Stuff That’s On My Mind

The original impetus for this article was the North Carolina Bathroom Bill. I am writing this from the perspective of a male who has been sharing bathrooms with women all my life—not always at the same time, of course, but most of the time, people use bathrooms one at a time. There are exceptions, of course. Public bathrooms (airports, highway rest stops, restaurants, and other public places). If you have ever flown anywhere with a woman, you know that when people exit the plane, men enter the men’s room, take care of business, and exit. In all likelihood, the female travel companion is still waiting in line to get into the women’s room by the time the man is ready to head to baggage…. Separate isn’t equal.

Unisex Bathrooms for All

It seems to me logical to make all bathrooms unisex, as was true on Ally McBeal.

There’s no reason men, women, lesbians, gays, bi’s, and trans people can’t all use the same bathroom and have all the privacy required. It is simply a matter of design and education. A complicating factor, of course, is that Numbers of people identifying as LGBTQ seems to have been steadily increasing. It is not clear whether the increase in homosexuality is “real,” or whether we are just more aware that some people have same-sex tendencies. The ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, seem to have had a fairly high degree of tolerance for same-sex relationships. History is typically better at recording the “what” than the “why.” Transgender may have been with us for a long time, too, but the surgery and hormone therapy have only been available recently.

Whatever the causes of LGBT sexual orientation, those so oriented are still human first. They are perhaps the Samaritans of our time and deserve to be treated by the quality of their character rather than their sexual orientation.

Rachel Dolezel and Trans-Blackness

Another thing I’ve been thinking about on-and-off-again since it first hit the news, is the Rachel Dolezel story. You have probably seen news stories about how she and her older brother were the white children of conservative Christian parents who later adopted four Black children to show commitment to the “pro-life cause.” What’s often overlooked in a review of Rachel’s life indicates that Rachel’s older brother was the favored child, and that Rachel and her adopted siblings were treated as “inferior.” Given her family background, I find it easy to see why she rejected the “whiteness” of her brother and parents and identified with the adopted Black children. For this reason, I am willing to cut her some slack. If she wants to identify as Black (or, as she now says, Trans-black, that’s OK with me.

Conservatives and Conserving

I often wonder what “conservatives” are conserving. They don’t seem to care about wildlife. They don’t seem to care about the environment, including clean air and water. They don’t see to care about the poor and hungry. They say they care about “the American way of life,” but what—exactly—is that? Most of us have ancestors who came here without “papers.” My mother’s parents came here from England and Norway in the days when immigration wasn’t regulated. Most of my father’s ancestors were here when the European invasion began. I grew up in California playing with, and later working with, Mexicans who traveled easily between Mexico and jobs in California “without papers.” One of my first summer jobs was cutting apricots before they were dried in a kiln. The best cutters were primarily Mexicans, probably undocumented. I found them good natured and helpful.

When I was older, I worked as a day-laborer in construction. Many of my co-workers were Mexican and probably undocumented. Farmers will tell you that they have been relying on Mexican labor for harvesting their crops for decades. What is likely to happen to our food production if/when we make it too difficult for Mexican agricultural workers to help with our harvest? My guess is that we will have to choose between allowing undocumented workers into our fields and importing fruits and vegetables rather than workers. The “American ways of life” relies on undocumented workers.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t watch for and control the crooks and thugs. If you have read much history (or seen the movie Gangs of New York, you would know that the “bad guys” were once the Italians and the Irish. My guess is that until we figure out a way to focus on the bad guys instead of designating certain groups as “bad,” we will continue to have problems eliminating crime and career criminals.

The Republican Party

I became aware of politics when Eisenhower and Stevenson were running for the Office of President. My parents were for Eisenhower, as were the parents of most of my friends, so I was, too. There is no way of knowing, of course, how we all might have felt and show things would have changed had Stevenson been the victor. I was at the time and continue to be a fan of the Interstate Highway system. The economy was doing well for most people. Under Eisenhower, the tax rate on wealthy Americans was high about 90 percent, and the economy was booming. Unemployment was low.

My guess is that Eisenhower would be embarrassed by our current Republican Party. The GOP has become increasingly dysfunctional. If ever there were a dysfunctional bunch of politicians, it is most of those who now identify as Republican. Their most important goal seems to be to maximize the wealth of those who are already wealthy, regardless of the cost to everyone else.

Their views of climate change are highly influenced by the industries they own. There really is no such thing as clean coal, for example. Fracking to extract natural gas and petroleum, also creates serious environmental problems. This, of course, relates directly to the Republican idea of “conservation.” The land certainly is not being conserved. In general, Republicans starting with Ronald Reagan have had little interest in conserving anything from which wealthy people and corporations can make a profit.

Republicans seems willing to legislate in favor of anything from which profit can be derived. In my opinion, the worst of these are for profit prisons the virtual elimination of public schools. While I agree that public schools haven’t always been as good as they should or could be, they are fundamentally the “great equalizer” for those of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. We need a strong public education system if we want a strong social system. The better educated the citizenry, the better off we all are.

A democracy works for everyone. We we keep inching closer to (and where we may already be) is a Plutocracy. If you have read much history, you may remember what has happened in the past when plutocracies developed. Some examples are France in the 1790s, Russia in the early twentieth century, and China in the 1930s. While I don’t think that we are close to a revolution at this point, I am also aware that the French and Russian aristocracies did not think that they were going to be in for some less-than-pleasant times. Big changes often occur suddenly….

Fake News

We have always had some “fake news,” of course. A rumor starts and spreads quickly. People eventually discover that the rumor isn’t true. Our current political situation and communication technologies, however, allow rumors to spread more quickly and widely. That means that rumors—fake news—can spread more quickly and farther than ever before. Current technologies made it possible for the Russians to influence our election. Producing fake news has, in fact, become a full time occupation for some.

Back in the days when our only source of news was print media (news weeklies, newspapers, and fliers), many voted based on “gut feelings” and little knowledge. Currently, as much as we would like to vote based on “the truth,” we still have to struggle to discover what is real. Most of us vote on what we value and what we want to be true. This is not a good way to run a democracy. As unglamorous as they are, we need to vote based on the hard, cold facts of reality. That means we have to learn to weigh short-term profits against long-term consequences. Does “science” always get it right? The answer is “no.” That’s because science is a methodology rather than an absolute. Science is a process of increasing approximation. It is never absolutely correct, but—with the right methodology—it keeps getting closer and closer.

We would do well to be more scientific in our approach to producing and consuming news. That means holding our news providers responsible for discovering and reporting the truth. Like the Houyhnhnms of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travel’s, we should be shocked when someone says “the thing that is not true.

Searching for Christians in Christendom

While I do not identify as Christian, my quarrel is with the church and with those who believe that the Bible is literal truth rather than with what we know about Jesus. Literalists add up what they think are the years and ages in the Old Testament and conclude that the Earth was created 5,000 years ago. What the literalists miss is that most of the early chapters in the Old Testament, the Books of Moses, were based on an oral tradition. I was still in high school the first time I read the Bible, and one of the things that baffled me was the inclusion of the “begats.”

It wasn’t until I got to college and took a two-semester course in Christianity and the Bible that I learned how much of the Bible is based on an oral tradition. Stories and records were passed from generation to generation in Ancient Israel, the same way that the stories in the Iliad and Odyssey were told and retold in ancient Greece. They have been attributed to Homer, but he wasn’t the only poet who told the tales. Just because the Books of Moses were transmitted orally doesn’t mean that they aren’t true. It does mean, however, that they are metaphorically true rather than literally true. King James and his translators didn’t know that, of course.

At this point in time, however, more of us need to ask how that should influence what we believe to be true about world history. Did it literally rain for 40 days and nights, flooding the entire planet, while Noah and his family stayed safe in an ark with two of every animal, or is that story intended to convey the importance of following certain rules of personal conduct? Not all the “heroes” of the Old Testament led lives that we would consider “godly.” Kings David and Solomon, for example, had more wives than are permitted even by the Mormons. The main problem with Biblical inerrancy is the failure to recognize the teachings of Jesus.

My sense is that things would be very different if more of those professing to be Christian were actually doing what they could to imitate Christ. Would Jesus have been in favor of raining death and destruction on our enemies? Certainly many of the rulers described in the Old Testament would have taken that view, but if we behave the way they did, we would seem to be betraying Jesus. And, if we do that, what does that make us?

The More You Know, the Less You Fear

A postmodernist author, Julian Barnes is credited with the saying, “The more you learn, the less you fear.” I think that’s generally true. The more you know, the less you fear. What we are most afraid of is what we don’t know. I think we would do well to remember that as we move into the unknown social and political territories we are currently facing.

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