I picked a hell of a time to start following politics. I’ve only been paying attention since the most recent national election cycle and I’ve seen some mind-boggling shit.
Not to pontificate like a first-year grad student, I recall giving a brief sketch of the etymologies of politics and politic—”affairs of state” and “pertaining to public life,” respectively. I did this in the context of discussing the seemingly hypocritical rebukes hurled at celebrities for expressing their political opinions.
Here are some excerpts from that post to chew on:
If we consider [the etymologies of politics and politic], why do many individuals become outraged when some high-profile celebrity decides to make a political statement? Aren’t we all entitled to our opinions, regardless of their breadth and depth, or lack thereof?
Are celebrities entitled to the same rights as ordinary citizens, namely holding and disclosing political opinions publicly for debate? Or do they exist apart for the rest of civilization, giving up their right to participate by virtue of their professions, only to view society from the peripheries?
Although initially rhetorical, considering the political mayhem that has ensued since the 20th of January, I felt these questions deserved more explicit answers.
Yesterday, in an immensely controversial decision—following much “consultation with my Generals and military experts”—President Trump banned all transgender Americans from serving in the U.S. military. I first learned of this from Facebook as many statuses voiced shock and indignation at what seems like an attack on gender rights and equality. One of the first I saw had been posted by Mark Hamill.
I thought it was a prosaic yet commendable act of solidarity with a group who has suffered and continues to suffer myriad injustices worldwide, let alone in the United States. I thought the twenty-first century would have, if not eradicated, at least pacified the bigoted and small-minded impulses of yore. Clearly not. In typical retrogressive style, Trump continues to erode the hard-won gains of LGBTQ activists, citing financial prudence rather than moral or ethical considerations. Transgender (and LGBTQ) people aren’t being condemned for what they do, they are being condemned for who they are. And now transgender people face further humiliation, for they can neither serve nor defend the country and its founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
If that isn’t enough of an outrage, just read some of the comments left to Mr. Hamill about his fairly innocuous support of the LGBTQ community. Here’s an individual of considerable fame commenting on one of the most important human rights issues of our time and he gets berated by keyboard warriors of the lowest order. Some lament the assimilation of transgender people in the military and are glad to see the policy change. Some equated transgender identity to mental illness, a vile sentiment unsubstantiated in the medical literature and reminiscent of antiquated views of homosexuality. It’s an enlightened crowd to be sure. [Lugubrious sigh.]
Another insipid comment that bothered me was punctuated with the hashtag: #justbelukeandshutup. Imagine the trap one digs when employing this type of non-argument. “Just be Luke and shut up!” One question that naturally creeps up after hearing this nonsense would be: what profession or professions permit one to publicly discuss or hold political views?
“Just be a garbage man and shut up.”
“Just be a CEO and shut up.”
“Just be a porn star and…”
Ahem. I’ve made my point.
Now and again, I wake up and realize our world is not some bad dream. It’s something worse.
It’s an alternative reality.