Sexual orientation, and what became known as LGBT rights, is hotly debated in America. Four rulings between 1996 and 2015 changed the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. The Supreme Court invalidated a state law banning protected class recognition based on homosexuality; invalidated sodomy laws nationwide, denied the validity of the “Defense of Marriage Act”, and made same-sex marriage legal in America.
Nell Zink validates the direction of society’s recognition of LGBT rights in her book “Mislaid”. Zink creates four characters who illustrate how American equal rights for the LGBT community are changing. Lee, a husband, is gay. Peggy, his wife, is lesbian. Being gay or lesbian is a label implying gays only have sex with men and lesbians only have sex with women. “Mislaid” suggests that is a myth. Lee and Peggy clearly express their preference for same-sex liaisons; however, being gay or lesbian is a preference; not an inviolable mandate or predilection.
Humans may be seduced by the pleasure of sex regardless of sexual orientation. Though both Lee and Peggy are noted to have same-sex preference, they become man and wife and bare two children during their marriage. Just as the words gay and lesbian are labels, the same can be said of bisexual. Sexual acts are fundamentally gender neutral.
The disingenuous politicization of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by the governor of Florida is disgusting. The Disney corporation creates amusement parks for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
A second myth that is exploded is that the children of gay and/or lesbian parents produce sexually confused offspring. Both the son and daughter of Lee and Peggy are heterosexual. Zink implies that sexual preference is a happenstance of genetics, not parental influence. Current science and sociological studies reinforce that belief.
Love between Lee and Peggy is not part of their sexual relationship. At best, it is a partnership of circumstance and convenience. Lack of love leads to divorce when their son is nine and their daughter is three.
Lee is the dominant presence in the relationship. Lee psychologically abuses his wife with extramarital affairs and ridicule that is focused on Peggy’s unrealistic literary ambition. Peggy’s reaction is to act out by driving her husband’s favorite car into a lake and eventually leaving her husband. Peggy expects to take both of her children with her but their nine-year-old son refuses to leave; in part because of Lee’s labeling of Peggy as psychologically unbalanced (another frequently misused label).
Each child grows up in starkly different environments. The boy becomes an academic athlete at William and Mary while the girl becomes a struggling scholarship-aid student at the same school. Their independent upbringing represents two ends of the spectrum of growing up in America. One, is a life of upper middle class wealth; the other a life of poverty. One shows the privilege of being a man and the difficulty of being a woman in a world largely controlled by men.
“Mislaid” could have been a much better novel. It deals with life’s complexity very well, but fails to engross its listener in its characters. A reader/listener’s empathy is rarely tapped by a story full of potential. However, Nell Zink deftly and intelligently covers a host of subjects that warrant the time it takes for the public to read or listen to “Mislaid”. It provides a better understanding of the LGBT community. It illustrates how much more difficult it is for an American woman than an American man to raise a child on her own.
Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A young Black Man’s Education
Written by: Mychal Denzel Smith
Narrated by: Kevin R. Free
Mychal Smith’s book is difficult to listen to for a white liberal; i.e. the difficulty is more because of what Smith sees than what he does not see. The necessary truth of what Smith sees is that being black, female, homosexual, or any color but white disadvantages citizens who live, work, and love in America. Smith correctly notes that Barrack Obama did not change that truth. But, for a liberal, Smith’s criticism of Obama is heart-rending.
Smith’s expectation is superhuman. No singular person will ever unwind history’s discrimination. Obama is an extraordinary human being by any standard of measurement. That Obama is black and became the first black president of the United States proves being human is the best one can be. Martin Luther King’s “arc of justice” still bends toward freedom and equal opportunity for all; despite the world’s, let alone Obama’s, failings.
The nature of humankind is an evolutionary work in progress. Sadly, evolution is a chancy proposition that moves human nature both backward and forward. Maybe, humanity will never get to a state of freedom and equal opportunity, but Obama’s “audacity of hope” is better than anger, and fear.
Smith cites Malcolm X as his ideal of black resistance but fails to note that Mr. Little evolved to believe separate but equal is a fiction. Malcolm X broke from the Nation of Islam because of its belief in Black separatism and superiority. Malcolm X’s life experience and intelligence led him to believe all people are human beings.
In being human, there is good and bad in every race, color, and creed. None of this denies Smith’s recognition of the questionable murder of Trayvon Martin, or the Jena Six debacle in Jena, Louisiana where a white high school student is beaten by five black teenagers. Both incidents are riven with racial hatred, lack of justice, and human failing.
Smith gravitates to violent lyrics to say the anger of rap artists appeals to his inner frustration. Smith recounts the considered statements of Kanye West when President Bush fails to conscientiously respond to the Katrina disaster in New Orleans. (West suggested Bush did not care about black people.) Ironically, Kanya West appears to support President-Elect Donald Trump who was sued for discrimination under the fair housing laws of the United States.
There are many incidents that Smith recognizes as the failure of white America to treat minorities fairly. At the same time, Smith is introspective in acknowledging some of his own human failings. He writes of his fears, his desire to be a great writer, and his earlier life failure to understand how important women’s rights are in the black community. He writes of his father’s concern over his sexuality and how gender discrimination has some of the same hatred, lack of justice, and human failing as black discrimination.
Listening to Mychal Denzel Smith is difficult because his observations explain why he, if not most, black Americans are disgusted with white America. It makes a white person feel guilty because white Americans are the majority; and, as a majority, white (particularly male) America has the bulk of the country’s money, power, and prestige. Until all people are humans first, there seems little reason to believe there is much hope for the “arc of justice” to bend toward freedom and equal opportunity for all.
Hope is not enough for black American’s suffering today. That is Mychal Smith’s message–too many blacks are being murdered; too many blacks are denied equal opportunity; too many blacks are jailed, and too many black families are broken.
What Smith fails to fairly acknowledge is who is at fault. All of us share the blame. Human beings must recognize the humanity of all human beings. If evolution is not the answer, then human will (in a Nietzschean sense) must come to America’s aid.
America is on the threshold of the largest tax change since Ronald Reagan’s presidency. If past is prologue, trickle down economics will not work, the deficit will rise, and the poorest will be victimized. The genesis of the delusion of trickle down economics comes from interpretations of a modern Machiavelli.
Ludwig von Mises is a twentieth century Machiavelli. This near 48-hour audio book details a theory of economics that will offend modern liberals, expose weakness of libertarians, and vilify the new American President’s nationalist policies. The venality of treating government as a business is a mistake of monumental proportion.
Approaching von Mises as a devil incarnate is unfair. His beliefs are pilloried by today’s liberals as loudly as aristocrats and rulers vilified Machiavelli in the 16th century. Like Machiavelli, von Mises looks at the world as it is; not as it ought to be. His observations cut at modern liberal, as well as anarchic, views of highly regarded liberals like Ralph Nader, Martin Luther King, Norm Chomsky, and alleged conservatives-like President Trump.
In von Mises book, Roosevelt’s New Deal is vilified. Additionally, von Mises vociferously disagrees with the liberal John Maynard Keynes’s
economic interventionist creed. Ironically, Donald Trump may be the most interventionist President since FDR with a scatter brained economic plan that von Mises would equally vilify.
Von Mises observations have historical credibility. What they do not have is social conscience. In fact, he suggests social conscience is a fiction perpetrated by populists to distort the value of capitalist economies. Like Machiavelli, von Mises observes the nature of human beings, and recognizes their inherent irrationality and moral weakness. Von Mises illustrates numerous examples of human irrationality; beginning with market consumption, and ending with entrepreneurial ambition. Donald Trump exemplifies von Mises argument that humans are irrational, greedy, power-hungry, and vain. For President Trump to believe taxing imports by 20% makes Mexico pay for a useless five-billion-dollar wall is absurd. The American consumer will pay for that wall in increased cost of Mexican produce and manufactured goods.
Von Mises criticizes famous economists like David Ricardo for introducing politics into economics. Von Mises argues that the drive for money, power, and prestige are inherent in an entrepreneurial capitalist system. Von Mises argues that government officials who profess social conscience distort free enterprise by picking winners and losers. When politicians pass legislation that aids one entrepreneur over another, it distorts the driving force of capitalist economies. He equally vilifies government leaders who impose tariffs on international trade. Von Mises explains that the fallacy of government leaders who pass favoring legislation is that the real mover of the economy is the consumer; not the producer.
The logical extension of von Mises’ theory is that any government planning or action that affects an entrepreneur’s willingness to take a risk to produce product, or service a customer’s perceived needs, is bad for society. To von Mises, efforts to organize labor is an interference with capitalist entrepreneurs because labor is not taking a risk. Von Mises argues that labor costs will find its own level by being an automated tool of the entrepreneur; subject to hunger and deprivation if they choose not to participate. Von Mises point is that the entrepreneur will pay what he/she must to have labor available, but no more than what the end-product consumer is willing to pay. Von Mises believes labor has a choice. They can work for low wages or remain idle. The fallacy of that argument is the inherent unfairness of not having enough income to live creates revolutionary discontent.
Unions offer a vehicle for leveling the power between businesses and labor. To not allow unionization is tantamount to favoring businesses that are no longer competitive but are today recognized as an economic equivalent of individuals. Not to give unions a place “at the table” is morally, ethically, and economically unfair; particularly in industries that are no longer entrepreneurial.
Another von Mises’ observational theory is that government policy should have no role in subsidizing new inventions, new drugs, the ecology of the world, or the elimination of slavery because such policies interfere with pure capitalism. This reinforces absurdist arguments of libertarians.
American creativity has historically been benefited by government subsidization of technological advances. (President Putin noted in a 60 Minutes’ interview that creativity is his most admired quality in the American economy.) The speed of improvements in health, education, and welfare historically increased with government subsidization of drug research, public education, and the energy industry.
The fallacy of von Mises’ theory lies in the framework of theorists. It ignores human existence by hiding behind the unquantifiable nature of society. One may argue that America’s Civil War had nothing to do with the elimination of slavery. (Von Mises suggests that slavery was abolished because it became too expensive; not because it was morally and ethically reprehensible.) One may argue that Roosevelt’s New Deal was a failure. One may argue that the Marshall Plan after WWII rewarded failed nations. One may argue that George Bush’s and Barrack Obama’s decisions to bail out the American economy interfered with pure capitalism. History suggests von Mises is wrong. Government intervention can be good as well as bad. (Bush unilaterally agreed to lend $17.4 billion of taxpayers’ money to General Motors and Chrysler, of which $13.4 billion was to be extended immediately.)
Von Mises lived into the 1970 s. How could he ignore the moral and ethical iniquity of slavery, the value of the Marshall Plan, government subsidization of the American banking system, financial incentives for the energy industry, and the billions spent to advance technological inventions? Those are good examples of government intervention. On the other hand, building a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and levying a 20% import tax is a bad government intervention.
American capitalism works because of the checks and balances written in the Constitution. Von Mises theory is based on valid observations but social conscience, whether statistically measurable or not, must be a part of decisions that affect the lives of millions. Mistakes will be made, and have been made, but economic statistics cannot be substituted for pragmatism.
This is a story for those who have reached a certain age. Though written by a man, it is narrated by a woman. In some respects, that is a weakness. Having been written by a man, it may distort the measure of a woman’s life. However, Jonathan Evison offers an excellent representation of what life and death looks like to a man. The mistakes some men make in life are legion, both as a parent and husband.
Evison speculates on an afterlife that says humans either die into nothingness or go to a place of peace and reconciliation. Those are the only options in Evison’s story.
The options are extreme but can be ameliorated by a gate keeper’s decisions about life’s led. However, if you violate rules for a personal appearance to those left behind, you are doomed to the first extremity, nothingness. Evison’s husband’ and father’ character chooses to violate the rules; in part because of his many guilt’s for living a selfish life. It seems a penance he must pay to his wife, mistress, and children.
What makes Evison’s story good is the truth of what foolish, selfish men do in their lives. Though life is ephemeral; either temporal or spiritual, many mistakes are made, both moral and ethical.
Harvey Weinstein charged with rape and sexual misconduct on May 25th 2018.
There is the horrid obsession of men with little girls described in Nabokov’s “Lolita”. There is the vacuous life of Richard Ford’s main character in “The Sportswriter”.
There is Russell Banks’ depiction of a morally bankrupt man/boy who prostitutes himself in “Lost Memory of Skin”.
Putting aside these extreme examples, Evison tells a story of the more common variety of male transgressions. His observations ring true to listeners of a certain age.
Most men will see themselves in aspects of Evison’s story; not the extremes of Nabokov, Ford, and Banks but less than what a moral person should be.
Men who cheat on their wives. Men who use work as an excuse for family neglect. Men who fail to take responsibility for helping raise their children. Men who demean their wives because they undervalue their contribution to life’s fulfillment. Men who neglect their wives because of self-absorption.
Evison notes many faults in the lives of women in his story but having been written by a man, his objectivity is suspect. On the other hand, women do cheat on their husbands. Women do neglect their children. Women do drink out of boredom with house work and social isolation. Women do demean their husbands because they undervalue their contribution to life’s fulfillment. Women do neglect their husbands because of self-absorption.
Joe Biden (Candidate for President of the United States.)
Evison touches every human being’s faults in “This is Your Life, Harriet Chance”. No one is exempt from human failing.
Being of a certain age makes Evison’s story enlightening and entertaining. Enlightening because a listener knows they are not alone. Entertaining because a listener will enjoy Evison’s perspective on life’s journey.
Jack Holland (Irish writer, Born 1947, Died 2004.)
This quarters’ “Foreign Affairs” argues misogyny is rising in the world with newly elected autocrats. It cites rising misogyny in Brazil, India, Poland, Honduras, Mexico, Turkey, and the U.S. in a lean toward authoritarian and antidemocratic policies. “Foreign Affairs” leading article suggests “…women’s political and economic empowerment is now stalling or declining around the world”.
Undoubtedly, sexual depredation began before recorded time, but misogyny became institutionalized with the written word.
The mystery is what has taken so long for American misogyny to be recognized. The mystery is explained in Jack Holland’s “Misogyny, The World’s Oldest Prejudice”. Misogyny appears when history is first recorded. Misogyny is perpetuated by religion, society, and government.
From men who are Presidents to business moguls to famous newscasters, misogyny grows like a cancer.
(Past accusers of President Trump.)
E. Jean Carroll–Latest accuser of President Trump’s past behavior.
A woman’s rights have been a moving target since the beginning of time; or at least since the beginning of recorded “history”. Jack Holland tracks “The World’s Oldest Prejudice”, misogyny.
Holland’s conflation of Nazism with societal misogyny seems misplaced except in comparison to Nazism’s institutionalization of discrimination. The evidence and truth of women’s domination, abuse, and murder by men is solid. Holland recounts government practices, religious doctrines, philosophical treatises, science errors, and corroborated historical events that confirm institutionalization of misogyny.
Misogyny is in the news today with accusations against Presidents, several newscasters, aspiring and existing politicians, film producers, and business leaders.
As far back as the oldest laws of government written by a Sumerian King in 2,050 BC, women have been singled out with human rights’ violations. An example is the King’s law that particularly applies to women who speak insolently. They are to have their mouths scoured with salt; i.e. a law applying only to women slaves. Of course the law begs the question of why women are slaves.
All major religions are patriarchal. Each has a history of misogyny that lives through to today.
Beginning with the book of Genesis in the Christian Bible, women come from man; not as a singular human being but as an adjunct of man, a mere rib. In Genesis 3:16, women are burdened and subservient to men from the beginning. “Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”.
In the Ten Commandments, wives are treated as property to men. Holland cites Apostle Paul as a harbinger of doom for women. His doctrinal preaching perpetuates misogyny. Apostle Paul implies women are seductresses because of men’s earthly desires.
Men are advised to focus on the spiritual to avoid sin and assure their passage to heaven. By separating humanity and spirituality, Holland argues Apostle Paul implies women and bodily pleasure are a principal source of sin. Female genital mutilation is condoned in this view of human sin.
Holland notes that in the Torah (Jewish doctrine), women are unclean twice as long for birthing daughters rather than sons. Further, the Torah explains that women who are raped in the city should be stoned to death, and if raped in the country, required to marry their rapist. The fault for being raped is assigned to women rather than men. Some conservative Jewish sects pray to God that they are not given daughters; additionally, they thank God for not being born a woman.
(Exodus 21:3-4 Says that if a male slave is given a wife by his master (regardless of how long they are wed, how much they love each other or if they have kids) he can not leave servanthood with his wife or children. The woman and children are merely property of the master and their personal happiness or sanctity of family doesn’t matter.)
In the Qur’an (Islam’s holy book), women are less valuable and inferior to men. In paragraph 4:34 “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other.” In Islam’s Sharia law, women are generally guilty of their own rape and are to be stoned to death or immolated. There are exceptions but proof is an onerous exercise in futility. As witnesses to rape, Holland notes a victim must find 4 men to corroborate a woman’s testimony or she is considered untruthful, guilty, and subject to punishment or death.
Holland argues that Sharia law denies women the right to an education. (Islamic scholars disagree.) If true, just as the American south feared education of slaves, the Islamic religion fears the education of women. With education, women are bound to seek a better life with more freedom and less domination.
Holland reaches back to ancient Greek philosophers to note that both Plato and Aristotle believe women are afflicted with natural defectiveness. To Plato, that defect is implied in “The Republic” when children are to be taken from their mothers to be educated by the state; independent of a mother’s influence. To Aristotle, women’s defect is in his concept of forms. Women either have no soul or essence that allows for perfect form. Women are mere vessels for the birth of children that come from an essence provided by the sperm of men. Aristotle argues women are subject to men and are, at best, “deformed males”.
Holland notes later philosophers like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche carry misogyny forward. Schopenhauer argues that women have meager reasoning ability. To Schopenhauer, women’s lack of reason and abundant sensuality cause chaos and disruption. Nietzsche has a similar view of women. Nietzsche views women as vixens that need to be controlled; not helpmates, independent humans, or equals to men.
Science luminaries also feed the misogynist credo. Darwin suggests women are not as fully evolved as men. Freud creates myths of penis envy and mental dysfunction from normal female physiological conditions. Holland also addresses the misconception of the “blank slate” in science as noted by Stephen Pinker, a modern-day psychologist.
As Pinker notes, fifty percent of who we are, male or female, is determined by genetics. We are not blank slates. There are common genetic inheritances that interact with the environment as we mature. However, each human reacts to incidents in the world in their own unique way. Human beings, whether male or female, react differently to the same incidents based, in part, on their genetic inheritance.
Women and men are different but equal based on a combination of nature and nurture. A truth in science is that the energy producers of life (mitochondrial DNA) come solely from mothers, not fathers. This is quite a contrast to Aristotle’s theory of women as mere vessels of birth. It is a surprise that there are not more misandrists than misogynists.
Holland recounts several horrific misogynistic events from history and modern times. A major event in the 15th to 18th century were the witch trials. Tens of thousands of accused witches were tortured and burned at the stake in Europe. The most famous in America were the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. An estimated 80 women were tried in New England with 20 executed and 5 who die in prison.
A NYT’s headline on 3.17.21 shows a Turkish woman battered by her husband. Misogyny is not unique to any country, culture, or religion. Misogyny is a world-wide heart rending tragedy.
Though witch trials and executions are in the past, modern-day Middle East and Eastern countries have trials for women that are raped, tortured, and mutilated for failing to follow religious and cultural norms established by male dominated governments.
Holland delves into the rise of Nazism and suggests the idea of the super race are contributors to misogynist beliefs. To some extent that may be true but Hitler’s primary objective is to create a straw man for the ills of Germany. The straw man became the Jews; i.e. the alleged source of all that is wrong with the world. Nazism had much less to do with belief that women are the inferior of men. As Holland points out, Hitler was widely supported by German women.
Hitler’s asexual revolution had little to do with the degradation of women but more to do with the myth of the “other” that is meant to roil and consolidate the masses in defense of a new order. Sexual allure and male domination of women is the least of Hitler’s interests. Experiments on women in concentration camps is a predilection of demented interests of Nazi doctors; not because of belief in misogyny, but belief in a final solution that will create a super race.
Hitler’s relevance to the subject of misogyny is in the creation of an “other”. To a misogynist, the “other” is women for men who succumb to the fiction of male superiority. To the misogynist, women become the source of men’s problems rather than their helpmates or equals.
Misogyny is a cancer in the world’s body politic. Regulated freedom and equal opportunity are its cure. The diversity of human life demands equal opportunity for all. This does not mean everyone is equal but that each should be able to achieve what they are capable of achieving. Regulated freedom is a necessity because all human beings are motivated by money, power, and prestige; each of which can lead to greed, corruption, and hubris. All human beings are subject to the same vices. All men and women should have an equal right to say yes or no to greed, corruption, and hubris. Holland’s point is that women do not have the same rights as men because of centuries of cultural bias.