by David A. Woodbury
To my LGBT+ and Muslim friends, my friends whose skin is lighter or darker than mine, my friends whose preferred language is not English, my friends who are currently women, and my friends who have mental and physical challenges that don’t afflict me:
Greetings. I have been tasked to explain to you, (all but the last category above, inadvertently overlooked, I suspect, by the challenger), why you don’t matter to me. I could address this to numerous other groups as well, who also escaped mention in the task — Americans of aboriginal (or indigenous) heritage, for instance, low-wage earners, believers in anthropogenic global warming, people with allergies, and so on. If you would like to, consider yourself included. This gauntlet was thrown down today in a “meme” posted by a friend on Facebook, that addictive free-speech venue that currently rules the internet. The meme, a form of cartoon popular on Facebook, came out on the morning after the 2016 election of our next President, plus all those other offices that take a back seat to it.
It just may be that I didn’t vote for Donald Trump; perhaps whimsically, I’m a registered Libertarian. But my offense is more precisely that I did not vote for Hillary Clinton. There is an assumption among those who rallied behind her and voted for her that she is a champion of the people included in the meme, that her party is also the champion of designated groups, and that no other candidate or party cares about those in the list.
Hillary Clinton shows she cares 1) by stating that she cares and has always averred that she cares, 2) by voting, during the brief period of her one and only elected legislative position, in favor of all proposed legislation that purports to confer favors on people in the list, and 3) by campaigning for President with promises to continue to promote legislation that would confer favors on people in the list.
The other candidates for President, by opposing her for that office, are presumed by the meme to oppose good things for people who are presumed to belong to favored groups.
First, grouping. I am over 55. OK, I’m older than 65. Politicians have designated a group for me to belong to. Calling me elderly might offend me, so they call me senior instead. Politicians assume that seniors must share some problems in common, so they set out to identify those problems and then apply solutions to them.
They apply their solutions to me whether I want them to or not. I may refuse to participate with the group, but I must participate in the solution. Grouping begets “communities.” There is the boating community, the religious community, the environmental community — the list is endless. Consider the environmental community as a start, comprised (not my definition but theirs) of individuals and private clubs who, with varying enthusiasm, applaud any act of Congress, and any resulting regulation, pledging to restrict uses of unpaved land and yet-unrestricted water, and assess penalties for use without permits. Anyone who is a good steward of land but who is skeptical of regulation is excluded from the environmental community, because the community can include only people who approve of government intervention.
Grouping people this way gives us the contrived LGBT+ “community”. (From the Urban Dictionary, the ‘+’ represents the innumerable other groups of sexual and gender minorities that would make the acronym too long for practical use. It follows, then, that the symbol includes such well-established predilections as necrophilia and pedophilia but perhaps not outright bestiality. The ‘+’ is in the meme, by the way — I didn’t add it, and so I’m only trying to address the task I’ve been given.) Thus, an 11-year-old boy who confesses he isn’t sure yet whether he likes girls is presumed to have the same problems and be deserving of the same community solutions as a 28-year-old woman, born a boy, who demands government-paid cosmetic surgery to correct nature’s error. The 11-year-old is pulled into counseling to help him express his differentness, when all he really needs is time for his hormones to kick in. The 28-year-old woman has been counseled that she may be less self-conscious after the surgery, without the tell-tale bulge, but expects it to be covered by Medicaid rather than by personal funds. Not by their own definition but by the need of government to lump offended people into manageable groups, these two are part of a “community” that also includes child pornography addicts.
I am not only tolerant of my good friends who prefer members of their own gender for companionship and sex, there are those within my immediate family circle who do as well, a choice that has been welcomed throughout our extended family without exception. But I respect the visceral feelings of anyone else who is repulsed by homosexuality. A long time ago I too had such a reaction. It was incomprehensible when I first heard of it. I didn’t need counseling or public school education in alternate lifestyles. I just had to get used to it. But, according to the meme, if I object to a constant barrage of laws requiring that our entire culture be turned inside out to outwardly “accommodate” innumerable variations of sexual expression, I need to explain myself.
OK, that’s what I’m doing. Just as a sexual preference and the activity that goes with it is private, so also is someone’s personal rejection of another’s preference. Not referring to myself personally, but rather in order to simplify the example: My personal rejection of your preference should not be turned into a law forbidding you to act on your preference. And your different preference should not be turned into a law requiring that I do anything except refrain from interfering with you, as you must refrain from interfering with me in the exercise of my preference. There are already laws aplenty assuring that we respect each other this way. If I build custom clocks and I decline to make one for you depicting two men getting married, then shake the dust from your feet as you leave my shop and go find someone who will. My refusal is not a national crisis. And my ignorance is not yours to overcome, unless with love and prayer. Isolate and illuminate my ignorance with the glow of your enlightenment. Persuade me, don’t coerce me. Coercion doesn’t change minds. Enough coercion changes outward behavior; it also hardens resistance.
If you build custom guitars and you decline to make one for me that is reversed because I’m left-handed and play like Paul McCartney, then I will simply take my request to another builder. I could go insist that the government designate a left-handers “community” in need of special favors because I and those who share my affliction are tired of living in a world designed to exclude and even ridicule us. We even suffer discrimination in education. (I hold my pen the way Barack Obama does, because my third-grade teacher, who taught cursive writing, when she looked down the rows of students from the front of the room, had to see each one’s paper canted in the same direction.) Worse yet, my community could grow so influential as to require that everyone replace their scissors with left-handed scissors exclusively. The message there would be, don’t just tolerate my left-handedness; suffer with me. (End of example using me.)
A candidate for elected office opposed to coercion of the unwilling is safer for the country than one who promises to drag the unwilling to the altar of submission. It is not within the scope of our government to dictate preferences and manage people’s feelings. It is within the scope of our government to assure that we can each act on our preferences while we refrain from interfering — a big difference from participating — as others act on theirs. If someone has a wedding cake depicting two women getting married, I am rightly enjoined from crashing the reception and destroying the cake. I cannot be obliged to bake it for you. (Me personally? I’d actually consider accepting the assignment, although it would be better if you asked me to make the clock.)
People darker than I am most of the year, a euphemism to encompass all manner of genetically non-whitish people, are presumed to belong to a very inclusive “community”. Those demanding government labeling, (self-appointed spokesmen wanting a group to form around them), excoriate qualified community members who don’t want to participate. Is Condoleezza Rice black? Thomas Stowell? Allen West? Clarence Thomas? Ben Carson? Not according to the gate-keepers of the black “community”. Bona fide Americans who share a common post-African ancestry are not members of the black“ community” unless they bow at the altar of the party that pulls the puppet-strings of the community. I grew up in a neighborhood populated more by Negroes, as many self-identified then, than by whitish people. I knew them as individuals, not as a group, and none of our interactions required any acknowledgment of or adjusting behavior for race. The neighborhood we lived in was a community within a larger town, and I was a member of that community. Race didn’t matter.
Muslims who are not U.S. citizens are lumped loosely, by professional label-makers in government, into a “community” under the ambiguous heading of race, while their countries of origin are comprised chiefly of people whose race is the same as most other whitish people. But to oppose open borders and to demand screening of immigrants, according to the meme that scolds me, (best I can tell), labels me a racist. In the same vein, my insisting that existing law be followed for Mexicans wishing to come enjoy the freedom, opportunity, and hospitality of this country also makes me a racist. I embrace diversity, not chaos. A racist embraces no one but those he thinks look like him.
Which brings me to the debasement of the term, native American. Here is an example of what happens when groupers, who are not members of the community they have labeled, become offended on behalf of the people they have lumped into the group, and then proceed to save the community from those who have innocently given offense. I am a native American; I was born here. That some of my indigenous ancestors — (I could capitalize that, out of respect, as we always capitalize“Indian”) — that some of my Indigenous ancestors mixed genes with some of my post-European ancestors gives me an interesting genealogy but does not confer on me membership in any particular pre-American aboriginal tribe, nor do I seek it. Nor does it make me an invader of this land, because, after all, I’m an “Indian” too; I have Indigenous heritage through both my parents. The meme, which scolds me for not helping elect Clinton, doesn’t mention Indigenous people, but I extend my explanation to them — well, to me too — too.
I’m not interested in grouping — indeed, I refuse to be grouped. I’m not interested in participating in group behavior, demanding things from my government because of some group identity, or advocating for solutions on behalf of any other crowd of people whom I have lumped together as a community without their knowledge or approval. I am an individual. My age doesn’t matter. My ancestors’ countries of origin don’t matter. I have studied, for two years or more, five other languages and can still function well in two besides my own. For those whom I might encounter who don’t speak English, I will meet you part-way in your own language if I can and, if there is time, help you learn mine. If our government would stand aside and let us welcome immigrants without coercing them or us for our language differences, guess what — we would adapt to each other!
Women, without question, are regarded as lesser citizens by many men — indeed, by Donald Trump too. To Hillary Clinton’s friends and bankrollers in the Arab world, women and homosexuals are treated deplorably. This doesn’t bother her, in spite of her rhetoric. It bothers me, and so does Trump’s behavior toward women. So voting for either, in my opinion, is a toss-up for women. Hillary was not defeated, though, because of her gender. She was defeated because she represents old-style arrogance in government.
As for those with mental and physical challenges greater than my own — (the language has some precise, descriptive words to cover those conditions but people offended on behalf of others have driven those words from common use) — I have, for decades, been a parent to my own severely disabled son and, as a foster parent, for other people’s children who are seriously challenged physically and mentally. I have also been and continue to be an unpaid caregiver for seniors with dementia. Yeah, the meme didn’t mention them. They’re always left out when it comes to government favors, perhaps because the shrill and indignant get all the attention.
While we’re here, I may as well address the acolytes for the faith in anthropogenic climate change. What’s left out of their pseudo-scientific arguments to prove man-made global warming is consideration of the evidence that warming — and cooling — of the earth’s surface has happened in cycles ever since the earth was formed; furthermore, that within each epoch-long warming or cooling there have been long periods of seeming reversal. We do not have the data to say whether we are in a temporary reversal in a cooling epoch or vice versa. An increase in temperature precedes an increase in CO2, not the other way around. CO2 encourages plants to thrive and increase, with the release of more oxygen. CO2 is not a poison that accumulates to toxic levels; it participates in life. I do not flatter myself that I can influence cosmic pulses by buying a new wood stove with a catalytic converter. God forbid that my reckless choice of fuel be responsible for forcing the inter-continental airliners flying over my house to compensate instead. There is no way to demonstrate what would have happened during the past thirty thousand years if humans had never kindled a single fire, so there is no way to “settle” that human suppression of natural fires in exchange for controlled combustion has made a difference. I think politicians are dangerous who share the conceit that by tweaking the tax law they can manage the climate for maximum human comfort.
If all this makes me non-“inclusive” and a bigot because I insist that immigrants should follow the law in order to get in, then I respond that our language is becoming useless. There is no one who is not welcome by me in my country, my town, and in my home who has arrived on our country’s reasonable terms. Let them followed the process, just as I must follow any other country’s process to become a resident there. If they are desperately escaping the threat of death in their home countries, we have processes for them to enter as refugees and await processing. And yes, perhaps we need a process for rapidly screening large numbers on short notice. I too encourage Congress to get right on it. I want to include people. Let’s make it possible.
When you, whoever wrote the meme, decide that “inclusive” means“carelessly un-selective” or when a serious charge of “racist” is leveled at anyone who opposes ineffective or damaging legislation, or at whomever declines to coerce others — when the word is used where it truly doesn’t apply, it diminishes the word to meaninglessness. When half of all Americans are racists, what word will you use if you need to describe a true racist? When you try to narrow “native American” from its accurate meaning, describing everyone born in America, down to only those with (what percentage?) Indigenous heritage, then what term will you use for a true native American? And are Indigenous Americans all that happy about being lumped into one group anyway? They used to have individual tribal identities that they fiercely defended. It’s convenient for the government to think they’re all the same. I don’t think we are.
I’ve also noticed that places such as Chappaqua, New York, Hyannisport, Massachusetts, McLean, Virginia, and many other elite communities are not scrambling to resettle un-vetted refugees in their communities. Makes me wonder why I must do so first. And I don’t deny that we should accept refugees. Emma Lazarus’s poem is often quoted as a justification for throwing open the gates (while continuing to restrain those already in the process of entering legally). The poem still represents my sentiment, but my sentiment doesn’t override my caution.
So, let people freely associate, form and join — or not — groups of their own design: political parties, churches, garden clubs, parade committees, secret lodges. Let them generate their own funds for their own internal or external objectives and keep their hands out of my pocket. Instead of believing that politicians have your best interest in mind when they promise favors, let there be laws simply to assure that we all refrain from interfering with one another’s activities so long as those actiities don’t interfere with our own. Instead of being offended on behalf of people who haven’t asked you to be offended, mind your own business.
I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I don’t believe I owe anyone an explanation. But I also don’t want the author of the meme to believe that there is no explanation, so here it is.
David A. Woodbury
Want more explanation? (I doubt it.) Look at this: CNBC:sorry. See my subsequent post, Off the Wall, quoting Mike Rowe. And for one more viewpoint, written by a gay Muslim immigrant, here is this brief article.