Why Are 'Phobes So Effing Stupid?
Ah, the things you learn from debates on online message boards….
The following post, a classic from somebody named Don, is worth quoting verbatim: "Homosexuality is a harbinger of a cultures destruction. Every major fall of civilizations that crumbled seem to follow a pattern, Aztec, Maya, Greek and Roman. Homosexual acceptance precedes destruction in a more advanced stage than does divorce in historical civilizations. Basically, both are components of a societal destruction, but homosexual acceptance creates a stage of decay which is virtually inevitable."
Now, overlooking for the nonce the overreaching, awful prose style, what we have here is a staple of frothingly homophobic discourse: Acceptance of queers leads to all societal hell breaking loose. There's just one thing wrong with Don's version of the decline and fall of great civilizations, though. It's an idiotic lie.
A reasonable person would post back, pointing out that the Aztecs, whom Wikipedia points out "were extremely intolerant of homosexuality," were conquered by a crucifix-waving murderer from the home of the Spanish Inquisition. And, what's more, that Cortes' triumph was expedited because of the religious beliefs of the Aztecs themselves, not because the Mesoamerican warriors were all lounging around in caftans, eating armadillo quiche and watching reruns of The Golden Girls. And yes, though the relatively more tolerant Mayans even painted homoporn on the walls of caves, ever-handy Wikipedia points out "for sodomy you would be condemned to death in a fiery furnace." In any case, among the many possible causes historians have considered for the dissolution of the Mayan Empire, cocksucking would have to rank far, far down on the list.
Ancient Greece was riven by conflicts between the city-states—one must assume it wasn't over the issue of same-sex marriage—and was for a post-conquest time ruled by Alexander the Great, who was reputedly, um, light in the sandals.
And Rome? It reached its perhaps greatest moment under the Emperor Hadrian, lover of the handsome Antinous. It was three hundred years later, after being Christianized and having banned homosex, that Rome actually fell.
As Ren used to say to Stimpy, "You EED-I-OT!"
It is true that some of this stuff may be kind of open to debate. Kind of. Historically minded homophobes often fall back on the work of Edward Gibbon, whose magnum opus, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published during the decade following American independence, back when scientists believed the plague was caused by "bad air"…or Jews. (Never do they cite Gibbon's assertion that the spread of Christianity in fact contributed to imperial decline. But then, one gets the distinct feeling they base most of their views of ancient Rome on bad gladiator movies.) And homophobes often cite a highly tendentious scholarly book, Family and Civilization, which is older than even I am, fer chrissakes, and handily predates the modern gay rights movement and the integration of queers into advanced industrialist societies. So the 'phobes do have some documentation, fucked though it may be.
But if historical accuracy were a priority, the diligent fag would mention that the modern idea of "the homosexual" simply didn't exist in ancient Greece or Rome, though that wouldn't put the "Decline" myth—hard to kill as bedbugs—to rest. If one were to go the reductio ad absurdum route, one might point out that it would be downright simple-minded to attribute the fall of Nazi Germany or the U.S.S.R. to rampant homophobia. One might also point out that a culture like the Aztecs, which punished passive anal sex by pulling the offender's guts out through his asshole, was closer to Fred Phelps' vision than Elton John's.
And if perchance homo-hanging Saudi Arabia does in fact outlast the Netherlands, one might reasonably ask if most of us—even Don—would rather move to Riyadh than Amsterdam. (Or, come to think of, whether Aztec human sacrifice was truly a folkway worth preserving.)