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Band of lovers

Band of lovers


I'm very relieved that the "gay bomb" project proposed by U.S. Air Force scientists never became a reality. What were scientists at the Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, hoping for when they asked for $7.5 million to develop the concept? Their goal was to create a weapon that would expose enemy soldiers to a chemical aphrodisiac during combat that would make them so irresistibly attracted to one another that they would instantly drop their weapons and start screwing each other.

But if history is any indicator, the "gay bomb" would have been a disaster, because gay soldiers usually prove to be frighteningly good soldiers: Achilles, for instance, and then there's Alexander the Great, who apparently doesn't even register on the radar screens over at the Wright Laboratory, even though his bloody Afghan campaign turned out to be an eerie foretelling of our current nightmare in the Middle East. But historical insight can't flourish in any atmosphere where homophobia rules, because homophobia demands stupidity.

Why is the mere idea of a "gay bomb" homophobic? First, because it rests on the (bogus) assertion that soldiers who want to have sex with each other will immediately shirk their duties as fighting men regardless of the fatal consequences. Much as racists try to rationalize their prejudices, homophobes always insist that gay people will inevitably engage in behaviors besides gay sex that pose an indisputable threat to the safety of those around them. This is how they pass themselves off as something other than bigots.

Certain minority conservatives would disagree with me, of course--the same conservatives who have been desperately trying to draw an erroneous distinction between homophobia and racism in order to justify their hypocritical opposition to same-sex marriage. Their thinking goes something like this: Homophobia is a defensible position because a person is allowed to morally object to a behavior. Racism, however, is immoral because one cannot morally object to a person's skin color, so one is forced to lie and say that all members of the race they despise engage in criminal behavior.

Confused? The reason the distinction is hard to define is that there isn't one. Racism and homophobia are both methods by which an individual spreads slanderous lies about a group of people who do not place him in any real danger but who share beliefs and experiences he perceives as threatening. (Just for the record, equating racism and homophobia is not the same as equating the experience of black Americans to that of gay Americans over the past two centuries.)

But there was also something the Wright Laboratory scientists assumed the targets of their gay bomb wouldn't do: develop feelings for each other. Instead, like the best homophobes, these scientists presumed that homosexual behavior never gives rise to any genuine connection between partners, that it is a drive of pure lust devoid of any of the other emotions that might be found in their own marriages. This could have been their worst mistake. Imagine if they had used this weapon on a foreign army with a fragile loyalty to their despotic leader and inadvertently created a band of lovers suddenly willing to fight to the death for one another.

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Christopher Rice