Think Again: Whither Common Sense?

Common Sense, the obituary noted, was preceded in death by his parents Truth and Trust, his wife Discretion, his daughter Responsibility, and his son Reason.

May 11, 2016 11:15
Common sense

Common sense. (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)

An obituary is by its very nature poignant, as it marks the passing of a unique expression of human potential. But a recent obituary in The Times was particularly so because of the universal impact of the loss.

The obituarist mourned the loss of “a beloved old friend, Common Sense.” He could give no precise date of death, as the decline had been so lengthy that few even noticed when Common Sense breathed his last. At best, the obituarist could point to markers of decline, such as bureaucratic rulings that schools are required to obtain parental consent before supplying a student with an aspirin or applying sun-tan lotion, but cannot inform parents that their minor child seeks an abortion.

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A jury award of millions of dollars in damages to a woman who purchased hot (who knew?) coffee at a drive-in, and was scalded when she drove away with the coffee on her lap was one early sign of decline.

Common Sense, the obituary noted, was preceded in death by his parents Truth and Trust, his wife Discretion, his daughter Responsibility, and his son Reason.

It is not recorded whether Common Sense had occasion prior to his demise to view a recent video in which a 5’9” Caucasian male in his mid-twenties interviews a group of University of Washington students, but it alone might have drained any remaining will to live. The interviewer successively informs the students being interviewed that he is a woman, Chinese, 6’5” tall, and seven years old. Having bought into the regnant notion that gender is purely a matter of self-definition, the students are helpless to deny any other part of the interviewer’s “narrative.”

Had Common Sense not already died, the recent brouhaha over a Charlotte, North Carolina, municipal ordinance – subsequently voided by the North Carolina legislature – declaring all city bathrooms open on the basis of one’s gender self-identification would have killed it. Transgender rights activists demand not only access to public bathrooms on the basis of gender self-identification but also to school and public locker rooms.

Allow me to ask two questions that Common Sense might have posed had he still been alive. Transgender folks, who are both biologically and anatomically male (the inversion, of course, goes the other way as well), seek to enter bathrooms and locker rooms designated for women, as an affirmation of their own self-identification as women.

Why should that external affirmation – a psychic pleasure – trump the profound discomfort of women sharing bathrooms or locker rooms with someone who is anatomically a male? Or to put it another way, why is the desire of the so-called transgendered to have their definition of gender ratified by statute so much more compelling than the desire of the majority of citizens to have traditional definitions of gender maintained? Second, why is the potential for voyeurs or even molesters to gain access to female facilities by declaring that they identify as women not a significant public safety concern? NOT EVERYBODY, it seems, finds those questions terribly difficult. The US Justice Department wrote last week to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory that both he personally and the state of North Carolina have been determined to be in violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by virtue of having signed into law a statute depriving Charlotte of the right to enact anti-discrimination statutes that either conflict with or expand upon those already enacted by the state. (Under North Carolina’s constitution, Charlotte was legally preempted from doing so even prior to the recent state legislation.) According to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, North Carolina is discriminating against transgender state employees by not allowing them to use the public bathroom of their choice.

It is safe to say that not a single legislator who voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act contemplated that it outlawed traditional men and women’s facilities. To describe the Justice Department’s theory as fanciful would be generous.

The governors of New York and Minnesota issued orders that no state employee should travel to North Carolina, a tactic previously used to pressure states not to enact Religious Freedom Restoration Act statutes patterned on the federal RFRA statute. The latter grants exemptions based on religious conscience to statutes that are facially neutral, absent the showing of a compelling state interest against such a religious exemption.

As has so often been the case recently, corporate America did not just jump on the political correctness bandwagon; it attempted to lead the parade. PayPal announced in the wake of the North Carolina statute that it was canceling plans to open a major new center in Charlotte. Curiously, PayPal’s original plans preceded the Charlotte ordinance, and all the legislature did was restore the status quo ante. Even harder to explain is the fact that PayPal does business in Muslim countries where LGBT rights are unheard of and homosexuals are subject to the death penalty.

Target, America’s second-largest chain of discount retail stores, responded to the North Carolina legislation by announcing that bathrooms in its stores would henceforth be on the basis of gender self-identification.

In response, a petition to boycott Target until it reversed its bathroom policy quickly garnered over one million signatures, and Target’s stock lost, as a consequence, approximately $2.5 billion in value.

One can only imagine Common Sense’s schadenfreude had he still been around.

DEMANDS THAT those claiming to be transgendered be allowed to use whatever bathroom or locker room they choose is part of a larger culture of victimhood. The campaign against North Carolina is premised on the minority status of transgendered people.

The smaller the minority – in this case approximately 0.3% of the population by most estimates – the greater the victimhood entitlement. The desires of transgendered (or those claiming to be such) – as victims – with respect to restrooms and locker rooms ipso facto take precedence over those of the large majority of women, for instance, who will be extremely uncomfortable sharing locker-room showers with those who are anatomically males.

The celebration of victimhood leads to weird contests to determine whose victimhood is greater. (Jews need not apply.) They remind me of Queen for a Day, a TV show of my youth, in which three contestants each told a tale of woe. Whoever’s sad story garnered more sympathy, as measured by the audience applause meter, became Queen for a Day, with all kinds of accompanying prizes.

No group has been more successful in the victimhood sweepstakes than Muslims. After every act of Muslim terrorism, the first concern of the authorities is that no one should say it has anything to do with Islam.

Islamic misogyny gets a complete pass from Western feminist groups, even as they find ever more causes for outrage at home, despite women’s growing ascendancy in higher education and the learned professions.

Homosexuals demonstrate against Israel on behalf of Islamic regimes where they would be subject to death.

It is precisely such affronts to the late Common Sense that have helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump, who, sadly, confuses anti-PC with assaults on common decency and civility.

Perhaps the one place in the Western world where Common Sense still breathes is Israel. I’m reminded of that fact every time I leave the country without having to remove my shoes and belt because someone has actually given thought to the likelihood of my blowing up the plane on which I will be flying.

The close proximity of enemies bent on our destruction creates a certain reality-testing in Israel. Western countries face many problems, some huge. But they remain for the time being affluent by all historical standards.

And citizens do not live with a sense of constant threat. In those circumstances, the intellectuals who control the universities and organs of culture, and who as a class are always alienated from their countries, are free to obsess over issues such as the most soothing public bathrooms for the transgendered.

In Israel, we do not enjoy that luxury, and are better off for it. ■

The writer is director of Jewish Media Resources, has written a regular column in The Jerusalem Post Magazine since 1997, and is the author of eight biographies of modern Jewish leaders.

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