Prossy Kakooza must stay in the UK (please help)

I’ve just been reading about Prossy Kakooza, a Ugandan woman seeking asylum in the UK from the psychological, physical, and sexual violence she suffered in Uganda — because the person she loves happens to be a woman.

Here’s her video:

She mentions that people in Uganda call being gay or lesbian “the western disease.” Of course they do. Anything that disagrees with your paradigm you’ll call a disease. Calling non-sanctioned behavior “disease” is another way to scapegoat it, the same way dominant Ugandan society is trying to scapegoat Prossy herself. And in this case, she would very literally be a scapegoat. I mean, my God, her father was going to have her killed! And I believe that report. It’s not hyperbole, not exagerration. He would do it. Some groups / societies would rather kill than lose hold of the worldview, the hegemony they believe holds their universe together.

The MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) in Manchester, England is helping spread the word and has put up this page providing information and links to petitions.

Please do helping work against this injustice. The online petition is quick and easy. The hard-copy petition takes a little bit more work (as you have to send it snail mail to the UK), and I don’t know how much weight non-British petitioners will have, but it has got to help some.

Here’s the actual petition:

Prossy Kakooza is a 26-year-old woman seeking asylum in the UK. She fled Uganda after suffering vicious sexual, physical and verbal attacks due to her sexual orientation.

Prossy had been forced into an engagement when her family discovered her relationship with the girlfriend she met at university, Leah. Both women were marched two miles naked to the police station, where they were locked up.

Prossy’s inmates subjected her to gross acts of humiliation. She was violently raped by police officers who taunted her with derogatory comments like ‘’we’ll show you what you’re missing’’ and ‘’you’re only this way because you haven’t met a real man’’. She was also scalded on her thighs with hot meat skewers.

Prossy was eventually taken out of prison after her father bribed the guards. Her family had decided they would sacrifice her instead, believing this would ‘’take the curse away from the family’’.

Whilst her family were making arrangements to slaughter her, Prossy managed to flee to the United Kingdom to seek asylum.

When Prossy went for treatment to her local GP’s surgery in the UK they were so shocked by the extent of her injuries they called the police.
She was taken to the St. Mary’s Centre in Manchester, and she is still receiving counselling there for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Prossy’s asylum application has been refused by the Home Office, who acknowledge she was brutally raped and burnt because of the medical evidence, but have dismissed these appalling attacks as ‘’the random actions of individuals’’, and state she can be returned to a different town in Uganda.

This judgement ignores the clear danger to gay people throughout the country where the penalty for homosexuality is life imprisonment.

Also, in Uganda, you cannot settle in a new town without a reference from your previous village, and on the basis she is a lesbian, Prossy would be subjected to similar persecution wherever she went.

We consider that if Prossy is sent back, she faces the continuing threat of incarceration, and further sickening attacks – which next time may be fatal.

Prossy is a highly educated woman who can be a productive member of society.

She has a right to be free with her sexuality, which is causing no harm to anyone, and she has a right not to be raped, attacked, or murdered.

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[journal entry] on Aspasia (as told by Plato, Cicero, Athenaeus, and Plutarch)

Even though the history around her is “cloudy,” to say the least, Aspasia must have actually been an influential teacher of rhetoric.

In this excerpt from Plato’s Menexenus, Socrates is mainly critiquing the misuse of the power of rhetoric. He complains that orators/rhetors simple pull from their pre-fabricated or generic storehouse of ideas/approaches, praise too well even those who may not deserve any praise, “steal [people’s] souls with their embellish words,” fan the flame of people’s sense of patriotism, and in general deceive and distract people from their [true] senses (61). He even goes on to say that it’s not hard to be a good rhetor. After all, “there is no difficulty when he is contending for fame among the persons who are being praised” (61). In other words, no audience will critique the one who is praising them! But he is also betraying the fact that Aspasia exerted a big influence in Athens. His references to her may be part of his “making fun of the rhetoricians,” as Menexenus says (61), but they betray the fact that Aspasia exerted a significant influence in Athens, to the point of being considered a superior “master” of rhetoric (61). When Socrates says he hesitates to rehearse her speech because he is “afraid that [his] mistress may be angry with [him]” (62) and when, at the end of this excerpt, he and Menexenus speak as if they are talking about a celebrity, he may be being sarcastic but he also makes it clear that Aspasia was famous (or infamous, as the case may be) in Athens.

Similarly, when Cicero uses Aspasia’s example (and as his only example?) of an inductive argument in his De Inventione, he is testifying to her influence in the realm of rhetoric. He might even have figured that many of his readers may have already been familiar with Aspasia’s discussion with Xenophon and his wife. (Note: Aspasia’s argument does seem more like one from analogy than from induction, though.)

Athenaeus attests to Aspasia’s fame by showing how instrumental Aspasia was in helping Socrates woe Aliciades. Aspasia was “Socrates’ teacher of rhetoric,” he says (65), and he quotes her advice to Socrates that it is the power of words which will help Socrates win Alcibiades: “Restrain thyself, filling thy soul with the conquering Muse; and with her aid thou shalt win him; pour her into the ears of his desire. For she is the true beginning of love in both; through her thou shalt master him, by offering to his ear gives for the unveiling of the soul” (65). Here again is reference to the influence of Aspasia and to the power of words on an audience.

Like Plato’s Socrates, Plutarch isn’t particularly complimentary of Aspasia, but his discussion nevertheless testifies, like Socrates and the others, to her reputation as a powerful teacher of rhetoric. His main goal in this excerpt seems to be to discuss Pericles and his decision to go to war against the Isle of Samos. It is as if he discusses Aspasia only to ascertain how much, and what kind of, role she played in influencing Pericles. At first he seems to be laying out evidence for Aspasia’s power, for her influence on Pericles and on Socrates, even admitting that Aspasia “had the repute of being resorted to by many of the Athenians for instruction in the art of speaking” (66). But he then seems to conclude that really, it was nothing more than Pericles’ passion for Aspasia which made her so influential over him. After all, Plutarch seems to say, the comedies call her a harlot (66).

I had to almost laugh when I read these comedic poets (and Plutarch) calling Aspasia a harlot. One, it’s another example of Foucault’s contention that sexuality and politics, the two most powerful arenas of human life, are also the two areas institutions most want to constrain and control. Sexuality and politics can easily be used against anyone who offends the “order of discourse.” And two, it reminded me of how common it is for powerful women to be accused of prostitution. Medieval and renaissance Christian tradition, without evidence, labeled Mary Magdalene a prostitute, and that tag stuck. And it’s tempting to assume that church leaders branded her a prostitute because to them a woman’s sin almost necessarily has to be sexual sin and because Jesus had given her too much power (by giving her the job of first reporter of the resurrection to the apostles).

creating a world of complexities and continuums

Spring break week, so I’m off work (though no pay :-() and I get some juicy reading and writing time. I should be doing some laundry or picking up this cluttered office, but it’s almost noon and I’m still sitting, reading blogs and articles and “playing with” my own blog.

I just came across Michael Faris giving his response to Nancy Sommer’s “Between the Drafts” (“Response to Sommers” Oct 30, 2005). It reminded me of the two articles (by Elbow and by Bartholomae — see citations below) that I read yesterday. This is the part of Michael’s response-to-Sommers that caught me:

…I propose that students write themselves into papers by using their authority over the ambiguity of issues and the uncertainty they feel. Researchers struggle through issues, and I think that perhaps when that researcher’s struggle shows through, that the paper is best. Who wants to read hard-lined black and white arguments? If we’re seriously trying to get students to think critically and create a world of complexities and continuums instead of binary relationships, then perhaps it’s best to dip ourselves in uncertainty, to find our authority in this messy goo.

Two things. One is that the part about a researcher’s struggle showing through reminded me of Bartholomae’s article. At the end of his essay, Bartholomae says something like, “I should have a conclusion but I’m not sure what it is yet.” He finishes his ending by re-clarifying his questions and setting forth his main point, but — I don’t know — he does it in a way that makes me feel as if, yes, he’s convinced of it, he feels strongly about it, but he’s still asking questions, and he’s still very open to Elbow’s (and others’) views. I thought, “Hmmmm! I like this!” I liked the open-ness, the recognition of the complexity. (Maybe that’s because neither article brought me at all close to a conclusion, either.)

I used to like “hard-lined black and white arguments,” to be honest (maybe I still do in certain contexts, on certain subjects). I’ll have to think about how much of that comes from my background in writing theology papers. I don’t think they were particularly more “black and white” than, say, philosophy papers. But they were the traditional argument where sounding confident was expected.

The other thing was that I liked Michael’s further comment about trying to create “a world of complexities and continuums instead of binary relationships” too. Reminded me of homophobic theology and biblical interpretation. (I recently lead a Bible study on “The Bible and Homosexuality” and so these issues are on my mind a lot lately.) Homophobia strikes me as such a good example of binary thinking, or, more particularly of “us and them” thinking — the binary of “us and them,” “gay and straight,” “righteousness and sin,” “pure and impure,” etc. We just LIKE to think binarily. It’s easier. We want to protect ourselves and our resources from those “others.” And the best, simplest, easiest way to do that is just to name them as “others,” as “them,” etc. I don’t think anti-gay thinkers think their thinking is necessarily binary. It probably appears quite complex and well-grounded to them. But I still think what appears to be complexity and sound thinking is really symptoms of binary fear, for lack of a better phrase. Again — “us and them.”

Reminds me of what could be called binary Bible interpretation, especially of biblical notions of “sin” and “impurity.” The Greeks had two words (at least): “evil” and “unclean” (both translated “evil” in most English New Testaments (though I haven’t done a systematic check)). The Hebrews also had two concepts: the sinful and the unclean/impure. These are complexities within the 21st century use of the word “sin” but they almost always get simplified into the one concept of “sin.” So, yeah – another example of binary thinking gone amuck, binary thinking damaging our relationships with each other.

I was going to say I don’t have Sommer’s article, but I just found it amongst the CCC journals I picked up a couple weeks ago (yay!). So maybe I’ll get it read today.

Sommers, Nancy. “Between the Drafts.” College Composition and Communication 43 (1992): 23-31.

Yesterday’s articles:

Bartholomae, David. “Writing With Teachers: A Conversation With Peter Elbow.” College Composition and Communication 46 (1995): 62-71.

Elbow, Peter. “Being a Writer vs. Being an Academic: A Conflict in Goals.” College Composition and Communication 46 (1995): 72-83.

erring on the side of inclusivity (“Church takes stand against straight marriage”)

Pamela Miller, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, writes about a couple of churches that have decided to treat their hetero- and homo- sexual couples equally — by no longer offering civil weddings. Great title: Church takes stand against straight marriage. It appears to have been published April 16, 2006, but the article’s no longer on the Star Tribune website.

Anyway, besides the great title, I wanted to quote the article quoting one of the pastors:

The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, a member of Lyndale United, acknowledged that people of faith cite scriptures for both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.

The arc of the gospel always moves toward circles of inclusivity, and in earlier debates about human rights, people who err on the side of inclusivity have been proven right,” she said. “Very few passages in the Bible deal with homosexuality, but many can be lifted up in arguments for justice and equal treatment.”

Yes, yes, yes!