Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Beyond Understanding

File this under “Inexplicables, Gender-determined.”

It’s news to no one that this crazy, mixed up world we live in is careening faster and faster out of any comprehensible orbit. As William Butler Yeats [in “The Second Coming"] famously put it “the centre cannot hold”.

Indeed, how can anything hold when so little is anchored or anchorable these days? Since the focus of this evening’s rumination has to do with gender issues, I’ll start with this little plum from today’s cnn.com post: http://inamerica.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/03/lgb-t-the-big-surprise/?hpt=hp_bn1; the article from which this excerpt was taken is entitled,
“LGB and T: The Big Surprise:

When Donna was a young man, back in high school, she was a wrestler. After a 30-year hiatus, she got back into the sport. She beat enough women half her age to place sixth in the last U.S. nationals.

As for the obvious questions - the International Olympic Committee has specific criteria for someone like Donna to qualify as a female athlete. She has met those guidelines. She has had the necessary surgeries. And she has been on hormone therapy for two years. She's a woman. And she’s determined to pin the competition.

Call it the LGBT community.

If you go to the link referenced above, Donna is the blonde in the pink dress—hard to miss.

So, here’s what I’m scratching my head about at the moment. Great effort, talent, toil, and tears are bent toward changing who we are from the surface ink of any tattoo du jour to the very criteria of what constitutes a person’s sexual identity.

And yet.

Can anyone seriously doubt the notion of ‘hard wiring’ when it comes to certain components of human gender? Sure, you can surgically excise or append, replumb, and change the hormone marinade. I’m not even taking issue with the fact that people do these things…it happens.

But juxtapose these cutting-edge [sorry] developments against the soundtrack of the latest first-person shooter game, and then tell me how much we’re able to change about ourselves.

What I’m talking about is familiar to generations of good hearted mothers who aren’t sure whether to be alarmed or complacent when their sons seem to emerge from the womb making automatic weapon noises. What the hay?!

With three sons now aged 22, 20 and 14, I’ve long since given up understanding the male fixation with warfare and annihilation. And I’m too tired to let it keep me awake. But the resiliency of the male –warfare link is staggering. I’m not ignoring the fact that many women have talents, passion, and records of military valor. It’s just that I don’t really know how to think about it all.

On the one hand, the appetite for the trappings of warfare seems insatiable. No doubt there is a biological imperative at work here to ensure that, in the bigger picture, a society is provided for and defended.

On the other hand, there is only so much mayhem and destruction any individual can absorb, and when that limit is met, handing around appears to be very hard to do.

One of the more discouraging stories I’ve read lately follows a young soldier in a Welsh Guardsman unit who completed a number of tours in Afghanistan and,against great odds, survived to return home. Despite psychiatric therapy to help him cope with the inevitable, debilitating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder he suffered, he succumbed to suicide before the age of 30, leaving a mother, sibling, and baby daughter. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2081638/Lance-Sergeant-Dan-Collins-Afghanistan-hero-bear-horrors-war-longer.html

I used to point out such accounts to my gung-ho son as cautionary tales, but it doesn’t register with him. He’d rather tell me the specs of the latest iteration of a Kalashnikov rifle, as if I cared. Ever since I first gave birth, I’ve harbored a theory that armed conflict would be considerably less probable were it the prerogative of women: what could be more antithetical than living the profound journey that results in new life and then engaging in the death and destruction of war?

Yet I know that tomorrow, when homework is done and put away, there will emanate from the downstairs man cave of the young warriors in residence a barely tolerable impersonation of a snarling Russian warlord.

And I will stir the soup.

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