Let us take stock of this moment we live in. It is a moment of anti-government sentiment, racial tension, tenuous economic stability, and social change at a pace and of a kind not seen for several decades in our nation. It is a time made all the more volatile by a particularly contentious election season in which the Conservative Right is set to tear itself apart in a clownish cacophony where the one and only thing that seems to be agreed upon, across the Conservative Spectrum, is that Hillary Clinton cannot be allowed to be the next President.
We live in a time when something as long-standing and effortlessly assumed as the Gender Binary is being questioned; a time when the oil and blood soak Middle East is hemorrhaging desperate refugees into the suspicious arms of a wounded West; a time when gun violence on a uniquely dramatic scale continues to take its toll, unimpeded by Government intervention.”Oh times, they are a changing.” As I believe was once said, and if there is anything true and constant about the Conservative tradition it is that they do not suffer change gladly.
I am certain that Conservative philosophy has its merits, although I personally have trouble identifying them, but even the most ardent Conservative apologist would have to admit that embracing change is not a strength of their ideology. The basic Conservative approach to change is simple; unless you absolutely must, don’t. After all, it’s in the nature of the beast isn’t it? It is there in the very name: Conservative. Conservatism seeks to conserve; conserve the way things were, repair that which has fallen away from the time honored traditions, and restore what was golden and good and true about a halcyon era ever known as “back when”.
While, of course, consciously avoiding the plethora of sinister and repressive conditions “back when” is known to have been rife with. Did I mention that viewing the past through rose tinted glasses is another fairly universal Conservative trait?
So it should come as no surprise that Conservatives in this nation are not particularly fond of the notion that a person might express a gender that is different from their sex. Such a thing does not fit in the Norman Rockwell-esque image they have of the American Tradition at its best. Conservatives are especially opposed to the idea that a male person may use a Woman’s restroom. Notably there does not seem to be that much concern about the opposite scenario, a female using the Men’s room.
There is currently a fight going on in our culture about whether or not a Transgendered person ought to use, or be allowed to use, the restroom that matches their gender as expressed rather than their sex as biologically defined. The Liberal position tends to be that using the restroom that matches your expressed gender is less awkward for all involved, safer for the Transgendered person them self, and goes a little way towards making Transgendered folk feel more at home in their own communities. The Conservatives, as you might imagine, disagree.
But why? That is the obvious question. Why does it matter? As has been pointed out many times in this debate, it is not only likely but statistically certain, that most people have already shared a public restroom with a Transgendered person and were none the wiser. If a person dresses and acts as a man in the public restroom beside me, I am unlikely to carefully examine their anatomy to judge their biological sex, and doing so would certainly make me the inappropriate one, not them. So why does it matter if Transgendered folk use the restroom that matches their gender? In fact, isn’t that a more desirable state of affairs than having Transgendered people use the restroom of their sex, in which they would then actually appear to be out of place?
Well, the Conservative answer to that question is: The Risk of Sexual Predation. The fear, as expressed by Conservatives, is that if it becomes allowable and acceptable for a Transgendered person to use the restroom, locker room, or other personal facilities associated with their Gender, then there is nothing to stop sexual predators from claiming to be Transgendered to gain access to these spaces to peep on women, or worse, molest them.
On one hand, the Conservatives are not actually wrong. There would, indeed, be nothing to stop a sexual predator from dressing up as a woman to enter a woman’s bathroom or locker room for salacious purposes. The problem is, there is nothing to stop that now. Notably, bathroom and locker facilities do not require a genital check or presentation of ID at the door. It is now, and always has been, entirely possible for a sexual deviant to dress as the opposite gender in order to access these spaces. What’s more, for once in their long and storied history, Conservatives are actually giving Homosexuals a complete pass on deviance. Has it not always been the case that any homosexual person with lewd motivations has already had access to all of these locations? Is there any reason to think that the occupants of a public restroom are at greater risk from the gaze or actions of the Transgendered than they are under the current status quo?
The answer is, of course, no.
There are simply no reported cases of this happening. Transgendered people do not engage in a Transgender lifestyle as a cover for peeping, stalking, or molesting in opposite gendered spaces. This is a non-event. It does not happen. The risk is not 1%. The risk is not .5%. The risk is, essentially, 0%.
But that does not prevent Conservatives from trying to pass laws and ordinances targeted at keeping the Transgendered out of the bathroom that matches their gender, with penalties up to and including criminal prosecution as a sex offender. Why put so much legislative energy into stopping something completely harmless? More on that later.
Now, in what will at first appear to be a non-sequitur, I would like to move on to Middle Eastern Refugees.
Conservatives have been staunchly opposed to the idea of providing shelter or relief to any portion of the millions of refugees fleeing the war torn and criminally inundated regions of our globe. Only a few years ago Conservatives memorably formed picket lines to turn away bus loads of children fleeing from ravaged Central American countries, blocking roads and shouting anti-immigrant chants into the faces of terrified youths. In more recent months Conservatives have venomously rebuked the idea of fostering even a small portion of the Middle Eastern refugees fleeing from the violence of wars that our country had no small part in starting. This rebuke has come in the form of city ordinances forbidding Middle Eastern refugees to enter municipal limits, state legislation to a similar effect, and even heavily armed protest making thinly veiled threats of overt violence.
But again we must ask, why? It is the obvious question. Why not help? We spend more money than the next 20 largest countries combined on our military. The wars in the Middle East have our finger prints all over them. Certainly basic human decency should compel us to direct some small portion of that massive military budget to dealing with the fallout of those operations, and helping the innocent victims fleeing those lands, and to assuage at least a little bit of our own very palpable culpability in these affairs. Should it not?
The Conservative response is disturbingly similar to why they would rather Transgendered folks were not permitted to use the restroom of their Gender: Risk. There is just too much risk, or so they say. There is too much risk that there may be terrorist agents seeking to sneak into the country among the refugees, agents who might then do us harm.
And, much like with the risk of Sexual Predation by the Transgendered in Restrooms, this particular threat is largely imaginary, a bogey-man. In 2015, approximately 400,000 Middle Eastern Refugees, primarily from Iraq and Syria, entered Europe. In 2015 there was one single confirmed case of a terrorist who gained entry to the EU under the guise of a refugee. 1 in 400k. That is a 0.0003% chance that a refugee harbored by a Western Nation will be a terrorist in disguise.
Care to take a guess at the hundred things you do every single day that have a much higher than 0.0003% risk of severe injury or death? Simply driving to work poses a far greater actual risk to you than the terrorism risk of your nation harboring every single Middle Eastern refugee. But then why would Conservatives spend so much energy stopping something that is, virtually, harmless? More on that shortly.
I would like to indulge in one more, seeming, non sequitur before tying together these threads. Let’s talk for a moment about gun violence.
My stance on gun violence and gun control has been, perhaps, unclear over the years. I think the truth of what I believe is sometimes lost in the nuance of what I believe. I am not particularly opposed to guns, in fact as a fan of historic weapons there are many I admire and would like to own. I am, however, opposed to the unconscionable amount of death they facilitate in this country each year, a level I find grotesquely beyond that which is acceptable in the name of personal security or reverence for a questionable interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. My stance on guns and gun control is; I support that which works best. That which preserves the life of people to a greatest reasonable degree while preserving the liberty of people to a greatest reasonable degree, and thereby empowering the pursuit of happiness. I feel Jefferson would approve.
My standards are no more complicated than that, although obviously finding practical solutions that fairly balance those values can often be difficult. In an environment where crime is so prolific, and the policing so inept, that no reasonable level of security can be obtained without being personally armed, then by all means arm the people. In an environment where guns kill vastly more people than they protect, by orders of magnitude. Then it seems clear to me that the guns ought to be restricted.
The position of Conservatives on gun control, however, is not so nuanced or dependent on the practical realities of the situation. Guns are good and the ownership of them is a sacred right. That is a Conservative mantra. Gun Control is bad and ought to be opposed virtually unconditionally. That too, is a Conservative mantra.
The US is no stranger to gun violence on every level, from accidental killings, to suicide, to domestic homicide, to common crime, to mass shootings. We experience all of these things at disturbingly high levels. Not just disturbingly high levels in the abstract, but even when compared to the rates of similar crimes in other armed Western Nations. We excel at killing ourselves and each other with our guns to a degree unimaginable in most other First World nations. About the only nations with higher gun crime rates than the United States are Third World nations or those embroiled in active war. It is clear that the Guns in the United States pose a real and relevant risk to public safety. Something Conservatives do not so much deny as hand-wave aside as an acceptable price to pay for personal liberty they imagine fire-arms to provide.
Put simply, Guns pose a vastly greater risk than the risk posed by Transgendered people in bathrooms.
Put simply, Guns pose a vastly greater risk than the risk posed by all combined Middle Eastern refugees.
And we are left, once again, with the question: Why? Why is it that extremely minimal, practically non existent, risk warrants decisive and immediate legislative action when Refugees and Transgendered persons are involved, and yet a real and very substantive danger, in the case of Fire arms, is so often minimized? Why exactly is it that it is ok to punish the totality of harmless Transgendered folk for the hypothetical actions of an imaginary few, but, as we so frequently hear, it is unacceptable to punish the majority of lawful gun owners for the actual crimes of others? Why is it that Middle Eastern Refugees, which pose a vanishingly small risk, must be banned from our shores, while guns, which claim more than 12 thousands US lives a year, cannot be restricted or controlled in any way? What explains this seemingly unbridgeable gap of cognitive dissonance?
I propose that the answer is simple: Duplicity. The fact is that Conservatives are not actually concerned with the risks associated with Transgendered folk or with Middle Eastern Refugees. There is no actual, real, practical, tangible threat associated with these groups, and Conservatives know it. Even if there were a risk, the Conservative propensity to embrace, and in fact defend, a highly dangerous status quo in terms of firearms indicates that they are not actually that risk averse, that as long as risk stems from something is ideologically appeasing. If that is the case, then enormous risk can be easily, no, happily, tolerated.
The proposed danger associated with Transgendered folk and with Refugees is not, it seems clear to me, anything more than a smoke screen, a facade of legitimate concern used to mask the true base and brutish motivation Conservatives would rather not wear on their sleeve. That motivation is that they simply do not like Transgendered people or foreigners(Muslims in particular), and they do like guns.
No great plot or conspiracy, no higher machinations. Just a simple, crude, uncomplicated prejudice against certain groups of people. A prejudice which manifests itself as a drive to keep the undesirables away if possible, and make their lives unpleasant if not.
But of course, they cannot say that. To drive out and condemn harmless people based on religious and sexual prejudices has, thankfully, been considered an unacceptable and usually sinister thing to do in our nation for the better part of 50 years. So, where as, once upon a time, simple prejudice was ample justification to treat someone quite badly, in the world we inhabit today, it is necessarily to at least pretend to more noble motivations, even if the end game is the same as it always has been. To punish and drive out those who don’t fit.
If there remains in your mind any kind of real doubt as to the motivations behind these actions, these attempts to ostracize the outcast, harass the harmless, and turn away the desperate, then I encourage you to either attend, or watch footage of, the protests conducted by conservatives. See how they behave, and what they say, when worked up and off script. Watch them should homophobic slurs at people doing nothing more than trying to enter a restroom. Watch them waves guns in the faces of refugee children while chanting anti-immigrant and anti-muslin slogans. Watch them as they awkwardly shuffle their feet following the latest mass killing while they explain that what crazy people do with their guns should have no bearing on how we treat other gun owners.
Watch as they try and contain a furnace of bigotry and hate behind a paper shroud of decency of earnest civilian concern. Watch them closely, and bear in mind one of the best pieces of advice a Conservative has ever given me:
“By their fruits you shall know them.”
Thank you for reading. If you liked what you read and would like to see more, then please visit the companion YouTube channel at YouTube.com/PointofContention