Monthly Archives: July 2014

A journalist’s diatribe on a college’s sins

Sunday 20 July 2014

A Boston Globe writer with much gall in his ink penned his opinions on Gordon College’s recent action regarding ENDA. The Idiot wrote to the Globe editor as follows. 

Dear Editor,

I am obliged to say that it is Kevin Cullen who has insulted your readers’ intelligence (“Gordon College insults our intelligence,” Boston Globe July 14 2014). He did so by reducing what is very complex to an easy and false simplicity.

He drops the name of a deceased priest who once defied his Archbishop over sacerdotal pedophilia protected by the Church. Well and good. That must have been a courageous man. But in what respect was his dilemma an “existential question?” And how does mentioning that priest’s actions in a very different matter help readers to understand the recent action of Gordon College? Not at all, other than a very thin “what would X do?” thread of a thought.

Having certified, by reportorial association with a man worthy of the collar, his own moral and spiritual bona fides, Mr Cullen then delivers his wrathful condemnation of persons who have committed the mortal sin of disagreeing with him. Such heretics are “holy rollers” and aimless hypocrites. That term, holy roller, is typically used of a practicing member of one of the charismatic or Pentecostal Protestant churches, especially in the Southern states. And of course we all know how backward, inbred, and ignorant they are, don’t we? But any Christians whose views have not “evolved” in accordance with Mr Cullen’s are ipso facto “holy rollers.”

It will be news to many that the Constitution “forbid[s] an established religion.” I and, I suppose, most Globe readers read the clause as “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Perhaps Mr Cullen had a different Constitution in mind. Or perhaps he is employing a well-known journalistic elision so as to make things simpler for the good but dim folk of Boston and New England.

With his blazing sword of Rectitude, Cullen pierces through the armor of Gordon College’s hypocrisy: “This isn’t about religious freedom. This about money. … It’s bigotry dressed up as virtue.” The notion that Gordon College is sincere and uses what tax benefits it may get to help young people who want a Christian education get a Christian education is of course risible to the hard-hitting Globe journalist. The fact that Gordon does employ same-sex attracted persons and does admit same-sex attracted students, as is proven both by a number of the comments upon his piece as well as by Gordon’s own statements, the plain fact that Gordon is not excluding anyone for their sexual preferences, well, those are not even tiny clouds in Mr Cullen’s perfect sky. Globe readers are thereby spared those troublous thoughts.

And of course, Gordon College’s understanding of Christianity does not rise to Mr Cullen’s level of understanding. He knows, sure and doesn’t he, exactly what Jesus would do in any situation. And we can rest assured that he regularly does so. The man is practically a brave priest himself. The sermon concludes with a warning about “the weakness of humans, the insidiousness of self-righteousness.”

Indeed, sir.

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Un-Manning Private Bradley

Well, it seems that the diminutive traitor formerly known as Private Bradley Manning and now preferring to be called Chelsea Elizabeth Manning will be allowed to remain in relatively safe military confinement rather than be sent to a federal civilian prison. In Leavenworth he will be provided with and permitted to wear feminine foundational items. He might also get some hormone shots which will, he hopes, get rid of his icky leg- and armpit-hair and pump up his boobs a bit. This is “the [rudimentary] medical treatment she (i. e. Bradley) deserves and is entitled to under the law,” says the erstwhile soldier’s attorney, one David Coombs. Deserves and is entitled to, please note. Manning hopes for more: surgical expertise to render himself an Atys, beloved of Kybele, or one of her priests, the Galloi. Once a eunuch, always a eunuch. Anyway, the Army wanted to hand Brad over to a civilian prison where they could provide such accommodations. Such was their professed interest.

A wave of nausea has overcome most who have heard or read this latest chapter in this particular saga of human confusion and cognitive dissonance. The very public Private has been sentenced to thirty-five years in the Big House. What is the point, any curious reader might ponder, of making oneself a female mannikin in those circumstances? Does he hope to marry a young gentleman of good family and bear his children?

The medical arts, alas, cannot transplant the soul of a troubled person.

Gender Extender

Tuesday 15 July 2014

The morning after my chat with the Fool on the Hill about the “transgender tipping point,” I left my bench on the Village green and walked over to Dogface Donuts. I took my customary seat on the plastic milk crate outside the front door. It was a good day for depending on the kindness of strangers: I soon panhandled enough for a medium latte and a Choco-Loco croissant. Mighty tasty. Crossing the street to the library, whom did I meet but my old pal Moe Rahn.  It was still ten minute before the library’s opening time, and I hadn’t seen Moe for a while, so it was good to catch up with him.

“Idiot! What brings you to our fine local bibliothèque? They painting your bench today or something?”

“No, Moe, I come by most mornings, use the restroom to brush my teeth, wash my face, tidy up a bit. Then I’ll do some reading, catch up on the news. In fact, just yesterday the Fool on the Hill and I were discussing this so-called transgender thing and I want to learn more about it.”

“Oh, yeh, the Laverne Cox story. Did you read that Time piece on her a few weeks ago? And how’s the Fool doing, by the way? Haven’t seen him in a while, either.”

“He’s good, but the eyes in his head see the world spinning ’round. And yes, that’s the article we talked about.”

“Come to any conclusions? Reach an agreement? I imagine you two see the issues differently.”

“Not really. He reminded me that human societies have always had to tolerate individuals who occupy a liminal sexual status. That’s the Fool’s preferred term, ‘liminal,’ but it seems some people now call this ‘two-spirit.'”

“True, but others use the term ‘third gender.’ In fact, the Supreme Court of India ruled a couple of months ago that this is now a legal category of persons. The law is mostly about welfare-state benefits and protection from discrimination, not so much about social acceptance. And you know, that idea is really old in India. There’s a line in the Mahābhārata I recall: ‘among men you will become a man in form, among women a female, among the third class an un-man.’ And you’re the grammarian after all. That’s what the neuter gender is all about, right?”

“Huh. Yeh. That’s interesting. Reminds me of Aeschylus’s Seven Against Thebes, where Eteocles demands the loyalty of everyone in the city, ‘man, woman, and whatever exists between them.’ What worries me, though, isn’t that there have always been such people, but where we think we’re going with all this redefinition. I mean, the ‘third gender’ itself is a basket of virtually infinite varieties and nuances of gender and sex, like Facebook’s hypostatizing list of sexual self-identifications. Eventually this can only render basic words like ‘male, female, masculine, feminine, man, woman’ meaningless. That doesn’t seem much like progress to me. Seems more like chaos.”

“Just fears, Idiot old friend, and timely too. Jerry Brown just signed legislation replacing the terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ in California state marital laws with ‘spouse,’ and another bill is heading to the California senate that would allow a woman to refer to herself as ‘father’ or a man to denote himself ‘mother’ on a child’s birth certificate. Once you finish your toilette, check those out. And you’ll want to read a recent Wall Street Journal editorial by Dr Paul McHugh on  the medical ethics of sex-change surgeries. Let me know what you think.”

“Paul McHugh, huh? Will do, Moe, and thanks for the tips.  See you around the Vill.”

I spent the rest of the morning in the library, following this trend as far as I could and wondering where it might be leading. The McHugh piece made sense: people who feel that they are a different gender than as they were born are suffering from a psychological disorder and deserve our understanding and proper treatment. Gender “reassignment” surgery seems nothing more than disfiguring mutilation. And one article I read made an interesting comparison to the Cat Man, that sad guy who really felt that he was a wild cat and had all kinds of surgeries to become one. Killed himself eventually. All the cases of sex-change changes of mind and the high suicide rates of people who still can’t find happiness after their surgeries — I don’t know; doesn’t seem like something we should be celebrating as a “new civil-rights frontier” in magazines. Seems a lot more like a serious medical ethics problem, a detachment of science and technology from humanism and nature. Some parts of the Hippocratic Oath still apply after all: “I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman.”

As I walked back to the Village green I wondered ‘How’d we get to this point?’ I could detect filaments of Romanticism, Nietzsche, Deconstruction, feminism, the sexual revolution, anarchism, multi-culturalism, diversity — one gnarly knot of notions. Back on my bench I then remembered Moynihan’s fine and famous article “Defining Deviancy Down.” Good old Moynihan. And that’s it, really: the advance of the anti-normative over the normative. The very concept of norms is increasingly viewed as oppressive, while deviation from norms is increasingly regarded as heroic, liberating, deserving of favored or special treatment for all those who might claim restitution for some real or imagined past injustices. That is, for all of us. And not as members of a society or civilization but as separate claimants upon society for its social goods.

Well, at the Village Odeonplex they were showing the classic Dog Day Afternoon, wherein Sonny and Sal hold up a bank to get money so that Sonny’s lover Leon can get his sex-change operation and be a woman. Based on a true story.  More or less.

To be continued …