Robert R. Reilly, the former Bush administration official who recently wrote a book explaining how gay people are worse than murderers, responds in a column today to the new HBO film “The Normal Heart.” Reilly writes that if gay people want to end HIV/AIDS, they should simply return to the closet, just as smokers give up cigarettes and alcoholics stop drinking.
He adds that gay people only have themselves to blame for HIV, calling the virus “Nature’s way of tapping us on the shoulder to let us know that these activities are misuses of our bodies.”
“[O]n every pack of cigarettes, there is a warning that smoking causes cancer, and there are warnings on every bottle of alcohol that it may be injurious to your health,” Reilly writes. “I wonder why there are no warning signs in [Washington Post] Richard Cohen’s column regarding the sodomitical and other sexual behavior he seems to be justifying.”
I have constantly to recalibrate the sense of unreality enveloping the marriage issue because the distance from reality seems to grow day by day. One of my touchstones is Richard Cohen’s column in the Washington Post, whenever he addresses the subject, as he just has again in his May 20 column. The occasion was the release of an HBO film, “The Normal Heart,” a movie version of Larry Kramer’s play about the beginning of the HIV-AIDS epidemic and the apparent indifference of President Ronald Reagan and New York Mayor Ed Koch. The air of unreality in this column could not be thicker.
We begin, of course, with his experience of homophobia as a mere lad of 16, when some yahoo told him about how he beat up homosexuals with brass doorknobs. In benighted America of that time, Cohen tells us, “we knew of racism and anti-Semitism,” but were really unaware of homophobia. I grew up in the 1950s, but I don’t really remember it being okay to beat up anyone with brass doorknobs. I didn’t meet the yahoo with whom Cohen was acquainted, so I can’t contradict him (but I do know that most violence against homosexuals is perpetrated by other homosexuals).
Cohen’s air of unreality also envelops the US court system. On May 19, the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected a bid to stay the ruling that invalidates Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Michael McShane said, “I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these (same-sex) plaintiffs, nothing more or less than our own families, families who we would expect our constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure.” This is an extraordinary remark, which says, in effect, “if we can only look past what something is, we can see something else there.” Indeed, we can. If we would only look past a giraffe’s neck, we could call it a donkey. On the other hand, we might also wish to call the donkey a giraffe. This might be confusing but at least they would be equal.
I have not seen the Kramer play or the HBO film of it, so I cannot comment directly on its contents. According to Cohen, the film indicts Koch and Reagan for ignoring “a public health menace that needed immediate attention”. Then comes the kicker: “the tendency then and somewhat still today was to blame gay men for their plight. The proposed remedy was to deprive them of their sex life – a remedy some felt was worse than the disease.” This is part of the homosexual martyrology that it is easy to see the absurdity of when it is transposed to other health problems.
How does this sound: the tendency is to blame smokers for their lung cancer, and to propose a remedy – giving up cigarettes – that is worse than the disease; or, the tendency is to blame alcoholics for their liver disease and to propose a remedy – giving up alcohol – that is worse than the disease. According to this logic, the urgent public health remedy would be to find a solution to lung cancer that would allow smokers to continue to smoke and a treatment for liver disease that would allow alcoholics to continue to drink. Analogously, as implied in Cohen’s analysis, we must find a remedy for AIDS that would allow active homosexuals to continue to behave promiscuously. However, the purpose of medicine is to restore an organ to health, not to allow its continued abuse.
Does that sound too harsh? Yet on every pack of cigarettes, there is a warning that smoking causes cancer, and there are warnings on every bottle of alcohol that it may be injurious to your health. I wonder why there are no warning signs in Richard Cohen’s column regarding the sodomitical and other sexual behavior he seems to be justifying.
Yet might not these diseases, along with HIV-AIDS, be Nature’s way of tapping us on the shoulder to let us know that these activities are misuses of our bodies? Isn’t it good news that, thanks to medical science, we now know which of our activities help engender these diseases, so that we can change our behavior? Shouldn’t we tell everyone about this?
We seem to have gotten that message out in regard to tobacco and alcohol, but not yet in terms of homosexual behavior. Putting a generative organ in an excretory organ is hygienically compromised.