Jul 252016

america-maialisaThe main argument for Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton, just like the main argument for Hillary Clinton is Donald Trump. Just ask a supporter for one or the other and you hear the same response.

Not for Trump? You mean you want Hillary in the White House?

Not for Hillary? You seriously trust Trump with the nuclear button?

The best case for each candidate is the case against his or her opponent.

Trump vs Trump, Hillary vs Hillary

There is no doubt in my mind a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a catastrophe for the county. Likewise, I am positive a Donald Trump presidency would be a disaster. So my choice is between a catastrophe or a disaster.

We often joke in the United States about our political decisions being a choice between the lesser of two evils. Usually we mean a choice between someone with whom we disagree a little and someone with whom we disagree a lot. Not so for the 2016 election.

Never in my lifetime have I witnessed both major parties putting forth such unqualified, unsuitable, irresponsible, self-serving, narcissistic candidates for the highest office in the land. Not to mention they both come across as mean and nasty.

This race will be Donald Trump versus the image the electorate has of Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton versus the image the electorate has of Hillary Clinton. Both sides will be trying to paint the worst picture possible of the opposing candidate while doing everything possible to “photoshop” their own.

Race to the Bottom

The next few months until November really will be a race to the bottom. To the bottom of approval ratings. The winner of this presidential election will be the one who has the least negative favorability rating, because polls show Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both disliked by over half the population.

Which means there must be some overlap. In other words, a not insignificant percentage of the electorate dislikes them both.

But what are the alternatives? The Libertarian candidate? The Socialist candidate? It’s possible third party candidates could get as much as a third of the popular vote. There will be no third party candidates with Electoral College votes, because we still have a winner take all mentality in this country – a mentality which has driven our current two party system.

This election might be the death knell of the winner take all two party system.

Opposing Predictions

I have two opposing predictions for the 2016 election, neither of which involves predicting the eventual winner. My predictions concern how the American people will lose.

First, this could be the lowest voter turn-out ever in the history of American presidential politics. With so many people turned off by both candidates, no one will be energized to turn out and vote for either candidate. This is where the third parties make their best showing.

A more likely scenario is a record voter turnout. Not because any is energized for a candidate. The record turnout will be the result of voters energized against a candidate. Exit polls will show voters were motivated to vote against Donald Trump or against Hillary Clinton.

You Lose

It is a sad time in America. If you like what has happened the last eight years and want more of the same, vote for Hillary Clinton. If you place your hope in change, vote for Donald Trump. But wasn’t hope and change what launched the last eight years?

This 2016 election you can avoid a catastrophe and vote for a disaster, or avoid a disaster and elect a catastrophe. Whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton wins in November, the American people lose come January.

Jul 182016

Black lives matter. We can all agree black lives matter. But with two mass executions of police associated with demonstrations by the Black Lives Matter group in less than two weeks, the group risks being marginalized.

Already, the group’s main premise – that Blacks are more likely to be shot during an encounter with police than Whites due to institutional racism in our culture and our police departments – has been debunked by an economics professor at Harvard, who happens to be African-American.

In reality, Whites are more likely to be shot and killed during an encounter with police, even taking into account the higher population of Whites. This Harvard professor stated it was the most surprising result of his career.

The only institutional racism seems to be in the Black community perpetuating a myth through “The Talk.” The talk might have been necessary and appropriate decades ago, but that battle has been won.

Unfortunately, ideas have consequences. And once introduced into a culture, ideas – no matter how many facts might be presented to disprove them – do not die easily. And the idea of rampant institutional racism in America runs deep and wide in the Black community.

Perhaps the idea persists because it is not entirely without support. But the racism experienced by the Black community is not found in the police departments, it is found in the political parties. One party and its allies in particular stand to gain politically and economically by perpetuating racism: The Democratic Party.

If Black Lives Matter truly believed Black lives mattered, they would be calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and an end to abortion, which kills tens of thousands of unborn Black children yearly. Planned parenthood targets Black neighborhoods.

Likewise, they would be in the streets of Chicago and Baltimore and other major cities, protesting the drug related gang violence killing scores of young black men daily.

The scourge of gang violence and the epidemic of abortion in the Black community are both the result of the breakdown of the family. A breakdown caused by Democratic Party policies. As early as 1965, Democrats were aware of the impact their policies were having on families. Fifty years later, they still push the same policies as a cure to society’s ills.

Black lives do matter. So do White lives and Brown lives. So do the lives of the unborn and those who serve to protect us.

All lives matter. The vast majority of Americans agree all lives matter. The majority of American would agree all lives matter because we are all made in the image and likeness of God.

All lives matter is an idea which strong families perpetuate. It is an idea which needs to overwhelm our society. It is an idea which we can all live with.

Do you agree?

Jul 112016

At 54 years old, I have been dealing with issues of gender and sexuality all of my life. Don’t worry. I am not about to pull a Bruce Jenner. Unlike Bruce, or Caitlyn if you prefer, I know it takes more than chemicals, costumes, cosmetic surgery and wishful thinking to make you something you are not.

The issues facing me aren’t exactly personal, they’re societal. But as society slips into chaos, it does become personal. It impacts how I deal with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, even strangers on the street.

Anyone who believes gender issues are a recent phenomena is either a naive millennial or has been living a sheltered life the past several decades. The only thing new are attitudes.

Gender Equality

I was born in March, 1962, about a month after John Glenn flew Friendship VII around the world three times, becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. The next year, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, a book often credited with launching the second wave of feminism. So I entered into the world the same time the world entered into the promise of the Space Age and the confusion of the new age of gender and sexual chaos.

The new feminism seemed innocent enough. The old feminism – the fight for female suffrage, or the right to vote – had been victorious in England and the United States in the early 20th century. Mid century had seen an enormous number of women enter the workforce to fill the labor shortage caused by men going off to war.

After the war, most of these women returned to the traditional roles of housewife and mother. But as baby boom children reached their teens, a new generation of women wanted the same opportunities as their older sisters came of age, and a booming economy demanded an expanded workforce, the time seemed right to demand greater economic freedom for women.

What actually happened was an explosion in the divorce rate, the breakdown of families, and the substitution of federal benefits for the economic security of a marriage. The breakdown of the family led to rising drug use, gang violence, and poverty. But that’s fifty years of well documented hindsight.

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

The success of the civil rights movement for blacks and the feminist movement for women prompted the start of the gay rights movement after the Stonewall Riot in 1969. The LGB community was born along with the Gay Liberation Front.

In the early 70s, David Bowie launched into the androgynous phase of his career with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Along with the androgynous stage character, Bowie maintained ambiguity about is own sexuality.

The band and performer Alice Cooper added to the confusion. My first real exposure to the idea a man could become a woman occurred around 1972 or 1973 when Alice Cooper came to Houston. The rumor around my elementary school was Alice (originally Vincent Damon Furnier) had been a woman who became a man. Or maybe a man who became a woman. Regardless, something had obviously gone horribly wrong.

Alice Cooper and David Bowie represented one part of the theatrical nature of rock and roll in the early 70s but they taped into growing questions about gender and sexuality in Western culture. These questions rose to the surface largely as a result of the feminist movement and sexual revolution of the early 1960s.

The Culture Catches On

The idea of a man dressing as a woman was a common comedy trope probably going back well before the time of Shakespeare. While M*A*S*H had the first regular cross-dressing character in Corporal Klinger, Milton Berle used the gag to become one of television’s first stars in the 50s.

In the 1960s, though, a few television episodes had men and women actually changing bodies. In an episode of I Dream of Jeannie, Jeannie turns Major Nelson and Major Healey into women to teach them what it was like to be chased by men. In this case, actresses played Nelson and Healey as women.

One episode of Gilligan’s Island featured a mad scientist “rescuing” the castaways and taking them to his castle on a nearby island. There, he and his assistant use the castaways in an experiment in transferring minds from one body to the other. Gilligan is swapped with Mr. Howell, then the Skipper with Mrs. Howell (pairing Gilligan and the Skipper) and the Professor and Mary Ann. Finally, the scientist’s assistant Igor swaps himself with Ginger.

In a more serious exploration of the same theme, the final episode of Star Trek featured a woman using an alien device to swap minds with Captain Kirk. The woman sought revenge for being passed over for an assignment as a Star Fleet captain. She believed it was because she was a woman. The official reason was because she was emotionally unstable. The episode leaves us to question which was the cause and which was the effect.

Does anyone else remember Flip Wilson’s Geraldine from the early 70s? The difference between Flip Wilson and Milton Berle was Flip intended to pass as a woman. He was impersonating and exaggerating, not just engaging in slapstick humor. Times were changing.

Remember Renee Richards?

So the culture was filled with gender-bending stories and entertainment well before Dr. Renee Richards hit the scene in 1975. Here was a real-life example of a man who actually had (or claimed to have) become a woman. As a man, Richard Raskin attended Yale and was ranked as one of the top male tennis players in the country. He had joined the Navy, become an ophthalmologist, married, and fathered a child.

After divorcing and having reassignment surgery, Richards decided to try her skills as a professional tennis player. The United States Tennis Association, The Women’s Tennis Association, the United States Open Committee, and the vast majority of the American population balked. They required female athletes to pass a genetic test to compete.

Now Richards balked. She finally submitted to the test, but the results were “ambiguous”. Perhaps simple genetic testing was still in its infancy, but I think it more likely someone wanted to make sure the case went to court.

On August 16, 1977, a federal judge ruled “This person is now female.”

Transgender individuals now had legal precedent.

Of course, there were concerns men would flood into women’s sports, but it didn’t happen. Not many male athletes would willingly dress like a woman and submit to hormone therapy, just to win a competition against other women. They certainly wouldn’t submit to sex reassignment surgery.

Biological Sex and Intersex

The Olympics replaced external physical examinations with genetic testing in 1967. This would seem to be a definitive way to determine if female athletes were in fact female. The system hit a snag during the 1996 Olympics, however. Presumably, the testing had improved over thirty years or so. In 1996, out of some 3500 female athletes, the Olympic Committee identified eight a having Y chromosomes. Thus, they were genetically male.

The complication came when seven of the eight were identified as having Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), a condition which prevents the body from absorbing androgens. Androgens include male hormones such as testosterone. Because of AIS, these individuals were born with external female organs. They had testes, but they never descended. They had no where to go. At puberty, their bodies produced increased testosterone, but because it wasn’t absorbed, it broke down into estrogen causing them to develop typical secondary female sexual characteristics.

All of these individuals had been identified as female from birth. They were raised female. They believed themselves to be female. In fact, because their bodies didn’t respond to testosterone, they might have appeared more feminine than their competitors. But their genetic composition said they were male. Internally, they had male genitalia. Their condition is known as intersexed. In 1996, the Olympics abandoned genetic testing.

Present Day

While issues of sexual orientation and gender identity have been around for close to six decades, the intensity and pace of the controversies seems to have accelerated. From the de facto legalization of same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court to the North Carolina Bathroom Bill, battle lines are being drawn and both sides are digging in.

What started as a demand for gender equality has lead us to a demand for equality of sexual orientation and the expectation anyone can “self-identify” as either gender or any gender. In fact, some have called for the complete deconstruction of the idea of biological sex and gender differences.

That’s a topic worthy of it’s own post, don’t you think?