You will never escape us. Not you, nor any of your supporters who genuinely think this is an excellent law, and want you to pass it, will ever escape us.

We’ll haunt you from behind the eyes of your children.

But we’ll do it in silence. We’ll retreat into ourselves. You’ll never know what we’re thinking, or how we feel. We’ll live in a realm of unspoken longings and secrets. We’ll have our dreams, our hopes, our friends. Some of us may even get to love.

But we’ll know our dreams can never come true. We’ll see all our hopes crumble to ashes. We’ll never truly know if we’ve ever had a real friend. And most of us will never know love as anything other than a bitter charade. And those lucky few who learn differently will live in fear and persecution until the end of their days. We’ll never get to hold someone’s hand and walk down a street. We’ll never get to introduce anyone to our parents. We’ll never get married. Not for real, anyway.

And we’ll be your children. And there’ll be nothing you can do to help us, no way to ease the hell of our lives. Because we’ll live in such fear of you that you’ll never once even know who we really were.

This is all by way of warning. You could still not sign the law.

But by the time you read this, I suspect it will be too late.

Yours,

Nicholas Pullen

France’s Mistake

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It is one of history’s more amusing ironies that a substantial amount of French men and women are in the streets today declaring a bigotry and an ignorance that would make an increasingly fringe branch of the Republican party proud.

France, doubtlessly, has gone up in the estimation of the Westboro Baptist Church this week. Which alone you think would give them pause.

But one often forgets, given the glamour and fascination of the historically very successful French left, that it wasn’t actually a decadent socialist government that declared the Iraq war an imperialist misadventure. It was Jaques Chirac. A consummate rightist. To say nothing of NIcolas Sarkozy or the Le Pen’s, father and daughter. France’s right wing is active, dedicated, and powerful.

An anecdote; I once went to a private member’s club in Paris, which shall remain nameless, but which was in a rather swanky area of town. We had a few drinks, and laughed at the incongruity of our being there, when as I was leaving I spotted a portrait of Marshall Petain.

The quisling French leader under Nazi occupation.

I asked someone who looked like they worked there whether it was, in fact, him.

He smiled, winked at me, and said yes it was. And it hung there all year.

We left after that. Haven’t been back since.

Strange, isn’t it? But this goes back to the revolution. France still feels starkly, utterly divided about that event. There’s a rich tradition of revolution, of struggle, of restless drive for improvement and progress. But there’s also a substantial amount of people who didn’t vote for the death of the king, so to speak. Who look back to a Catholic, medieval, chivalrous France, and despise France’s disorderly modern heritage. Petain had a lot of support.

At least some of it came from the same people who stoned collaborators in the streets and shaved the heads of women they knew as they beat them in the street when the Nazis finally withdrew.

And we’re seeing that side of France today. The one that hates change. The one that gladly handed over the Jews. The one that despises the erosion of traditional gender norms and values, and sees gays as a threat.

Above all, it’s the violence that surprises me. The disgust. The anger. One wonders what we did.

But one also doesn’t really care, because ultimately these people tend to lose. Their endless quest to hold back the tides of history, to freeze things, to preserve a golden moment, are doomed to inevitable failure. Progress is inevitable. Change cannot be stopped. And it’s impossible to sustain this level of hatred and anger. It eventually comes back to burn you.

Bigots, whether they be French, American, Ugandan, Saudi, Russian, or indeed Canadian, lead bitter, unhappy lives. Because ultimately they’re spending far too much of their day worrying about the habits of other people. Which is an unproductive waste of everyone’s time.

I’ll think twice about showing affection to someone I love in the streets of Paris now. I wish I didn’t have to. But apparently the city of love is for straight people.