“Tweeting” and Transgenderism in the Age of Trump

The world had become a weird place even before the age of President Donald Trump, otherwise he never would have been elected, but it was still a jarring reminder on Wednesday of how very weird weird things have become when the world wound up with Trump “tweeting” an official proclamation that transgendered people cannot serve in the military.
This is the sort of commonsensical policy that wouldn’t have been considered the least bit controversial not so very long ago, but these days things are more complicated. Men who think themselves women and women who think themselves men are now a fashionable cause, and concerns about the nation’s military readiness don’t have the same cachet, so the “tweeted” proclamation stirred a big fuss in all the papers. Throw in all the weirdness that always comes with Trump and his “tweets,” and it’s all the more complicated.
Clans and tribes and kingdoms and nation-states have been waging war against one another for long so that humanity has learned a thing or two about how to do it, and one of the lessons is that successful wars have almost always been waged by armies of stout-hearted and self-identified men who will fight for the rights they adore. Which is not to say there haven’t been some ferocious women warriors over the past millennia, and we’re unashamed to admit there have been more than a few of them who would put us to shame on a battlefield, but the general rule about leaving the fighting to the men-folk has always proved generally reliable. The rights of those outlier ferocious women warriors began to supersede considerations of military readiness even before the weird age of President Barack Obama, however, and by now the most up-to-date notions of social justice are given greater weight than the most time-tested notions of how to win a war.
After so many years of modern America treating its military as a social engineering experiment rather than a war-winning enterprise, it’s no surprise the conversation lately turns to talk about the even further outlying men who think themselves women and the women who think themselves men and their rights to serve in the military. By the social scientists’ count the number of transgendered people in America is measured with a percentage point and a couple of zeros of the general population, and despite the dizzying number of number of dizzyingly diverse people we know we’d put the number even lower, and we have to believe than only a fraction of that already small number are pining for military service, but these relatively infinitesimal few are what all the fuss is about.
Which is not to say that any of them wouldn’t put us to shame on a battlefield, and we’ll concede that in these weird times the current poster boy or girl for transgenderism is a self-identified woman who once won the gold medal in the men’s Olympic decathlon, which is way more macho than anything we ever did, but we still go by the general reliability of the time-tested general rules of warfare. Go ahead and call us old-fashioned, but we also have our doubts about the current vogue for those outlier men who think themselves women and women who think themselves men. We can’t recall who to credit with the observation that someone who thinks he’s Napoleon is still considered crazy, while someone thinks he’s Josephine is now to be indulged in the conceit, but it seems apt. Quite frankly, all this post-gender talk strikes us as another another one of post-religious manias that keeps popping up.
Which is not to say we lack compassion for these few folks, but rather to say that lopping off their healthy organs and surgically mutilating their genitals doesn’t necessarily strike us as the most compassionate response to their situation. Way back in the ’50s the first so-called sex-change operation was performed in Sweden on George Jorgensen, who had been honorably discharged from the United States Army after World War II, and a short time  later he or she became the popular nightclub chanteuse Christine Jorgensen, and despite his or her celebrity it seemed pretty weird to almost everybody at the time, and probably still strikes most Americans as kind of creepy. Since then there have been a lot of other so-called sex-change surgeries, the first of which was performed in America at the august Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, but by now the record shows that the patients mostly haven’t been happy about it, and have had much higher mental illness and alcoholism and drug abuse and suicide rates than the general population. The rate of regret is even higher than for such less-drastic measures as tattoos and plastic surgery, and as a result that august hospital’s chief surgeon now refuses to lop off healthy organs or otherwise surgically mutilate a patient’s genitals.
All of which seemed quite commonsensical to pretty much everybody until as recently as last summer, when even the Republican nominee for president was inviting that former men’s Olympic decathlon champion to use the women’s room at his Trump Tower, and chiding the Republican convention that had nominated him for its old-fashioned ways, and blasting the Republican North Carolina’s decision to restrict men’s rooms to biologically male people as a bad business decision. Trump is still on solid ground for insisting that America’s military and its war-winning mission is different than the restrooms at Trump Tower or a North Carolina basketball tournament, but by now he’s ceded an awful lot of ground in the ongoing culture wars.
By “tweeting” his executive order rather than seeking the military’s full-throated support for a congressional action on the matter, Trump has also passed up a chance for a national commonsensical consensus and allowed an inevitable Democratic successor to easily undo his slightly executive-ordered policy. That’s earned the wrath of a lot of old-fashioned Republicans on the right, even as more up-to-date Republicans embrace the modern sensibilities about all this stuff, and it just goes to show what weird times we’re now living in. For now, it looks a lot  like the same “Tweet”-first-and-ask-questions-later mess Trump made of his otherwise commonsensical plan to restrict travel from countries where lots of people want to blow up America.
We’ll continue to wish our best for all those men who think themselves woman and the women who think themselves men, hope like hell America somehow wins its inevitable next war, and in the meantime we’ll continue to note what weird times these are.

— Bud Norman

The Two Choices in a Discontented Age

The most popular politician in America at the moment, according to all the public opinion polls, is President Barack Obama. He’s not all that popular, only recently barely nudging past a 50 percent approval rating for the first time in several years, but at this discontented moment in history that’s plenty good enough for first place.
Our only explanation for this thoroughly awful president’s modest bare majority of approval, even as supermajorities of the public describe the country as “on the wrong track,” is that no one’s been paying much attention to his still thoroughly awful presidency lately and instead are focused on the thorough awfulness of both of his most likely successors. We also note that nothing and nobody are very popular these days, though, so anything over 50 percent is something.
Nowadays the most popular television shows are watched by only fractions of the nationwide audience that used to tune into mediocracies as “M*A*S*H” and “All in the Family,” few people over the age of 30 can name any of a currently popular pop music star’s hit songs, the latest hit movie is probably some comic book super-hero flick that you probably won’t bother to see, even such literary types as ourselves couldn’t tell you what’s currently on the best-seller lists, and the rest of the entire culture is similarly disdained. Government and business and organized religion are widely despised, and both of the most likely successors to our thoroughly awful president seem to suffer any consequences for their disdain of the First Amendment, which most of the under-30 set already agrees has got to go, and even the longstanding and generally acceptable social arrangement regarding men using the men’s room and women using the women’s room is by now widely disdained enough that neither of the thoroughly awful likely successors to the thoroughly awful president who proposed this thoroughly awful change is willing to take a forthright stand against it.
This is partly because of the largely beneficial diversification of the marketplace, of course, and all that creative destruction our capitalist sensibilities usually appreciate. There are now a gazillion channels on television and the internet and whatever new technology we’re not yet aware of, so it’s inevitable that even the best shows won’t get the same chunk of the audience that even the worst shows used to get when there were only three channels. The internet allows us to listen endlessly the great music of the past, as it does to anyone no matter how less refined their tastes, so it’s hard to imagine anyone achieving that Elvis Presley or The Beatles ubiquity that made even the over-30 set aware them. Although there are fewer movie theaters in most towns than there used to be there are far more screens, and there are no more “Gone With the Winds” and “Casablancas” and “Godfathers” with lines that everyone knows by heart. There are all sorts of notions afoot about how government and business and organized religion should be run, and by now everyone has a problem with somebody’s use of the First Amendment, and even that tiny sliver of the public that’s upset with current social arrangement regarding bathrooms has a hit show compared to what the rest of the country has divided itself into.
We also believe that the thorough awfulness of the overwhelming majority of it all also plays a part. Once upon a time in the glorious history of American music there were singular artists in a wide range of styles who truly earned this widespread popularity against challenging competition, but these days only the most addled of the under-30 set insist that any of is any good. There are a few good shows on television these day, in most cases better than the hit shows of the past, but these days there’s only niche mark for such fare. There are some very good movies, and without comic book super-heroes, but they can’t become hits like very good movies used to do. The last best-seller we were aware of a self-described feminist Sado-Masochistic porn novel, which of course was made into a well-publicized movie, and we’re slightly relieved that despite all that publicity a vast majority of the country never read the book or watched the movie. Government and business and organized religion have all their problems lately, too, but the current unpopularity of the First Amendment and that longstanding and generally agreeable social arrangement regarding restrooms can only be explained by how very discontented our country has become.
Politics is the only marketplace in our culture where consumers are still faced with only two choices, although we’re still holding to some faint hope that the culture’s penchant for creative destruction might change that final longstanding and once generally-agreeable arrangement, so it’s not surprising that the widely diffused ratings of mostly thoroughly awful shows have turned up two such thoroughly awful final options.

— Bud Norman

Another Post-Reality Show

The Obama administration has escalated its war on America’s longstanding and satisfactory-to-more-than-99-percent of-the-population social arrangement regarding public restrooms and dressing rooms and overnight accommodations and certain sporting competitions being chromosome-segregated, and we see no light at the end of the tunnel.
Not content with challenging North Carolina’s recent law codifying that generally agreeable former social arrangement, the administration’s Department of Education has now threatened that any school district or federally-supported college or university which does not allow any boy or young man claiming to be a girl or young woman to enter into whatever restroom or dressing room or overnight accommodations or sporting event he desires will be in violation of federal law and ineligible for federal funding, and any attempt by a school district or federally-supported college or university to find out if that boy or young man really does think he’s a girl or young woman or is just trying to get into a girl’s restroom or dressing room or overnight accommodations or sporting event for more prurient reasons is similarly illegal. This obviously insane policy is based on the law known as “Title IX,” which conspicuously makes no mention of this nonsense, and which was passed and signed into law way back in 1972, when its backers would surely have scoffed at any paranoid right-wing worries that they ever meant any such thing, and repeated efforts to insert such language to the bill have repeatedly failed in Congress, but in an age when people can be whatever sex or race or height they want to be a law can surely mean whatever our betters at Obama’s Department of Education think it should mean.
Although less than 1 percent of the population stands to benefit from this social rearrangement, and most if not all of that mere fraction should not be encouraged in its probably passing fantastical notion they are actually of a different sex than what their genitalia and chromosomes indicate, and even though we hope that only a surely larger but still small number of boys will avail themselves of the legal opportunity to crash the women’s restrooms and dressing rooms and overnight accommodations and sporting events of women, the social rearrangement seems likely to prevail. Neither the self-described socialist or the disingenuously crony-capitalist still duking it out for the Democratic presidential have expressed any reservations, and the unabashedly crony-capitalist presumptive Republican presidential nominee is hardly any better.
After the administration announced its opening salvo on North Carolina for daring to try to preserve the old social arrangement, the presumptive Republican nominee’s first response was a criticism of the state for bringing down the wrath of some aging rock stars and youthful corporations by bucking the latest trend, and he even invited his fellow reality-show star Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner to use the ladies room at his fabulous Trump Tower, but he quickly retreated to a “state’s rights” position that generously allowed the Tar-Heels to take what he had already admitted was a losing stand. In the aftermath of the escalation he’s still sticking to that “state’s rights” position, which we concede is at least better than what the Democrats are offering, but he’s been careful not to suggests that states would be right to insist on the old and largely satisfactory social arrangement, and “state’s rights” has the same unmistakable unsavory historical connotations as the otherwise equally benign “America First” slogan when he says it.
The presumptive Republican nominee’s reluctance to directly challenge the absolute absurdity of the post-reality nature of the administration’s policy or its post-reality interpretation of the law is by now not surprising, though, nor is his reluctance to talk back his criticism of a state that dared defy the policy. He’s a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt-gambling-casino-and-strip-joint mogul and a veteran of the professional-wrestling and reality-show business, and he seems quite eager to assume any post-reality legal powers that the presidency has gained over the past seven-and-a-half-years, and at this point in his career as the presumptive nominee of the Republican party we must glumly admit that his oh-so-politically-incorrect and at-least-he-fights sense of the pop cultural zeitgeist of the moment is certainly better than what our more hopeful souls could ever hope for.
At least the Republican National Committee and numerous Republican governors and attorneys general and countless other elected Republicans officials have taken a more forthright stand to fight against against this politically correct and post-reality craziness, and in favor of those longstanding social arrangements that have so long been agreeable to more than 99 percent of the population, but at this point they’re the dreaded “establishment” that the presumptive Republican nominee’s most fervent supporters want to burn down. This is how longstanding and generally agreeable social arrangements that have worked for millennia end, and a post-reality show begins.

— Bud Norman

No Restroom for the Weary

As much as we’d like to ignore all the noisome brouhaha about transgendered restroom rights, and merely dismiss it as just another one of those passing post-religious manias that so often occur these days, there are bigger issues involved.
Until about 15 minutes or so ago the current social arrangement of providing chromosome-segregated restrooms and dressing rooms in public and private buildings had prevailed almost everywhere in the civilized world, and been generally acceptable to more than 99 percent of every country’s population, but these days that’s insufficient reason not to have a noisome brouhaha over something. The city council of Charlotte, North Carolina, decided that it would welcome a tiny minority of men into its women’s rooms and a presumably even smaller number of women into its men’s rooms, so the state legislature quickly passed and the governor signed into law a bill saying that no, this is just another one of those post-religious manias that so often occur these days and more than 99 percent of the state’s population was perfectly happy with the existing social arrangement and we’re going to keep it, and even the fractional remainder of the country had somehow managed to cope, but of course there was nonetheless a resulting brouhaha.
Some aging rock stars cancelled concerts in the state, other celebrities “tweeted” their disapproval of North Carolina, some more youthfully vibrant corporations promised boycotts, and even a governor of another state restricted university sports teams and other employees from traveling to the state, even though all were perfectly willing to do business in countries where homosexuality is quite sternly punished and transgendered rights to public restrooms and dressing rooms is an entirely unfamiliar idea. That the likes of this motley and hypocritical coalition might well overturn a long established social arrangement that had previously been accepted by more than 99 percent of the population is one of those bigger issues that we worry about.
Perhaps worse yet, the federal government is also in on it, with the Obama administration’s thoroughly politicized Department of Justice bringing a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina alleging that its legal affirmation of the longstanding and accepted-by-more-than-99-percent-of-the-policy social range is in violation of the law that was passed in 1972 and by now well-known as “Title IX.” The law has reconfigured college sports and countless other institutions by on insisted on sexual equality in public expenditures, sometimes for the good and often for the worse, but any plain reading of its text suggests there’s nothing in there quite so crazy as insisting ending that well-established and overwhelmingly approved insistence on chromosome-segrated restrooms and dressing rooms. The act makes no mention of “sexual identity,” and despite repeated efforts Congress has consistently refused to include it, and anyone with a vague memory of 1972 will recall that no one was asserting some creepy guy’s right to hang around the women’s restrooms or dressings rooms. When the Equal Rights Amendment was being debate in our high school days there was some concern that it would render chromosome-segregated restrooms as unconstitutional as the “white’s only” restrooms of the Jim Crow south, just as the Justice Department is now alleging.  Back then such a legal authority as current far-left Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would surely rule against North Carolina now, was reassuring that 99-percent-satisfied-with-current-social-arrangement that “Separate places to disrobe, sleep, perform personal bodily functions are permitted, in some situations required, by regard for personal privacy. Individual privacy, a right of constitutional dimension, is appropriately harmonized with the equality principle.”
What you’ve got here is a bunch of celebrities and some rich businessmen and some equally unaccountable bureaucrats who can interpret a 1972 law from their 15-minutes-ago perspective imposing their policies to overturn the past many millennia of social-customs-accepted-by-more-than-99-percent of the population, and that is the biggest issue. of all
We’d like to think that the presumptive nominee of our once-beloved Republican Party would at least take a forthright stand against this nonsense from the outset, but the oh-so-politically-incorrect fellow instead expressed dismay that North Carolina would offend any aging rock stars or vibrant young companies by causing a brouhaha, then gave a shout-out to his fellow reality star Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner and invited him or her to use the women’s room at his fabulous Trump Tower, and although he quickly walked it back to a state’s rights position that is at least better than his likely Democratic challenger’s stand, for the moment, we are not all reassured. There are very big issues afoot in this country. The bureaucracy’s creative and five-minutes-ago interpretations of laws passed by people who had no such intentions in mind, and are unrecognizable to anyone who bothers to read the plain English today, are already creating economic and environmental and social and racial havoc on our society, but at the moment the only question seems to be whose ox will gored.

— Bud Norman

Politics Goes into the Toilet

America is $19 trillion in debt, Russian warplanes are buzzing our naval ships with impunity, and there are other similarly pressing problems afoot both at home and abroad, but all the talk lately is about transgendered rights and restrooms. Interestingly, Republican presidential front-runner Donald J. Trump has utterly failed to seize the moment.
The currently fashionable notion that any pervert who wants hang around public women’s restrooms and showers has every right to do so, which is backed by everyone from big business to aging rock stars to all the polite media, is the perfect example of “political correctness” run amok. Yet Trump, whose improbable rise to front-runner status has been largely fueled by his carefully cultivated politically incorrect public image, has thrown in with big business and the aging rock stars and all the polite media and the perverts who want to hang around public women’s restrooms and showers.
Asked about the recent North Carolina law that requires state institutions to restrict their current dual restrooms and showers to people with the genitalia usual to those facilities, which was a response to the predictably liberal dcapital city’s local government’s decision to enshrine that hanging around the ladies’ room right to any creepy guy who might want to avail himself of it, and wound up provoking boycotts by big business and aging rock stars and getting a former pitching star fired from ESPN and much opprobrium from all the rest of the polite media, the great controversialist and defier of conventional wisdom said the state was wrong because it “did something that was very strong” and “they’re paying a big price” and “there’s a lot of problems.” The “at least he fights” candidate, as he’s known to his so-loyal-could-shoot-someone loyalists, was essentially saying that North Carolina should allow any old pervert to hang around public women’s restrooms and showers rather than provoke the wrath of big business and aging rock stars and all the polite media and all the rest of who legitimately constitute that “establishment” he’s always railing against.
He’s been rewarded with the rare approval of the the polite press, and who find his stand on behalf of creepy old men hanging around women’s restrooms and showers “moderate,” and his most loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists will consider it a shrewd and admirably insincere tactic with a slew of primaries and caucuses coming up in assumedly liberal northeastern states, but it strikes us as an obvious miscalculation. That polite press is going to start unleashing the obvious facts of the undeniable flaws in Trump’s character the moment he clinches the Republican nomination, those northeastern states aren’t going to vote for a Republican nominee in any case, and even the Republicans there are in those benighted northeastern states aren’t comfortable with creepy men hanging around the women’s rooms that their daughters are visiting, and even in those assumedly liberal states there are probably few transgendered people among them who will be persuaded to vote Trump. In the western states where Trump will almost certainly need the first-round delegates, even in the last remaining Republican portions of California, we are confident that most Republicans will prefer pesky challenger Sen. Ted Cruz’ full-throated and politically-incorrect and very populist view that the biologically-verifiable men should be confined to men’s rooms and showers that the those without the usual genitalia should be denied to entry to women’s rooms and showers.
In the same disastrous interview Trump was asked about Harriet Tubman’s elevation to to the $20 bill over former President Andrew Jackson, another one of those relatively unimportant issues that dominate the news, and we liked his response that the government should leave the currency alone. He didn’t articulate our objections to the Taliban-like tendency of the left to erase history, though, or make his usual objection to the politically correct impulse to favor Dead Black Females over Dead White Males, but instead chose to laud Jackson as a great president and dismiss the gun-toting and Bible-thumping and thoroughly Republican badass Tubman as a nobody. Jackson was the founder of the Democratic Party, the first vulgarian to occupy the White House, a calculating populist who exploited the economic ignorance of his understandably annoyed so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists and wound up plunging the country into its worst-yet Depression because of his crazy anti-financial-ector ideas, and a cruel slaver and the fellow who sent the admirable and patriotic Cherokee people on the Trail of Tears, but that probably won’t matter as much as the creepy guys hanging around the women’s restrooms and showers.
Trump’s so loyal-he-could-shoot-someone loyalists will assure themselves he doesn’t really mean it, and they’ll be satisfied when he once again walks back that shoot-from-the-hip style they so admire, but that persistent 60 percent of the Republican party that is reluctant about his politically incorrect “at least he fights” style won’t be impressed, and even the creepy old men hanging around the women’s rooms and showers will wind up voting for the Democrat.

— Bud Norman

Popular Culture and Politics and Same-Sex Restrooms

Due to our upcoming brief appearance on the local amateur stage, the rehearsals for which have been taking up way too much of our time, we’ve lately been in contact with younger people. Worse yet, we’ve been in contact with their music, which is as awful as any more seasoned music-listener would expect, and also the similarly suspect political views that go along with it.
We’ve still found enough time to in the day to note a recent spate of stories on the internet about the alleged rights of self-identified transgendered people to choose the public restrooms of their choice and how people who object to same-sex marriages don’t have any right to decline to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies, and we’ve noted how what’s left of the popular culture has responded. Big time rock stars are canceling gigs in states that refuse to toe the currently acceptable line on such matters, including some that pre-date even our aging selves, and we glumly acknowledge the culture has been declining for a while now. Our musical heroes and heroines from the good old days never had to confront such questions, and who knows where the likes of Little Richard of Chuck Berry might have weighed in if he’d been asked, but we still fondly recall an era where none of this even came up.
The cultural rot has been occurring so long now that even we recognize most of the names. Bruce Springsteen was a big deal back when we graduated from high school, and we still like that “Born to Run” song about the highways jammed with broken heroes on a last-chance power drive, but we can only roll our eyes at the news that the well-heeled one-percenter is declining a gig in North Carolina because he doesn’t like the state’s rule that prohibits people from penises from using a women’s public restroom in the state. We’re also old enough to remember the 15 minutes of fame that someone named Byian Adams had, and to note that he’s canceling a gig in Mississippi to make sure that some Baptist baker there is coerced into catering a same-sex wedding. Even Ringo Starr, one of The Beatles, who date from our early childhood and who actually were pretty damned good, is eschewing dates in North Carolina for its refusal to force those damned Baptist bakers to bake that same-sex wedding cake.
One of our old and non-rock-star-or-theatrical friends recently had some dinner and drinks with us, and he commented that most of his homosexual friends seemed to be faring well enough and that he didn’t know any transgendered people who were having any problems with the local accommodations, and that he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. We also don’t know any transgendered people who are having problems with the local restroom accommodations, and although our friend has a son we know some fine people with daughters that would rather not have them encountering some guy who claims to be transgendered in the public accommodations, and it seems danged strange we have to be even considering the question.
The young and relatively young people we’ve been running into lately seem a reasonable lot, though, by and large, and we think we can reach some reasonable agreement on these matters, no matter how egregious their musical tastes might seem.

— Bud Norman