Sunday, June 5, 2016

Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Sports are a splendid escape. I frequently use this blog to kvetch about the state of society and world affairs, but as often happens in the spring, I have recently devoted most of my writing to hockey -- and as always happens when I do that, it has made writing more enjoyable.

However, two recent events are compelling me to return to social/political kvetching. I am talking about the "controversies" over bathrooms and over the killing of Harambe the gorilla, which are related even if they don't seem like it at first glance -- and I am exaggerating only mildly when I say these controversies signal that American society is on the verge of going so cuckoo that it should be placed in a straightjacket and locked up in a psych ward.

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As you have surely heard, a terrifying incident took place two Saturdays ago at the Cincinnati Zoo, when a four-year-old boy took advantage of his mother temporarily diverting her attention to her other children.

He snuck into the gorilla enclosure. After tumbling some 15 feet down, he was approached by a 450-pound gorilla named Harambe, who proceeded to drag him about.

Cell phone video showed the boy being dragged through the water of the enclosure's moat. The lady who captured the video said that just before she started filming, the boy's head was being banged on the concrete as Harambe pulled him toward the moat.

Needless to say, a four-year-old in the opposable-thumbed hands of one of Earth's fiercest and strongest creatures is in mortal danger. A grown man would also be in mortal danger. Even if Harambe was a benevolent soul who only wanted to play with the boy or deliver him back to his mother, he could very easily and very quickly kill him by accident.

Faced with a real time decision between the life of a human child and the life of a beast, zoo officials made the only decision any moral, sane, sentient person could make: Life for the child. They shot the gorilla to save the boy, and shot to kill, which is the only responsible way to shoot. 

It is horrendous that anybody's brain could be angered by that decision.

It is baffling that anybody's brain could be enraged at the boy's parents, considering the trauma they experienced not knowing if their son would live or die while watching helplessly as he got dragged.

And if anybody's brains are wired in such a way that they have to be mad at the parents, it's revolting that they could be enraged over the fate of the gorilla instead of being angry over the son entering harm's way "on the parents' watch."

But alas, many people's minds do work in those ways. A petition called "Justice for Harambe," created by an entity called, has, as of the moment I type this sentence, gotten 500,536 signatures. The petition anguishes that a "beautiful gorilla lost his life because the boy's parents did not keep a closer watch on the child," and goes on to "actively encourage" the authorities to conduct "an investigation of the child's home environment..."

Yes, those signatories represent a minority of Americans, not a majority, but that minority is not as small as you might think. Repeat the number, ponder it, and let it sink in: five hundred thousand plus. That's more than half a mllion people, which is an extremely large amount when you consider that it is limited to those who were motivated enough to seek out a petition and sign it, or who were motivated enough that they a) moved in the circles where such a petition was circulated and b) opted to take the time to sign it.

Once upon a time in America, killing an animal to save a child was so unquestionably the right choice that nobody would have raised an eyebrow.

Today in America, that same choice invites negative reactions ranging from public condemnation to threats of legal action.

And we wonder why people's respect for their fellow man ain't what it used to be?

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And then there are the inane "bathroom controversies" that have been marked, most recently, by criticism of the piece of geography known as North Carolina. No other ginned-up controversy in American history has been more chock full of hypocrites and brainlessness than these.

What has North Carolina done that is so bad? Its elected representatives have written into law that men's restrooms are for biological males and women's restrooms are for biological females. In other words, they have codified something that is so obviously proper and normal that it didn't require codification through all of human history -- until the minute right before now.

Go back only to the first term of our current president, and the idea of allowing grown men into women's restrooms was considered so preposterous that even a state as bed-wettingly liberal as California would have rejected it out of hand. Yet today, in the same president's second term, the drivers of our culture consider opposition to that idea to be on par with Jim Crow.

Apple, Microsoft, PayPal, and Coca Cola (along with many other PR-sensitive corporations) have publicly condemned North Carolina for its law and threatened to withhold business from the state. Their alleged reason for condemning the law is that it runs counter to their alleged concern for LGBT issues.

However, all of these organizations do tons of business in Middle Eastern nations where homosexual behavior (the LGB in LGBT) is punishable by death and tran-type behavior (the T in LGBT) is explicitly outlawed, yet none of them have bothered to condemn those nations' laws or withhold business from them.

The hypocrisy is most despicable when it comes to hipper-than-thou Apple, whose CEO, Tim Cook, happens to be gay himself. Last year he took it upon himself to use Apple's bully pulpit to criticize Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (because he allegedly believed it would lead to horrendous anti-gay discrimination) and this year he is aiming his arrows at North Carolina. So on he goes, hectoring from his high horse about innocuous American laws he thinks might have an anti-LGBT impact, while muting himself about foreign laws which do have that impact and even demand LGBT torture and death.

Seems to me that Cook and his ilk criticize American laws for being anti-LGBT (even when they aren't) because they think such chest-thumping will be good for their businesses in America... yet at the same time, they don't criticize foreign laws that actually are anti-LGBT because they think such chest-thumping would be bad for their businesses in those countries... so in other words, they don't have any principles; for them it's about bucks, not beliefs; and they deserve no respect when it comes to social or political matters.

Meanwhile, Pearl Jam, a mediocre band that was briefly relevant 20 years ago, broadcast its opposition to common sense the bathroom law by cancelling a concert in North Carolina... so too did Bruce Springsteen, whose zenith passed more than 30 years ago... and so too did Bryan Adams, the plastic surgery horror from British Columbia who, despite churning out fantastic rockers in the mid-1980's, was reduced to boring passionless pseudo-ballads by the early 1990's.

Of course I enjoy listening to "I'm on Fire" and "Summer of '69" as much as the next guy, but you will never find me looking to guitar-pickers for intellectual or moral enlightenment. And because I don't understand why the next guy would do so, I don't understand why the guitar-pickers think we would.

But more to the point, I don't understand why people who write about guitar-pickers think that's what we look to them for.

And if we do look to them for that, we are in one woeful pickle.

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Forgive me, I went a little offtrack. Now I'll get back to why the bathroom controversies are at best inane and at worst insane, and how it is that they relate to the outrage over Harambe's death.

The reason bathrooms are (and always have been) differentiated by gender is for safety, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with patriarchal or heteroist or transphobic power strucures seeking to impose establishmentarian constructs on oppressed minorities.

Biologically, men are stronger than women, more prone to violence than women, and more driven by their sexual appetites than women. That is why men have no place in women's restrooms, where genitals are exposed and pants are down and women are at their most vulnerable -- and even more to the point, where girls like my 11-year-old daughter are at their most vulnerable.

Allowing grown men with functioning penises to enter that venue is plainly improper, to the point of being dangerous, and thus it is patently absurd. Yet we are being told that if we voice objection, it is we who are backward and out of line. Pardon my French, but to Hell with that.

Keep in mind that the bathroom controversies are centered not around transsexual people (those who have undergone a sex change operation) but transgendered people (men who "identify as" women despite being men, or vice-versa). What this means is that if the drivers of our culture get their way, a predatory man will have unquestionable legal access to a place where women and girls are vaginally exposed simply by saying he feels like a woman at the moment. Pardon my French again, but to Hell with that.

I feel bad for transgendered people because they did not ask to feel the way they do. They deserve our sympathy. However, there are far more perverts and pedophiles in the world than transgendered people; and by definition, perverts and pedophiles do harm others, whereas transgendered people almost always do not.

The whole point of gender-specific restrooms is to protect against the pervs and pedos, not to "discriminate" against the trans. This was so obviously the case until the moment right before now that it didn't need to be spelled out. It is maddening that in the blink of an eye society has gone from common sense being common to accusing those who have common sense of being bigots.

If a handful of transgendered people must "feel uncomfortable" in exchange for protecting our daughters and wives and mothers from actual and easily predictable harm, so be it. The trade-off isn't even close to being even.

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So what's the connection between the gorilla controversy and bathroom controversies, you might ask?

Children, that's what.

Protecting them is the way of God, or the way of Nature if you prefer that phrasing. But it is definitely the way.

Different people have different responses when asked what they would do if they encountered a lone bear in the woods; but when asked what they would do if they encountered a mama bear with her cubs, everyone says they would give a wide berth and immediately vacate the area. And those answers would be the same if the question is what you would do if you saw a lone raccoon in your yard versus a mama raccoon with her kits. God/Nature dictates that offspring are to be protected, and protected to the extreme, and at a certain level deep down in the fibers of our being we all know this, which is why we know not to cross a mom.

But within humanity itself, at least here in the US of A, the times have been a-changin'. But not in the positive sense that Bob Dylan meant in 1964. And the changin' is rapidly leading us not to a sunlit summit but to a sewage-filled cellar.

With the bathroom controversies, large numbers of Americans have decided that the feelings of a tiny fraction of adults are more important than the physical and emotional security of all children.

With Harambe, smaller but still significant numbers of Americans are more animated by concern for the gorilla than by concern for the four-year-old boy.

Ass-backward priorities do not become ass-backward in a vacuum. It's almost too easy to link 2016 America's ambivalence toward children to 1973 America's mass legalization of abortion on demand -- and to the intervening elevation of moms killing babies to the level of a "woman's right to choose" -- but its being easy does not equal its being wrong.

Meanwhile, San Francisco, an absolutely beautiful city that is absolutely defined by human presence, is now home to 80,000 more dogs than children. And how much do you want to bet that it has a disproportionate number of Harambe sympathizers among its citizenry?

Although I deplore identity politics because they strike me as racist and intentionally divisive, I find myself longing for someone like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to connect some dots surrounding Harambe. I want them to mention how the four-year-old boy was black; how bourgeois white Americans are more concerned about Harambe than the black child; how those same bourgeois white Americans want to punish the black parents rather than whisper "there but for the grace of God go I"; and how bourgeois white Americans are crudely unconcerned about black abortion rates that are so sky high they can be fairly referred to as genocide in the womb.

If they would make that case, I would haul my white conservative ass to a march and walk beside them with my head held high. I would think they were overestimating the racial motivations behind the facts, but I would know they had the facts right and I would believe -- do believe -- that reversing those facts is imperative for America to be a good country.

But I won't hold my breath waiting for Jackson, Sharpton, et al to make that case, because in the end they are like so many other Americans, including the bourgeois whites you might have expected them to condemn. In the end, they are about themselves and everyone else is an abstract rather than a human being; it just so happens that in the case of Jackson, Sharpton, et al, their melanin content gives them a different device to exploit.

Once upon a time, Alexis de Tocqueville opined that "America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

Today it feels like we are on a precipice, and we can either go over it and cease to be good, or step back from it and remain good. It feels like we have been walking toward that precipice for a while, but have recently put one of our legs out over it, into the void where gravity has outsize impact.

The good news is that our problem is a problem of the heart, meaning it does not need government spending or military action to correct it. All that is required is for the majority of us to get our hearts right and to not be afraid about speaking out.

The bad news is that our problem is a problem of the heart. If so many of us have lost our bearings that our entire culture stands on the precipice, are there enough of us left who are able and willing to get our hearts right and untie our tongues?

I don't know the answer to that last question, but I do know that the very existence of controversy over Harambe and gender-specific bathrooms proves we have lost our way.

Theocracy -- Islam version, with all of its attendant misogyny and homophobia -- is on the rise and world domination is its goal... Russia's Putin is indulging imperial tendencies, with Ukraine and Georgia in his immediate crosshairs while he no doubt salivates about the possibility of then taking over Belarus plus the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia... We have abandoned Poland and the Czech Republic by promising a missile shield to protect them from Russia, and then changing our minds as if this serious situation was akin to choosing between Bounty and Brawn when you buy paper towels... Our government's recklessness and idiocy when it comes to spending is approaching the recklessness and idiocy that have transformed great nations like Argentina and Greece into feckless basket cases of thumb-sucking dependency.

Yet what is it that motivates us to make public proclamations and draw ideological lines in the sand? Laws about whether Klinger should be allowed in the stall beside Houlihan's, and questions about whether a human child's life is more precious than that of a grown gorilla.

How do you think this will make our society appear when our descendants look back upon us?

I want to close by saying: "All I can say is God help us."

But instead, I know I should close by saying: "Why should God help us?"

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