Friday, June 09, 2006

Mr. Ahenakew and Dr. Bulka

I've written about David Ahenakew before, but given the reversal on appeal of his conviction for hate speech, it seems timely to compare his fate with that of homophobe and soon-to-be Carleton University laureate Dr. Reuven Bulka.

Let me put all of my cards on the table.
I am obviously not in sympathy either with Ahenakew's words or with his evident opinions. His spasm of anger caused him to say vile and hateful things. And those words led, in turn, to his abject humiliation before his own people and Canadians as a whole, as well as to his conviction as a common criminal. But as none other than Ed Morgan, President of the Canadian Jewish Congress, generously puts it, "Sometimes one overspeaks. I can understand that. You react to a reporter and you might overspeak."

I wonder how many of us, at one time or another, fuelled by alcohol or anger or piss-poor judgement, have said vile and hateful things that have not been reported in the media, caused us the loss of our standing in the community, or put us before the courts.

In any case, the man lost it, paid dearly for it, and the lengthy process continues. I wish he'd chosen a sweeter-smelling lawyer than Doug Christie, that noted mouthpiece for hate-mongers and Holocaust-deniers. But good judgement, as we all know, is not one of Ahenakew's virtues.

Now let us turn to the strange case of Dr. Reuven Bulka. The Ottawa Citizen has a lengthy article about this today, hidden unfortunately behind a subscriber wall. Confronted with his association with NARTH, a wingy anti-gay "therapy" outfit, you could feel the man squirm. He confirmed that he was indeed a NARTH member, but "very inactive," and he attended only two of its conventions, over ten years ago. He remains, nonetheless, on that organization's "Scientific Advisory Committee."

Sure, NARTH says (and Bulka agrees) that homosexuality is not a "healthy, natural alternative to heterosexuality." This is proven, he goes on to say, by the fact that many gays want to be heterosexual. "But that is no more bigoted a statement," he says, "than a man saying he wished he were a woman." Transgender politics aside, this is an odd comment from someone who thinks that homosexuality is a disorder to be cured by "reparative therapy."

Bulka's book, One Man, One Woman, One Lifetime, was also raised in the article. He there described homosexuality as "abnormal." Now, he says, he would write the book differently.

The President of Carleton, Dr. David Atkinson, was impressed by the secret Carleton Senate meeting that took place on June 1, confirming the honarary degree for Dr. Bulka. "People were really wrestling with fundamental issues of what universities are about...I came away from it feeling very good about the university and what we stood for."

What, precisely, Carleton now stands for is less clear by the minute. I posted earlier about the President's flabby and mendacious reasoning in an email to those who are appalled by the University's actions, in which he effectively claimed that homophobia should be accommodated inside the big tent of diversity.

But let us set that all aside for a moment.

Here we have two individuals, both of whom had legitimately earned standing and prestige in their respective communities. One, David Ahenakew, blurted out some bigoted words in what both an appeal judge and the President of the Canadian Jewish Congress seem to agree was the heat of the moment. He has been publicly pilloried, his honours stripped, and has been humiliated before his own community and the wider public. The other, Reuven Bulka, has written a book about the "abnormality" of gays and lesbians, and continues to sit on an advisory committee of an organization that, in Canada, would likely fall afoul of current hate legislation. No heat of the moment there. He is lauded as a scholar and a pillar of his community, and is about to be awarded an honorary doctorate.

What is wrong with this picture?

No comments: