Letter 2 America for April 11, 2021

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Dear America,

It can be hard to separate what is personal from what matters in the more universal sense.  I was reading a piece by Frank Bruni in the New York Times today and it occurred to me that I didn't know what he was talking about.  I have always been a literalist when it comes to the language in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  The most basic proposition of which we as Americans subscribe to, in my estimation, is that every one of us is entitled to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  That is arguably the creed of the United States of America.  It exceeds in importance the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, statutes and both constitutional law and common law ever since.  But in this piece by Bruni, he expressed his sentiments about a law passed in Arkansas, vetoed by its governor, Asa Hutchinson, and then passed again by the legislature of Arkansas over Hutchinson's veto, that I gather bars attempts to facilitate conversion of gender by youths below 18 years of age trying to become who they know themselves to be.  The problem is that as I read the piece, I could not identify what Bruni was saying was objectionable.  Understand me.  Bruni is a self-professed gay male.  And I am certain that his point was that if a person feels that he or she is trapped in a body of the gender that isn't his or hers, he or she should be free to rectify the quirk of nature that led to that incongruity.  But as I read his recapitulation of the terms of the legislation, I couldn't tell from the terminology what he was objecting to.  Let me be specific.

I have felt from when I was old enough to ideate on the subject that the Declaration of Independence was irrefutable.  We all have the right to pursue happiness as we see fit.  But let me be clear.  That doesn't mean at the expense of others, but it does mean that when we seek happiness, we have the right to do so sans such harm to others.  Thus in my and many other opinions, when we talk about gender conversion, or reassignment as I have heard it termed--and about ancillary therapy as well--it is our right as individuals to pursue such remedies as are available to us to address the related deep-seated incongruities about gender identity that inner awareness impinges on in some of us.  And to be fair, I think that was Bruni's point.  The law being pushed through the legislative process by Alabama Republicans is an abomination.  It serves no purpose other than to thwart the self-actualization of people who aren't hurting anyone.  It is pompous positivism intended by conservative Republicans to affirm beliefs that no one involved shares with them, and more importantly, that affect the lives of no one other than those who will be harmed by the law.  It is anti-American, and more importantly, it is inhumane.  But why do I write to you tonight, America?

My purpose isn't to take Frank Bruni to task.  My purpose isn't to take you to task either.  My purpose is to make the point that there is a sanctimonious sadism to the conservative Republican impetus toward passing this legislation that cannot be countenanced.  It is one thing to promote values that require affirmation in order for the affirmer to live what he or she conceives to be a virtuous life.  But it is an entirely different thing to interpose one's beliefs between another's happiness and the necessary measures he or she can take to secure it.  It goes beyond spite and becomes sadism in the kind of concerted effort that the Arkansas statutes on gender reassignment comprise.  The outright arrogance and tyranny that Arkansas's Republicans have now indulged in is something that they will have to answer to their God for, and I don't say things like that lightly.  My agnosticism prevents me from making such imprecations in general, but in this instance, I cannot resist.  They claim that God is on their side, and they had better hope that they are right.  This measure defies moral justification, and ultimately, they will have to explain, to a higher authority if they are rightly faithful in that higher authority, their role in passing it.

The fact is that this isn't the first conservative, Republican action that makes these reproaches appropriate.  The Trump presidency has manifested opportunity after opportunity for Republicans to evince hypocrisy, and they seem to have seized on every one of them.  The consequence is that, according to recent polls, Democrats outnumber them by 9% points whereas the advantage was only 4% before the Trump era.  And it isn't that the Democrats have gained so much...just a few percentage points.  But those who characterized themselves as independents are now getting close to comprising half of the electorate, which suggests that pedantry and peremptory moralism may be waning in our society...and for the better. 

So, to the point, we have to put aside our tendency to speak in clinical terms about what are essentially social and moral issues.  Transgender people are just trying to make lives for themselves as are all of the rest of us.  And as long as they don't interfere with our efforts, why should we interfere with theirs.  In fact, why can't we just leave each other alone and tend to what's important: economic inequality, poverty among those who work all day every day but remain impoverished, children who don't have enough to eat or places to go where they can learn what they need to know to get along in our society, and on and on.  Seeing all that people in America suffer daily, I can't help but think that we all know what those things are, and in the case of Arkansas, that we have better things to do.

Your friend,


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This page contains a single entry by Michael Wolf published on April 11, 2021 8:34 PM.

Letter 2 America for April 5, 2021 was the previous entry in this blog.

Letter 2 America for April 16, 2021 is the next entry in this blog.

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