John Andrist: Searching First For Understanding

I can’t think of a single good reason why a North Carolina legislator would feel compelled to set rules for bathroom use in that state, nor why the legislature would pass the thing.

But the whole fire storm it created is even sillier, and is being compounded by everyone else.

I think Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has backed down from his reaction, the stupidest of all, to try ban all state workers from travelling to meetings in North Carolina, as if he was ordained by God to carry out some punishment.

Now the Obama administration is weighing in with punitive punishment for the mistake — both a justice department lawsuit and withholding federal funds. Ye gads!.

It is an almost impossible stretch to find any constitutional justification for any kind of federal involvement.

I’ll bet it was even a somewhat long stretch for North Carolina government to find constitutional authority to interfere in the first place.

America has been an enormously successful experiment in self-government.

In two-and-a-half centuries we have had only one revolution. Since then we had our one internal war, but I think it was as instructive as it was awful, because of the lessons we learned, and never since has there been a threat of any kind of recurrence.

We have never had to deal with such messy things as ethnic cleansing, or serious bloodshed in our streets, with the exception of the advent of terrorism, which is a plague that no nation can  seemingly avoid these days.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]I have an adult daughter who can tell me about the terror she felt through most of her life, worrying every day that someone would discover her deep down feelings about her sexuality, and what might happen if others in authority found out. Her shoes were too small for me to walk in.[/mks_pullquote]

But even since the Civil War we have undergone some wrenching mini-revolutions, which in reality might better be described as generational evolutions.

The civil rights movement was one of them. It didn’t really get under way until more than 100 years after emancipation of slave labor became law. Vestiges of Jim Crow still remain 50 years and beyond the first volleys, but little by little we are getting there.

Next in line has been the divisive gay rights movement, where we have seen a much accelerated speed of movement. Yet that movement has been complicated by the opening of attempts at transgender acceptance.

As we have opened the doors to let light shine on blacks, Latinos, Islamics, gays, transgenders, people with profound brain dysfunction and mental diseases, or anything else that makes people substantially different from ourselves, we are learning that as many as 10 percent of us may be more gay than straight .  .  . and the educated guess on transgender is about one-half of a percent.

But we don’t know for sure, because many from both groups are still hiding in a closet.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really understand gays and transgenders. How could I? I don’t know what it feels like to be gay or have a body that is different than what my brain tells me it thinks I am.

But logic tells me those folks have issues large enough so they shouldn’t be burdened with finding out what bathroom they need to use to stay out of jail when they visit another state.

I have an adult daughter who can tell me about the terror she felt through most of her life, worrying every day that someone would discover her deep down feelings about her sexuality, and what might happen if others in authority found out. Her shoes were too small for me to walk in.

But I think I understand what love and kindness and acceptance is, and it’s hard for me to close doors to the possibility that people who have genetics different than my own are unable to share those virtues most of us desire to emulate.

Our choice is between rejecting them out of hand, banishing them into a life of social isolation using the same net we use for a whole variety of genuinely evil, hate-filled people, or, commit our own lives, if not to finding approval, at least to the journey of trying to understand — leading with kindness before or until we find a need to dismiss and reject anyone who happens to belong to a group we don’t understand.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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