Some Things That I Know Are True And Think Others Should Know, Too
A gentle reader chided me over my column about things that annoy me. Among other annoyances, I wrote about professional athletes with unkempt hair and beards and about women who wear expensive jeans with rips and tears in them. The reader reminded me that people have every right to their grooming and fashion preferences, despite my curmudgeonly views. The more I thought about it the more I had to allow my thinking to slide towards her side of the spectrum – but not all the way.
I remembered a phrase I learned in Latin II back in high school: De gustibus non disputandum est,“in matters of taste there can be no dispute.” In fact, that phrase embodied two different fashion statements that comprised my all male high school. One group, “the greasers,” wore draped pants, wide at the knee and very narrow at the cuffs. Also they wore their heavily pomaded hair long, culminating in the back of the head in a duck’s tail. The other group “The Pat Boones” wore gray flannel slacks, white bucks, and crew neck sweaters. There was some friendly kidding between the alternative fashion statements, but we co-existed peacefully without degenerating into the bitterness between the Sharks and the Jets in “West Side Story.”
But what happens when the irresistible force of personal taste runs into the immovable object of common sense? At that point who or what becomes the arbitrator?
Merriam-Webster defines Common Sense as: “sound judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”. I like the Urban Dictionary definition better: “Common sense is what I think others should know.”That is not as arbitrarily self-serving as it seems. There are certain things that universally defy common sense. Jim Croce put it as succinctly as anyone could: “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape/You don’t spit into the wind/You don’t pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger/And you don’t mess around with Jim.”
Take the controversy over gender identity. The whole kerfuffle among progressives about gender nonspecific pronouns and rulings that transgendered persons can use any bathroom they choose seems to be a force five hurricane in a teacup. Using the Urban Dictionary standard, I know there are two biological genders and I think others should know that, too. If a person is truly transgendered, been through re-assignment surgery, then he/she should be able to use the bathroom of their new gender. If they haven’t had the surgery, and just feel like being the sex they’re not, they should use the bathroom that identifies with their parts. A healthy teen-age male who says “I feel like being a girl today” should not be allowed to use the girl’s locker room. I know this and I think others should know it too.
H.L. Menken wrote that “Moral values change too often to have much validity or interest; what is virtue today is a sin tomorrow.” As much as I admire my prototypical curmudgeon I could not disagree with him more. Morality doesn’t change – only our perception of it changes. If morality changed there would be no morality.
This past week I watched two TV shows where young unmarried women were pregnant. When someone expressed dismay or disapproval they were told: “Wake up. This is the 21st century.” Two separate shows with almost the same dialogue line. God (morality) is not like a Dodger fan that leaves the game in the seventh inning to avoid traffic out of Chavez Ravine. He crossed into the new century along with the rest of us. In fact, many would say He was there ahead of us.
Situational ethics is not a new concept. When we want something bad enough we’ll lower our standards to get it. Our reasoning goes something like this: “Everybody else is doing it,” or “If I don’t … someone else will.” How far are we willing to go to move our moral compass for a buck? Think cannabis dispensaries.
What else do I know? I know you shouldn’t try to breathe underwater; I know men wearing baseball caps at the table while dining at home or in a restaurant are disrespectful; I know people who don’t read are no better off than people who can’t read; I know expensive designer jeans with pre-cut rips and tears in them look ridiculous and I think others should know these things, too.
If you are wondering how I went from a “gentle chiding” about my opinions to Latin II and matters of taste, to H.L. Menken to God attending Dodger games, to situational ethics – well so am I. It is one of the most fun things about writing an essay-type column. Aldous Huxley defines essays as, “a literary device for saying almost everything about almost anything.” I know this and think others should know it, too.
Contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org