Saturday, July 9, 2011

Californication


“Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, served as Ambassador to France, invented the dumb waiter, and he accomplished all of this while secretly being a proud heterosexual.  Jefferson was completely out of the closet regarding his preferences, and made no attempts to mask his sexual desires, not even to his servants.  Mr. Jefferson enjoyed working on his home in Monticello, collecting and reading books, and pleasuring members of the opposite sex.  The fact that he embraced his gender identity made him stronger as a person and as a leader.”  - 2016 California State Department of Education sanctioned text book for 4th grade Social Studies

Now that California has passed SB48, and the governor is likely to sign it into law, the Golden State will become the first state requiring public schools to include the contributions of gays and lesbians in social studies curriculum.  The Sexual Revolution is now over.  Please drive home safely.
 
We are now requiring our children to learn not only about the historic contributions of individuals, we are requiring that they are also well versed on which gender they found most attractive.  The Standards of Learning test questions should be interesting:

Alexander the Great is best known for:
a)      Almost conquering the known world
b)      Spreading the Greek/Hellenistic culture, impacting law and government
c)       Enjoying the companionship of other men
d)      All of the Above

My kids don’t need to know this fun fact any more than they need to know about Richard Nixon’s bondage fantasies or Jimmy Carter’s fascination with porn stars.  My children need to learn about Nixon’s price and wage freeze of the 1970s and Jimmy Carter’s Malaise Speech of 1979.  My inner libertarian is crying inside.  Can’t we keep elementary school textbooks out of the bedroom anymore?

The issue for me isn’t acceptance of those fellow citizens who are gay.  Live and let live.  Embrace diversity, it makes us stronger.  I am not so na├»ve to believe that overt discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation does not exist, and that many allow and encourage such discrimination.  It should be rejected, and should not be tolerated.  Does teaching Junior that Susan B. Anthony had sex with women solve this problem?

This is not an anti-gay piece – far from it.  My objection to SB48 is that it represents the hyper-sexualization of everything in modern society, and the compulsion to push that agenda onto our children.  It has been happening for a long time now, and it has become a part of daily life.  Maybe you stopped noticing the magazines at grocery store check-out counters describing the techniques for the most fulfilling orgasms, the Super Bowl commercials that glorify the objectification of silicone, the Abercrombie & Fitch clothing ads featuring young boys without clothing…I am sure that you have your own examples.  I recognize that a certain openness about sex is healthy, and that a return to the Puritanical ways of the 1940s would be counterproductive and unhealthy in its own way.  Can’t we at least agree that little kids do not need to know about the sex preferences of their heroes?  Can’t we agree that we should teach them that these things do not matter when evaluating the individual’s accomplishments?  Can’t we agree that bullying and discrimination in all forms and for all reasons are the real enemies?

If the goal is to reduce bullying and to increase the acceptance of difference, I can accept the goal.  That end, however, does not justify these means.  Let’s save the role of sex in world history for a Freshman year college elective.  Lord knows our young people need an easy class once in a while. 

SB48 also prohibits material that reflects adversely on gays, which sounds a bit difficult to enforce, as a practical matter.  Most history reflects pretty badly on heterosexuals already.  Remember, it is statistically true that on average, 90% of world leaders who started the first two World Wars were rabid heterosexuals.  I hope no one is arguing that we prohibit material that reflects badly on known heterosexual, Adolph Hitler.  I am more concerned, historically, with his activities outside of the bedroom. 

Let me be clear.  There are opposing forces equally concerned with denying gays and lesbians protection under the law, and this is wrongheaded.  In Tennessee, Republican governor Bill Haslam signed H.B. 600 that prohibits cities and counties from adopting ordinances or resolutions extending nondiscrimination requirements to groups not protected by state law.  Specifically, cities and counties could not extend equal protection laws to gays, since state law did not explicitly protect them.  The new law, known as the Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act, also defines “sex” under state law as referring “only to the designation of an individual person as male or female as indicated on the individual's birth certificate.”  Chaz Bono, you are out of luck in Tennessee, but I think you already knew that anyway.

It remains to be seen if HB 600 will survive a court test.  Justice Kennedy, in the 1996 Romer v. Evans decision, addressed a similar situation correctly when he said that protection by antidiscrimination laws was not a "special right" because they protected fundamental rights already enjoyed by all other citizens. Though antidiscrimination laws "enumerated" certain groups that they protected, this merely served to put others on notice (i.e., the enumeration was merely declaratory).  In the Romer decision, the Court ruled that a Colorado state law prohibiting local governments from outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation was unconstitutional on Fourteenth Amendment equal protection grounds. 

MSNBC.com had this summary statement about the California law:  “Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco says SB48 is crucial because of the bullying that happens to gay students. Republicans called it a well-intentioned but ill-conceived bill and raised concerns that it would indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality.”  The truth, as it is in most things political, is somewhere in the middle.  I believe it is right to reject bullying and wrong define someone’s life accomplishments in terms of their sexuality, homo or hetero.

Let’s keep all this who did what to whom in the bedroom, and out of the textbooks…at least until that edgy college elective class with all the cool kids has open enrollment. 

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