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Many years ago I went through the usual evolution for a young American of my age and class, discovering that there was a great deal of injustice and warmongering in the world and pledging myself to do something about it. That lasted through senior year of high school and for about six months of college. At university the professional liberals were a powerful clique run, ironically enough, by a group of dilettantes who were always talking about class and race even though they were all white and came from wealthy families. If any of them had ever had to work for a living like the people they were pretending to help they would have quit the first time they got their hands dirty. They were also profoundly humorless and sanctimonious to a degree that was very sixty-ish and is sometimes hard to imagine these days, radiating a sense of preening self-satisfaction that would astonish the Cheshire cat.
So I decided early on in college that I had to do something different. Influenced by friends who were going through a similar transition, I began to call myself a conservative even though I didn’t know what the word meant and I found Barry Goldwater indigestible. I did, however, admire William F. Buckley’s vocabulary. By the time I was a senior and the liberal intelligentsia had occupied the school administration building fourth floor to protest Vietnam I was pretty hard core Republican. I joined with a fraternity brother down below. Every time a window would be opened and a head would pop out we would yell in unison “Jump! Jump! We’ll catch you!” Alas, they didn’t trust us to do so.
But then came my time in the Army followed by many years with CIA. My belief that either those who called themselves conservatives or Republicans were any more sensible than liberals evaporated though I did note that Republicans dressed better, drove nicer cars and were in general more hygienic. More recently, frequently arguing against Israel’s role in U.S. foreign policy, I have tended to cooperate with multiple variations on progressives and self-styled conservatives, generally without much friction, but occasionally something out of the past really rings my bell.
I have to confess that I cringe when I hear the word Ferguson and I have assiduously tried to ignore immigration amnesty advocates, Black Lives Matter and the whole LGBT bathroom controversy coming from the left as well as the Second Amendment crowd, Truthers and global warming deniers coming from the right but this past week proved to be a bit too much. I was reading about the Gretchen Carlson sexual harassment lawsuit against the revolting Roger Ailes of Fox news, concerning claims inter alia that the rotund and unpalatable Ailes had demeaned and sexually propositioned ex-Miss America Carlson and then fired her when she refused to be cooperative. It was an oft-repeated tale which I have witnessed in numerous television dramas so I skimmed through the story until I discovered something astonishing. Carlson, it seems, was “objectified” while working at Fox.
My normal bullshit in the media sensors were clearly not fully operational, possibly having burned out during the previous week when I had suffered through a lengthy article describing how someone was not hired for a job because of “ageism,” but this “objectification” was clearly something new and exciting. I went back to the beginning of the article and read it more carefully to see if I could find out what it was. Yes, it turns out that being objectified is a new grievance that can be exploited against Caucasian male domination. The article elaborates: “At one point in the video…[Fox & Friends co-host Steve] Doocy asks Carlson if she learned a certain journalism skill at another ‘Broad-casting’ gig. Not to be outdone, Brian Kilmeade calls Carlson a ‘skirt’ from the other side of the couch, and admits he should probably re-read Human Resource’s sexual harassment policies. Even guests have gotten in on the action by complimenting her appearance, or commenting on her clothing. Colleagues also used words like ‘cute’ and ‘hot’ to describe her physical appearance.”
Admittedly the crude comments are pretty revolting but they reveal that being objectified is to be turned into an object, in this case a sex object. One might note, however, that Carlson, whose road to fame included her posing in a swimsuit, could possibly owe her prominent position at Fox to her undeniable attractiveness. She also may have moved quickly up the corporate ladder due to her appearance, success that can in part be due to to her having been objectified.
Wondering if objectification is a recognized social phenomenon, I consulted a reliable source. Merriam-Webster has a definition for “objectify” which is “to treat (someone) as an object rather than as a person.” It did not add that objectification is apparently grounds for a lawsuit in today’s America. I wondered if I could find other examples of the consequences of people being objectified but could not and have to wonder if it can also be applied to ethnic or racial minorities or believers in different religions. Is the frequently heard and to my mind highly offensive “raghead” when referring to an Arab objectification? Or did it apply when I was growing up Catholic and was referred to as a “mackerel snapper” because we ate fish on Fridays? I don’t know and will leave that to the experts.
I might have survived the objectified controversy but was soon subjected to another bit of social justice lunacy. There is apparently a powerful movement afoot among the no-gender-in-anything crowd to replace the venerable gender specific singular pronouns “he” and “she” with sexually neutral but normally plural “they.” The debate over the pronouns was recently discussed in a Huffington Post piece entitled “It’s Time to Embrace the Singular ‘They:’ A Humanistic Pronoun,” written by the appropriately named Maddie Crum, the “Cultural Editor” for Huffpost (honest, I am not making this up!)
Corporate America and many in academia have long embraced using a form of “they” in grammatically challenged sentences like “Everyone is entitled to their opinion” but Crum goes much farther than that, providing as an example of her preferred usage “My friend ate a bagel. They beamed with perfect joy.” She never quite explains why “they” singular is “humanistic” but she describes the proposed ascendancy of “they” as the linguistic equivalent of “tearing down gendered bathroom signs” and eliminating other “dividers and stand between men, women and people who identify as non-binary.” One commenter on her piece refers to the emergence of an “identity-sensitive lexicon.” And for those who still doubt, Crum notes that the “verbally gracious” singular “they” was awarded the “Word of the Year” prize by the world renowned American Dialect Society! Crum also observes sagaciously that using “they” instead of the sexist pronouns provides anonymity on the internet.
I usually write about foreign policy and boring stuff like that but for the moment I cannot think of anything more empowering to the human race than changing a singular pronoun to a plural pronoun and then pretending that the plural pronoun is actually singular. Unless it’s being objectified and going to court seeking damages for sexual harassment.
Seriously folks, is there any end to this nonsensical victimhood culture where everyone has a grievance that can be pursued? In the old days you could flee north to the Yukon territory and build a cabin to hide in but today Canadians probably have an excess of this sort of thing too, possibly even worse than here as they suffer from the social justice bug even more than we Americans do. I feel like I am back in high school in New Jersey with all the smart people embracing causes that they neither understood nor really believed in just to be relevant and feel good about themselves. But today if I were a teacher and a student used “they” as a singular pronoun it would merit an “F.” If someone were to complain to me about being “objectified” I would tell them to “Get the hell out of here.”