As technology shrinks our world, rubbing differing cultures together with the force of colliding tectonic plates, human beings are facing an overwhelming question: Is it better “to give wide freedoms to differing subcultures to live as they wish, or to assert a universal standard of rights for all?” (Don’t Allow Muslims to Shun Women,” editorial from Sweden’s Expressen reprinted in The Week, May 27, 2016, Pg 14.) Sweden with its 4% Muslim population is grappling with the question. The government has been asked to provide segregated swimming times for Muslim females in public pools. Honoring the request would set a precedent favoring segregation, so politicians are scrambling for a compromise that will preserve Middle East and western values.
But compromises aren’t always possible. Privacy in public bathrooms and gender rights is proving a challenge. One side, argues for compassion. Suicide rates among transgender people, especially the young, are “absurdly high because of the rejection they constantly face.” Those in opposition argue bathrooms are places where private behavior becomes shared, leaving some to feel vulnerable in the presence of a person who is transgender. Which side has the greater claim? (“Bathroom wars: Has Obama gone too far?”, The Week, May 27, 2016, pg. 6)
A moral argument proffered by one side seldom persuades opponents who have a moral persuasion of their own. Resolution in these cases fall to the courts or the military. Neither approach offers a permanent solution because losers never forget. They pass their discontent to succeeding generations which is why, in the America of 21st Century, we need to remind ourselves that, “Black Lives Matter.”
Personally, I don’t admire high blown sentiment and moral outrage much, though I’ve been guilty of both. Excess virtue makes the world a dreary, unforgiving place. Sin, at least, provides a little wiggle room. In a cosmos rife with change, my wonderment is that we humans can so profoundly believe we own “the truth.” Let’s be honest. What are public bathrooms to the universe?
Gloria Steinem has the right idea about the wrong of dividing people. “When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.” (My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem, Random House, 2015, pg. 44.)
*Since I wrote this blog, one town has made a decision on segregated swimming hours: (Click)