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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

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A Transgendered Heckle

The same Greece that was once the Cradle of Democracy is about to go bust, American troops are moving into eastern Europe as if the ’80s were calling and they wanted their foreign policy back, and the Republicans seem intent on entrusting President Barack Obama with the power to negotiate a top-secret trade deal with Asia that will allow all sorts of environmental and immigration shenanigans, but the story that caught our eye was the one about a transgendered illegal immigrant heckling a presidential speech. So far as we can determine this is the first time in the history of the republic that any president has ever been heckled by a transgendered illegal immigrant, so it seemed worth noting.
We’re not at all sure how Washington or Lincoln or Coolidge or either of the Roosevelts or any of the rest of those other archaic old white guys would have handled the situation, as it apparently never came up during their terms, but Obama responded with what strikes us as a very generous indulgence. He was addressing an “LGBT Pride” conference, the acronym referring to lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgendered persons, when a person identified as Jennicet Guttierrez started loudly shouting a demand to “release ‘LGBTQ’ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.” The added “Q” stands for “questioning,” as we understand it, although we can’t pretend to understand what “questioning” means, except for a vague sense that it’s suppose to include those who can’t quite say what they’d wind up doing if they were stranded on a desert island or given a lengthy prison sentence or found themselves in some other unusual sexual circumstance. At any rate, Obama politely implored the heckler to restrain himself or herself, whichever the case may be, and quite reasonably asserted that such behavior was impolite for an invited guest to the East Room of the White House, which he presumptively referred to as “my house.” When the heckler persisted in his or her heckling, Obama at last had his sizable security contingent remove him or her from the premises, although so far as we can glean from the press reports Obama did not have him or her removed from the country, as the law would require.
Apparently there are some 75 transgendered illegal immigrants currently being detained in America, a surprisingly large number given the famously macho cultures from which most illegal immigrants come, but even so Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Guttierrez seems to have little cause for heckling. The president has been far more indulgent toward illegal immigrants than we would prefer, or what we believe the plainly written laws would permit, and the fact that he had invited a collection of Ls and Gs and Bs and Ts to the White House, even if he did neglect to invite all those more countless Qs, suggests that he’s more or less au courant on the latest sexual fashions. Why transgendered illegal immigrants should enjoy preferential treatment over the more traditional sorts was not explained in the heckling, and neither did the heckling make a reasoned argument that America should stop enforcing its borders. Even the rest of the assembled Ls and Gs and Bs and Ts, and presumably those Qs who also somehow snuck in, helped to shout down the more au courant heckler.
The crowd’s response was probably heartening to the president, who for some reason endures more heckling from the left than the right. Except for that State of the Union address when some little-known Republican shouted “You lie” during a line about how Obamacare won’t cover illegal immigrants, which has since turned out to be an entirely accurate heckle, or Chief Justice Roberts’ silently mouthed protestation of “not true” after Obama’s verifiably not true description of the Citizen’s United decision, all of the heckling during his speeches has come from the pacifist Code Pink group or the anti-free trade labor groups or some other faction that finds him insufficiently liberal. He used to be heckled by pro-illegal immigration groups that demanded he allow open borders by executive action, and he used to try to politely quell the dissent by explaining that he had no constitutional authority to do so, but apparently there has since been some change in the Constitution that no longer makes this necessary.
Greece’s descent into bankruptcy and the revival of the Cold War and that awful free trade bill that the Republicans are signing on to are probably more important matters, but at a time when transgendered illegal immigrants are heckling the president they seem all the more unlikely to come to any happy conclusion.

— Bud Norman

The Dialogue on the Monologues

In the course of our voluminous reading of the news we’ll occasionally run across one of those little items that seems to neatly illustrate a far bigger story. Such was the report that Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts has cancelled a planned performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a seemingly inconsequential bit of far-off-Broadway show biz news that not only confirms the cultural contradictions of liberalism but also further confirms our longstanding suspicion that the world has gone completely mad.
The impeccably up-to-date college didn’t cancel the performance because “The Vagina Monologues” is the most over-rated and over-done piece of sexual agitprop in the liberal repertoire, of course, and naturally it wasn’t because they aspire to a higher ideal of theater than a uninteresting group of women sitting around talking about their private parts. Instead the women-only institution objected because the play is “exclusionary” toward the “transgendered community” and might offend women who do not have vaginas. We checked several reliable sources to make sure that we weren’t falling prey to some satirical web site’s fanciful hoax, and apparently this is actually the reason that Mount Holyoke College won’t be staging “The Vagina Monologues.”

We confess to certain amount of schadenfreude toward “The Vagina Monologues,” as we never much cared for the work and have long fretted that its strange status among the intelligentsia as feminism’s greatest gift to the canon of western drama was a worrisome cultural development. The play has been relentlessly performed in venues from every elegant tax-subsidized theater to every community playhouse in the smallest hick towns, with everyone from Hollywood actresses aspiring for intellectual responsibility to hometown housewife thespians with the same lofty goal clamoring for a role, and its ubiquity on the American stage is such that we once wound up interviewing its playwright as part of our chores as the theater critic for a local newspaper. She was quite charming and interesting to speak with, and she even laughed at our joke about how we hadn’t seen “The Vagina Monologues” because we don’t care for ventriloquism, but we believe the conversation was so enjoyable largely because for the most part the conversation steered away from vaginas. The topic quickly exhausts its interest for most people, men or women, with or without vaginas, and we don’t feel the least bit sexist for saying so. We’ve worked enough construction jobs to have endured two hours of men talking about their genitalia, and neither did we much enjoy those monologues.
Still, it’s also a worrisome cultural development when the women without vaginas can exercise a heckler’s veto against the performance of a play. Despite our wide travels and broad range of experience we’ve never met a woman without a vagina, so far as we know, and we suspect this segment of the “transgendered community” is approximately the size of Kechi, Kansas, even if it does seemingly stretch from Mount Holyoke College to the trendier districts San Francisco, so it hardly seems democratic that such a small population should be able to determine the nation’s playbills. Next thing you know the men without testicles will demand the same power of censorship, and judging by almost everything else we encounter in our voluminous reading of the news they compromise a far greater percentage of the country. America’s theater, cinema, literature, music, and political discourse have already grown bland enough, and one shudders to think of the North Korean-style pep rallies we’ll be left when the offerings at even the local college theater have been chosen by the prize-winner of the most oppressed minority group contest.
We anticipate a meaningful dialogue on the cultural about the race, class, and gender implications of post-modern feminism generally and “The Vagina Monologues” specifically, with everyone trying to establish the dominant narrative regarding womanhood and empowerment and the empowering nature of womanhood and its genitalia and whether women should really enjoy that genitalia along their womanhood lest they give offense to some other woman who doesn’t possess the same genitalia, probably due to Republican budget cuts and the Koch Brothers, and we expect that no one will acknowledge the longstanding conservative criticism that a woman’s identity should not be defined by her genitalia, and we are certain it will be quite vicious and divisive. A well-thought think piece over at the cheeky Brietbart.com web site recently examined the schisms in the cultural left, from the consistent atheists vs. the atheists who make an exception for Islam to the free speech absolutists who condemn the murder of a French satirical magazine to the free speech advocates who will make an multi-cultural exception for Islam, to which we would add the rift between the feminists who object to the forced clitoridectomies performed throughout much of the Islamic world and and the multiculturalists who would excuse such misogynistic behavior even as they object to men on construction sites talking about their genitalia, as well as a host of academic and culture issues that inevitably arise when people decide to abandon the past and create their own brave new worlds where reality is blithely ignored, and the schisms seem likely to widen.
Just a couple of weeks ago “The Vagina Monologues” was still the exemplar of modern feminism, and today it’s been condemned by the revolutionary cadres as too “exclusionary” for an all-women’s college. Such are the changing tides of public on the left. The right stays busy defending Shakespeare and mathematics and the Bible and all that dead white male detritus, but at least it doesn’t have to worry that this week’s progressive cause will be next week’s angry hashtag backlash from the more-progressive-than-thou types. In a world that has apparently gone crazy, this is somewhat reassuring.

— Bud Norman

Race, Class, Gender, and the New Rules

Race, gender, and class are the trinity of modern liberalism, and all three are becoming increasingly complicated.
While growing up in the heroic era of the civil rights movement we were taught that the race issue was a rather simple of matter of judging a man by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin, but such simplistic notions of racial equality are apparently no longer applicable. The great civil rights cause of recent months has involved a black teenager who was fatally shot while attempting to kill a white police officer, and we read that the organizers of one of the many protests demanding the officer be punished for not allowing himself to be murdered are insisting that only “people of color” participate, although they will generously allow “non-people of color” to stand nearby in solidarity. Aside from the new civil rights movement’s curious insistence on a return to racial segregation, we’re also jarred by its terminology. “People of color” has always struck as uncomfortably close to “colored people,” a phrase that was banned from polite conversation way back in our boyhood days, except at meetings of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which seems to be exempted by some sort of grandfather clause, and we’re not sure if the unfamiliar description of “non-people of color” is meant to imply that we’re not people or just that we’re not sufficiently hued, but in any case the new rules will take some getting used to.
The latest news is also forcing us to reconsider our past lessons regarding what were once called the sexes but is now known as the genders. In our formative years the feminist movement insisted on that same simplistic notion of equal treatment that the civil rights movement once championed, to the point that such old-fashioned acts of chivalry as opening a door or offering a bus seat to a woman were considered insulting and women were allowed to be as irresponsibly promiscuous as the most libidinous man. Feminism thus defined proved predictably popular with the least chivalrous and most libidinous men, and the resulting bacchanal that is contemporary college life has predictably proved so unsatisfactory to those women who retain a traditionally feminine desire for love and commitment that it has been deemed a “culture of rape” and the feminists are now insisting that any woman who has been unhappily seduced be able to have the cad thrown out of school without due process. Contraceptives are still to be subsidized, and anyone who who thinks less of the women who choose to be irresponsibly are faulted for “slut-shaming,” but any man who still plays by the earlier rules would be well advised to get himself a lawyer. The issue is further complicated by the recent invention of several new sexual categories other than male and female, including such exotic and seemingly rare categories as transgendered and omni-gendered and a few others that we’ve had to look up on the internet because the dictionaries haven’t yet caught up with them, and we shudder to think how arcane the rules for their relationships might be.
Class used to be simpler, too. In our younger days rich people were all right so long as they earned their money in an honest and socially beneficial way, poor people were all right so long as their poverty resulted from hard luck or heredity, and most people considered themselves somewhere in between and thought themselves all right as well. Back then the rich people were presumed Republican, the poor people Democrat, and the folks in between chose sides according to their personal preferences. Now the very rich and the very poor tend to be Democrats, which imbues both with a sense of nobility, while the folks in the middle tend to vote Republican, which earns them a reputation as boobs. Because the Democrats’ candidates are invariably from the wealthier end of the party, usually having earned their wealth through political connections and speaking fees and marrying rich widows and other not very honest or socially beneficial ways, it requires a more complex theory of class than Marx and Engels ever conceived. The wealthiest and most liberal communities in America are the most segregated by both class and race, the poorest and most liberal communities can be counted on to continue voting for the policies that have created their segregated squalor, and the new rules somehow allow the former to retain their sense of moral righteousness and the latter to retain an even more spiritually satisfying sense of victimhood.
Keeping up with all these changes is proving exhausting, and we’re inclined to stop trying. Better we should keep on judging men by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, treating women with the respect we would want for ourselves, and assuming that the rich and the poor and the folks in between are all right unless we have reason we think otherwise. This might make us racist, sexist, and classist, but we’re unlikely to avoid those charges now matter how hard we try be up-to-date.

— Bud Norman