Saturday, March 11, 2017

Of Course I Do!

You may have missed the news stories, but Congress has balanced the budget, eliminated the foreign trade gap, and solved the problems with health care.  Peace is finally at hand in the Middle East, North Korea, and Chicago. 

While I, too, missed those news stories, all of the above must have occurred, since our government once again has time to discuss the vital problem of 'who uses which bathroom'.  As soon as this life-threatening crisis is solved, I have no doubt they can get around to finally settling the issue of which way toilet paper should unroll. 

Is it just me, or does it seem strange that most of the controversy about transgendered people's using public restrooms comes from states where a significant portion of the plumbing is still outside, and thus, is already "unisex"?  Perhaps we need a new rule:  If you are still worried about keeping four, six, and eight-legged critters out of your bathroom, don’t sweat the two-legged users.

My mother worked extremely hard to teach me manners, and at least half of them stuck, so I will, if I remember to do so, accommodate your request to be treated as the gender of your choice.  This just seems like good manners (and, after all, it’s really none of my business).

Unfortunately, manners will not solve all the possible problems.  I don’t know—or care—how the Olympics will keep men from competing as women.  I have no idea how the Small Business Administration will keep men from applying for preferential loans designed for female entrepreneurs.  All of this is not my monkey and not my circus.  I’ll just sit in the bleachers and eat peanuts while others solve this problem (or attempt to solve it).  I’ll be easy to find:  I’ll be the one laughing his ass off.

As a small gesture of cooperation, I know of an expert who might be able to solve this problem:  We should ask Lyle.

When I was a grad student in Anthropology, I met Lyle.  He looked exactly as you would expect an anthropologist to look:  tanned, tall, skinny as a flagpole, and dressed (every day of the year!) in shorts, t-shirt, and well-worn boondocker boots.  (And Lyle, while technically brilliant, was as crazy as a bucket of frogs). 

Lyle believed in reincarnation, and had vivid memories of all of his past lives.  While Lyle is not the only person I have ever met to have claimed this, he is the only one who never claimed to have been a king, or someone prominent in one of his previous incarnations.  While I’m still not a believer, on one hot afternoon, as we were carefully sifting through hot sand in a field school at an archaeological site, it was kind of fascinating to listen to Lyle's telling about freezing to death while marching out of Moscow with Napoleon. 

Lyle had a "small" problem with many of his professors.  For a group of anthropologists who taught that all cultures and religious beliefs should be equally respected, they had a lot of difficulties actually working with someone a little different.  (Actually, over time I learned that the more an academic or a department claimed to be tolerant of others, the more obviously they weren’t.  It is easy to find whole departments in which everyone comes from the same region of the US, is the same race, has similar political beliefs, and where no one is a veteran, and none has any work experience outside of academia.  Some of that is natural—and some of it is unconsciously deliberate.  These are nice people, but at the same time, universities are the most sexist, racist, and status-conscious place I have ever worked.)

To his credit, the department head of Anthropology gathered the faculty together, chewed everyone out for their reluctance to work with Lyle, and then forced them to draw lots.  The winner got Lyle as a grad assistant.  Of course, the department head made damn sure his own name wasn’t in the hat before he drew the "winning" name.

I took a seminar class where Lyle was one of the students.  An anthropology seminar is a class in which, at the prompting of a professor, students passionately argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  Every class, we would sit around a huge table, using a different book of the week and discussing the author’s definition of culture. 

Note.  I can save you a couple of years of reading and a small fortune in tuition money by telling you that anything is a definition of culture.  There are hundreds and hundreds of definitions, none of which will give you any insight as to what culture really is.  The final exam in that class was an essay—write your own definition of culture using a new metaphor.  That particular day, an obnoxious Ray Stevens song was repeating endlessly in my brain, so I filled a Blue Book explaining how a highway convoy was the perfect metaphor for culture.  If you think I got an A, that’s a big ten-four, good buddy.

One week, somehow the class got on the subject of ghetto sub-culture and the discussion got a little heated as a young African-American student angrily defended her position.

“You have no idea,” she proclaimed, “what it is like to be a Black woman raising children in Harlem!”

“Of course, I do!” thundered Lyle.  “And I did it during the Great Depression!”

I have never seen a discussion shut down so quickly!  Students—who would have argued over even the day of the week—just sat there with their mouths open.  Remember, all cultures and beliefs are equivalently valid…

Obviously, we need to get Lyle’s opinion about bathrooms.  If we need input from multiple points of view, the man is a whole committee.

It wouldn’t be fair to stop here, however:  I need to tell you what eventually happened to Lyle.  After graduation, he was immediately hired by a well-known university in the South.  Unbeknownst to Enema U, Lyle had spent years hiking the New Mexico and Arizona desert and he had thousands of photographs and meticulous notes of the petroglyphs (rock engravings) and petrographs (rock paintings)of the Southwest.  As far as I know, he still has the largest collection of photographs  of this Native American art work.  Since he was not treated very well by the faculty of Enema U, he never told them about his collection.

1 comment:

  1. The state of universities in America seems to be a causal factor behind the current state of the American political system.