Phobias are serious business, and some must be fought. One driver spent years heroically overcoming her macrogephyrophobia, fear of big bridges. Some men suffer from pentheraphobia, fear of mothers-in-law, but mine is nice. I admit to nucleomituphobia, fear of nuclear weapons.
What are our national phobias? Theologicophobia and homolophobia, fear of theology and sermons, seem to be growing. Gamophobia and pedophobia, fear of marriage and children, are evident trends. Over the long term we appear to be oozing toward both eleutherophobia and hypengyophobia, fear of freedom and responsibility.
Before 9/11 I thought Islamophobia no more reasonable than omphalophobia, fear of belly buttons, but terrorism plus trips to Turkey and Ethiopia cured me of that. I visited church structures from centuries ago that were literally underground, because Christians needed to hide from murderous Muslims—and many in the Middle East today need new hiding places.
Until the past several years I thought homophobia was a propaganda word: Who would be afraid of gay folks, especially those down the street who fixed up their houses so nicely? But the scent of power has turned some aggressive, with the goal of firing football analysts, duck call patriarchs, and even Colorado cake bakers who refuse to bow to That Which Must Not Be Criticized.
Now, fear of individual homosexuals is still rare, but fear of the gay lobby is growing. Journalists twist reporting to avoid anything negative about homosexuality. For example, bloomberg.com last month ran one of the most extraordinary lead sentences ever: “Gonorrhea and syphilis are on the rise in the U.S., mostly in men who have sex with men, a trend the government said is linked to inadequate testing among people stymied by homophobia and limited access to health care.”
Think about that. The news is that the rate of new gonorrhea and syphilis cases rose 4 and 11 percent in 2012 from the year before, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that the rise in the syphilis rate “is entirely attributable to men, particularly those who are gay or bisexual.”
You’d think a reporter might emphasize the way that particular sexual activities cause trouble. But no: We’re told the problem is that “having a sexually transmitted disease from having sex with another man is highly stigmatized.” Fact: “A November study from U.S. health officials found a 20 percent rise in unprotected sex among gay men.” Spin: Don’t decrease homosexual encounters, increase testing.