Whatever He's For, I'm Against

Our politics have gotten so trivial, we're down to drag queens, light beer, M&Ms, and Cracker Barrel. We're doing this at the expense of things, important things, that need doing.

Whatever He's For, I'm Against
An average congressional committee meeting. 

Are you a commie or a nazi? Or maybe you prefer the choice of socialist or fascist? That would seem to be where we are today. We have been a nation with two strong political parties since the Civil War, and we decided the name "Whig" was too silly to claim you are one. I have mentioned before that my opinion was always that Democrats brought dessert to the dinner, and Republicans' job was to make sure you ate your peas first. Take care of the needy but pay the bills. Defend the country but don't waste money doing it.

The two parties have, in some ways, changed identities over the years. Southern Democrats, you know, those guys who seceded so they could keep owning people, were a thorn in the sides of their northern brethren for generations. Lest it be forgotten, governors George Wallace, Lester Maddox and Orville Faubus were Democrats. In fact, during the debates, filibusters and votes on the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Bill, a larger percentage of Republicans voted for the act than Democrats.

The Senate version:

  • Democratic Party: 46–21 (69–31%)
  • Republican Party: 27–6 (82–18%)

The Senate version, voted on by the House:

  • Democratic Party: 153–91 (63–37%)
  • Republican Party: 136–35 (80–20%)

But in 1968 and forward, a disappointing thing began happening. Those southern Democrats were so angry, (and GOP strategists like Kevin Phillips were so savvy,) that they moved over to the Republican side and gave Richard Nixon two overwhelming victories. In fact, when he signed the civil rights bill, President Johnson was reported to have told his top aide Bill Moyers that he'd lost the South for at least 2 generations.

But meanwhile, the Democratic versions of those moderate Republicans like Everett Dirksen, moved left. Classic "liberals" like JFK and Adlai Stevenson have moved, thanks to my generation among other things, toward the far end of the spectrum. It used to be said that elections are won or lost between the 20-yard lines in political football, but I'm not sure that's the case now.

"Really? She only has a GED?" 

Look at where we are, and the extremes we go to in an effort to placate our party bases. And we do it at the expense of things, important things, that need doing.

And the hills both sides have decided to die on? Well, we had to move on from race, because you can't pull a George Wallace in polite society anymore, or can you? The formerly bowtied frozen food heir on Fox has pretty much made it clear what he thinks of those of a different hue. But generally, unless you are in the Tennessee Legislature, you have to at least be subtle about it.

On the Democratic side, and on the polar opposite network, a camera hog who made his bones by falsely accusing police of rape, is now venerated as though he was a civil rights pioneer. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, "Al, you're no MLK."

And if you think all the hubbub over Critical Race Theory is a coincidence, You aren't paying attention. And, as I wrote last week, any attempt to show the less-than-attractive aspects of our history is now deemed to be "woke" and solely aimed at giving kids a case of the sads.

But both sides are dug in and have to defend these folks. Conservatives have to not just defend, but laud a punk who grabs an AR15 and wades into a loud protest and shoots a couple of people. And liberals have to soft-pedal a crazy trans kid who planned to pull a school shooting in Colorado Springs but was nabbed by the cops before they could pull it off. I know, CBS and Newsweek did stories, but anyone else?

I have an African-American friend who, when there is a shooting or some other outrage, told me he silently prays, "Please, don't let him be black." If you think conservatives don't say that same prayer after some tragic event, you aren't being honest. And when a kid who happens to be trans did actually shoot up a school, it was almost gleefully pointed out in conservative reporting. And when the El Paso shooter's barking mad "manifesto" mentioned Trump memes about Mexican people, it was the lede in most stories.

So, what are the hot-button issues now? Well, of course, guns. And not just guns but one in particular, that I have written about probably far too much. It is venerated so much that tiny pins in its shape are being worn by many Republicans on the floor of Congress. And any attempt to do something even slightly sensible, like red flag laws, is fought as though the proponents want to arm the Marines with Red Ryders if they get their way.

Full Metal BB

Meanwhile, though, too many gun control proponents fail to realize, or at least acknowledge that we are not Norway. Our history is not what the NRA claims, but it also isn't a culture without guns. Hunting, the outdoors, and the right to self-defense is part and parcel of our history and though reasonable rules of the road are needed, this will never be an unarmed country.

And of course, there is full-throated disagreement on the issue of abortion, and this one is not just ginned up for the consumption of the respective bases. It is a genuine dilemma. Mr. Conservative, Barry Goldwater said in 1994...

"Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them."

But, the strong feelings about abortion run deep among conservatives, and as a person of faith, I can understand the concern. But frankly, many states have tucked that ball under their arms and run for daylight with restrictions that do not take into account fatal birth defects, women's health, rape, incest, and a host of other issues that may crop up.

But on the other side, any limitations on the procedure, however humane, are the start of the slippery slope that requires a suspension of belief that there is indeed a nascent life beginning in there. A priest friend of mine, who was pro-choice by the way, once said to me, "No woman ever ran home from the doctor exclaiming, 'honey, we have a fertilized egg that will eventually become a zygote and then with luck, a blastocyst and ultimately a fetus that will become a person once I give birth! No, she says 'we're having a baby.'"

My friends on the left can't admit that life is a continuum and to pick any point along it as the "start of life" is arbitrary. We do it because circumstances may require it. But don't pretend. And my conservative friends just can't admit that those circumstances exist and that somehow women are just wildly having abortions willy-nilly as if on a whim. That demeans women and their choices just as much.

So, we have to argue about something else, and take our arguments, left and right, to the extreme. The latest? Drag queens and transsexual people.

Here is where our blinders are pretty darned apparent. If you are conservative, the idea of dressing up as the opposite sex is appalling. I admit it isn't my cup of tea, but it's been going on since Shakespeare's time. Any theatre major can explain that for you if you'd care to listen.

We used to be a country dedicated, somewhat, to the principle of live and let live. You live your life and I'll live mine. That's why they make chocolate and vanilla. The whole idea has been played for laughs for eons. In the '50's, there was a craze used generally for fundraising purposes, called "womanless weddings." My Army-veteran dad and our macho Navy-veteran neighbor participated in one to raise money for the PTA at Mae Smyth elementary school in Pasadena, Texas, with their hairy legs and all. We laugh at them in the movies, like "I Was a Male War Bride" with Cary Grant and the delicious Ann Sheridan.  

The idea of physically changing one's gender is a more recent phenomenon, most famously in 1954, when WWII veteran George Jorgensen went to Denmark and became Christine.

I don't pretend to understand all the dynamics or psychology involved in this, and frankly, I don't care. The percentage of trans folks in the US is pegged at .05%. I'm going to go out on a limb here and speculate that if you consider it a problem, it is a minuscule one. If that's your choice, who am I to say no? That's between you, your family, and your maker. Again, your life and feelings are not mine, or mine to judge.

But here's where it gets even sillier on the left. The knee-jerk reaction to anything endorsed, or of concern to conservatives is automatically anathema to liberals. Like I said, drag shows have been going on for ages. If that's to your taste, so be it. But should children attend? We don't let them in actual strip clubs, so why here?

And as for changing one's sex, again, a personal choice. But like everything else in life, particularly big decisions, we don't let children make them for themselves. Think back to when you were young, and the things you thought you wanted or desired. You wanted to run away, get married too young, and drink before you were able to handle it. And particularly when it comes to those immature, emotionally traumatic years when every crisis is the end of the world. I know, my daughter had several. Usually, a parent has to step in to calm, explain and get the young person through it. Is it so hard for my liberal friends to understand that?

What you think as an adolescent is not usually what you think as an adult. Oh sure, sometimes it is, but by then, you are in a position to make those decisions. But if we admit that while jumping off the roof with an umbrella might seem the same as a parachute, it isn't. Why can't we admit that an emotional life decision made at that same age might not be wise either, at least not for now? But you can't, because the other side said it. We are so dug in, that like Goldwater said, we can't compromise.

Look, the collegiate swimmer Riley Gaines is obviously milking her 15 minutes of fame for all she can get after being beaten by a trans athlete, and I'm as annoyed as anyone at the hullaballoo over what has to be a tiny problem. But the other side can't seem to see the obvious difference in the trans athlete's physique and musculature. I know, Dr. Renee Richards didn't win Wimbledon, but had a pretty successful pro career. She couldn't beat Martina, but then almost no one could. But if, as a man, she had been at the level of, say, Jimmy Connors or Bjorn Borg, she would have swept the circuit. But no one can admit that.

And while left and right argue over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis sing "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" from a really bad road company of Annie Get Your Gun, we have real issues of sickness, need, infrastructure, education, poverty and international security to worry about. While the House Judicial Committee is doing a charity performance in New York for the benefit of one audience member, what could they really be investigating?

We call each other silly names that have no bearing on anything being discussed, Nazi and Commie, and aren't even truly understood by those flinging the epithets.

Petty squabbles have taken the place of real squabbles of the past, and getting on Fox or MSNBC is now more important than legislating. And, admit it, we love it. And, we'll all pay a price for this diversion into triviality.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.