There was a Trump rally in Waterloo, Iowa yesterday. To no one’s surprise, I did not attend. I did read a couple of articles about it, however, to get a sense of what his supporters have to say.
It is inconceivable to me that any sentient human being could possibly view Donald Trump as anything but an immoral, grotesquely uninformed, demagogue, but to my (constant) dismay, his supporters are as enthusiastic as ever. Trump’s obvious deviance and proven lies have done little to nothing to dissuade his cult of followers from believing he is chosen by God to lead America.
There must be more to this, I thought to myself. There must be a thread of something rational that weaves its way from logical-minded and informed conservatives to the trigger mechanisms of QAnon, far-right wing nuts who wear t-shirts proclaiming “Trump/Kennedy 2024.”
I noted a refrain among many of the people interviewed at several Republican rallies. It was a refrain to stop “woke, liberals from destroying American values.”
One interviewee at a Trump rally said: “America has become full of sinners.” The blatant contradiction of supporting America’s Sinner in Chief cannot be lost here, but to that person the sins of liberal politics are far worse.
What is it they are afraid of?
“Woke” has become the buzzword among conservatives to identify social mores being bent too far for them from the status quo. It has become a rally cry to put everything that is contrary to past norms into a liberal agenda they believe is Hell-bent on corroding morality.
They offer no specifics as to what “woke” consciousness will actually lead to, but the fear instilled by connecting gender fluidity, for example, to signs of moral decay, which in turn, explain for them increased hostility, even crime, in America, is enough to fill their ideological pots with anger.
The other day I spoke with someone who is neither a Republican or a Democrat and he asked a question which was eye opening. He asked (I’m paraphrasing from memory): “Is there anything that’s ok to do anymore? Liberals keep telling us we can’t use this kind of soap anymore because it pollutes the environment, or we shouldn’t say that because it offends someone. Or we have to stop doing whatever because it harms something…Can’t we do anything like we used to? It seemed ok when we were kids.”
That statement stayed with me. To a lot of people, the liberal agenda is paradoxical. In the progressive mission to make things better for more people, there is a counterintuitive result that for many people is overwhelming: where does it stop?
“Will anything I used to enjoy or was part of how I just did things, be left alone?” was his closing question.
I brought these thoughts together: People who are worn out by change and people who are afraid of what change may lead to. Together they constitute a lot of Americans. Social conservatism, particularly in the last year, is on the rise even with the leader of the Republican Party being of the most corrupt moral constitution since Caligula.
The issue that reached critical mass, in my observation (and conversations), has been gender identification. Much of my evidence is anecdotal from conversations, but Pew Research revealed in 2017 that a third of Americans said, “society has gone too far in accepting transgender people.”
That does not imply that two thirds disagreed, however. Almost another third thought the attention given toward acceptance was just about right. But in the years since, people identifying as “socially conservative” has gone up. In August 2023 Gallup found that 38% of those polled were now socially conservative compared to 29% who said they were liberal. One year earlier the split was nearly 50/50.
Social issues are not just gender identification and also include economic programs and abortion but on social media forums, political magazines and articles, and from conversations on the street, I hear (to the effect): “Enough is enough! If girls become boys and boys are girls and compete against each other, and woman are only part of ‘people who can get pregnant’ then we’ve gone off the rails!”
This is an issue where many people who traditionally vote Democratic are saying: “That is too far.” And clearly those who traditionally vote Republican are fueled by anti-woke rhetoric and their base is solidified.
Nothing I say here will convince anyone who does not already embrace the concepts of gender fluidity, gender-neutral identification or transgenderism, to change their mind, but what I can offer is a way to look around the issue to render it less threatening to them.
Perhaps, just perhaps, some people currently rankled by the concepts of gender and that relationship to sexuality, could move their judgments aside and maybe, just maybe, see that there is a more general and influential issue at stake: The inalienable rights of equality.
A woman I know quite well, a genuine feminist who has fought her entire life for “women’s rights” has said she feels “erased” by the gender awareness that defines pregnancy as part of the physiology of “a person who can get pregnant” and not specifically of a woman.
In my own writing I continue to defend a “woman’s right to choose” and have not adopted the “right to choose by a ‘person who can become pregnant.’” I’ve been criticized by some who feel I’m betraying their cause, yet I feel that I would be betraying my own truth if I changed that distinction.
What should be understood on all sides of this issue is that sex and gender are not the same thing, yet have been fused in our debate.
Sex is the biological and physiological characteristic of reproductive organs, chromosomes, and hormones; the fundamental differences between two sets of reproductive beings that have been defined traditionally as Male and Female and the derivations, Man and Woman.
Gender, on the other hand, is a socially constructed concept to identify characteristics between men and women. It is not based on biology, but on social norms, and roles, typically defined from stereotypes.
There are clearly, throughout history, gradations of both sexual and gender identity. It is as natural to be fluid in both respects as it is to solidly identify with one end of each spectrum or the other. This, I believe, is where the confusion and the debate has become muddled and has led many to feel “overwhelmed.”
I have no problem stating that I am a heterosexual male and use the pronouns “he” and “him.” I identify as male in terms of physiology and most of the traditional concepts of gender. I also have no problem respecting the wish of anyone who asks to be viewed differently.
I also have no problem with a biologically assigned female identifying their gender as male. I don’t mind the emergence of uni-sex bathrooms and I think the uproar concerning biologically assigned males who identify as female and become re-assigned to be compatible with themselves and then compete in sports with other women is much ado about nothing.
It wasn’t long ago that gay marriage was the “issue” presumed by many to be destroying our moral fabric. I’m not pretending that the issue still doesn’t preoccupy a large bloc of Americans, but if we let reality into this conversation, we must ask, “What has changed?” since gay marriage became recognized. Look around. There are millions of happy gay couples, many with adopted children or have become parents from surrogates, who live with strong convictions and high moral standards.
Conservative leader Bob Vander Platts once asked, “What’s next? People marrying barnyard animals?” And yet, the incidence of bestial matrimony didn’t increase…
The Earth has remained on its axis.
I’m being anecdotal again, but my life continues with the same freedoms, the same ethical coding I’ve always lived by, even though there are people all around me asking to be identified in ways that are different from my own.
It comes down to that “inalienable right of equality.” What is freedom unless it is a realization of equality? When social mores expand that doesn’t mean moral standards diminish. To recognize any person’s right to align themselves with how, or with whom, they wish, does not lessen your own right to do the same.
In fact…when we allow our social consciousness to expand (or to be awakened), we increase our own realizations of those inalienable rights.
To do otherwise…would be a sin.