Total Pageviews

Friday, January 20, 2017

Careful What You Wish For: Making Trump an “Illegitimate President”

I’m writing this on Friday, January 20th, the day Donald John Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.  That fact has caused a lot of anxiety in this country.

There’s a great following suddenly for the idea that Representative John Lewis so casually mentioned in a recent NBC interview with Chuck Todd in which he identified Donald Trump as not a “legitimate president” because his election was corrupted by Russian thumbs leaning heavily on the electoral scale.  That’s a very seductive idea for those of us (me included) who are disturbed by the idea of the United States of America being led by someone who has the impulses of a five year old and the attention span of a puppy. 

“OH HELL, YES!” I want to shout.  If only enough people can rise up and proclaim Donald Trump’s so-called “presidency” not real, then—hallelujah!—our national nightmare is over!!!  We aren’t, after all, going to all be merely collateral damage as he alienates first this group, and the next group, and ruins health care, and civil rights, and destroys the environment beyond saving, and pokes other countries until they bristle at his hamhanded attempts to bully them until he’s finally forced to sit the nuclear football down on his lap and begin experimenting with the buttons.

I think all of those things are very, very possible.  The coming nightmare is no dream at all.

But . . .  (deep breath here) . . . but I also think that what John Lewis said and that others are so anxious to embrace is far more dangerous than the presidency of Donald John Trump.  Saying Trump is “illegitimate” is easy; implementing the idea is impossible.

Bear with me as I explain why. 

In the bestselling book “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, the author draws a distinction between “facts” and “myths.”  A tree is a fact, but when I say I live in Columbus, Ohio, in the United States of America, that is, in his words, a myth.  Columbus is just a story the people who live around here tell ourselves, but if we quit believing in the City of Columbus, it would disappear.  Yes, the buildings would still be standing, but the ideas that makes it “Columbus” would not.  This is equally true of the “State of Ohio” and the country called the “United States of America.”  That country, in turn, bases its existence on a government run by our Constitution, which is the bedrock of the whole system.  That document is also just a story that we all agree to believe in, or, perhaps more accurately, a contract which we have impliedly made.

Donald Trump has been elected through a process dictated by that Constitution, and today, in front of the major government officials (including his outgoing predecessor) and with the whole world watching, he swore an oath to uphold that Constitution.  This peaceful transfer of power is an American invention, a major development in the history of the world, something now imitated in country after country.

But the whole thing only works if we all agree that it works.  If Lewis’ view prevails and Trump’s presidency is “illegitimate,” well . . . then, what?  The Constitution has made him our president.  The only path it provides for his removal is impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  During the next four years he may commit such crimes, but until he does and that process is triggered, he is still the president.

What would Lewis and adherents of his view have us do?  There is no mechanism for his removal other than impeachment.  Should we nonetheless ignore the Constitution—quit “believing” in it?  Storm the White House and take Trump out by force?  A pitched battle that would pit anti-Trumpers against pro-Trumpers (and the United States military)?  Anarchy?  Civil war? 

Does anyone . . . anyone  . . . think that’s a good idea?

John Lewis is an admirable man, one of the greats of the civil rights movement, and his words should count for something when he speaks so seriously.  But the idea that we can just deem our president “illegitimate” and therefore not recognize him as the head of our government is also a rejection of that government.  It took us a long time to create the world’s first sustainable democracy, but if enough people stop believing in how it works, it will cease to exist.  In the words of King Lear “That way madness lies.”

I hate Donald Trump.  I think he’s likely to quickly prove to be the worst president this country has ever had, and that it was a major mistake to put him in office.  But he’s in that office now.  He’s the President of the United States, and it’s important that that fact be clear in all our minds, like it or not.  Trump is my president and, if you’re a citizen of the United States, yours too.  If you’re going to battle the asshole, do it legally.  Protest his policies and actions, not his office.  I’ll join you in that.

Upside Down Flag: Symbol of Distress

Related Posts:
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

“President Preposterous: Donald Takes the Helm,” November 14, 2016;

“Calm Yourself: What Trump Can and Cannot Do About LGBT Rights,” November 16, 2016;

Saturday, January 14, 2017

I’ve Published an Article!

I’m pleased to say that I’ve had a small article published in a magazine, and have just received a copy of the relevant issue in the mail.  The magazine is Free Inquiry, February/March 2017, Vol. 37, No. 2.  The article is at page 54 in a segment labeled “Humanism at Large,” and is entitled “Creating the Bible: Water Into Wine.”  This piece of whimsy, taken from a prior blog post of mine, speculates how the authors of the Bible could have come up with the famous story from John 2 in which Jesus goes to a wedding and helps the host out with a wine shortage.

I was thrilled when Tom Flynn, the editor of Free Inquiry, told me he would publish this piece.  The little blurb about me at the end mentions that I am the author of an atheist thriller “Imaginary Friend,” the novel I published some years ago and that has sold rather well.  It’s available on Amazon, and the first three chapters of that work can be read in the blog posts mentioned below.

In any event, here is a jpg of the article as published (click to enlarge).  My very similar blog post can be found at “Creating the Bible: Wine Into Water,” April 7, 2013;

I'm particularly pleased by the artwork of the wine skin and grapes added to my little story.  It's perfect!

Related Posts:
“Explosion at Ohio Stadium” (Chapter One of “Imaginary Friend”), October 9, 2010;
“Escape From Ohio Stadium” (Chapter Two), November 2, 2010;
“Open Mike, Insert Foot,” (Chapter 3), November 9, 2010;

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Questions To Ask a Homophobe

Socrates----Jay Lawrence Westbrook
Socrates arrived at the truth by asking those he was conversing with a series of questions until all was revealed.  Using the Socratic method in my law school classrooms for the last 47 years has been good training for arriving at the same goal: finding the best answer.  But above that, when I was in law school myself, my roommate was the great Jay Lawrence Westbrook, now a Professor of Law at the University of Texas and a world renowned figure in international bankruptcy law.  When I was in my 20s he taught me a fundamental rule of arguments: at the very heart of any dispute is one central fact of disagreement.  One.  Everything else is just noise—static.  Therefore to arrive at the crux of what’s really going on you have to get rid of the many things that are not at issue and find that one thing that is.

Years ago when I was teaching law full time at OSU I gave a noon brown bag talk at the school on the issue of gay marriage.  When I asked for questions, one student (who I knew and liked from my Commercial Law class) raised his hand, and said, “Well, Professor, it all sounds good but you’ll never convince me that gay marriage is right.”  Hmm.  I started using Jay’s process to locate the one basic thing he and I disagreed on.  Was marriage important to society?  Yes, of course, he very much thought so.  Is it in society’s interest to stabilize loving relationships? Yes.  In this manner we explored the very real problems that unmarried couples can have (losing the house to inheritance taxes, for example, no visitation rights in hospitals, being cut off from attending the partner’s funeral, not getting health benefits, legal difficulties arising from the children the couples have), and I realized that the student was getting closer to having to say what was really our real point of disagreement: he didn’t think homosexuals should have the same rights as other people. Why not?  Okay, he “just didn’t like homosexuals,” he finally admitted.   Ah, but why not?  More questions brought us to the  real problem: the thought of gay sex repulsed him. Normally I wouldn’t push a student to such a statement, but in a public discussion of gay marriage where he’d challenged me, I did make him say it aloud. As he did so he was glowering at me, furious, and perhaps I should be sorry I’d forced him to paint himself into that uncomfortable corner. Hmm. At least his admission was now on the table for all to stare at and ponder, and the lecture on gay marriage had revealed the very core of the dispute. For how many lectures is that true?

I did give him one small comfort.  I told him I knew some gay people who were themselves repulsed by the idea of what straights do in bed  (“Eew!  A man touching a woman’s privates!”).  If these heterophobic gays were in the voting majority and thus made the rules, would prohibitions against straight marriages be permissible?  He didn’t comment, our session timed out, and we all went off to other classes.

For two decades I joined the front ranks battling for gay rights in Columbus, Ohio, and those experiences were most informative.  On multiple occasions in the 80’s and 90’s I was on late night call-in radio shows for periods that were sometimes four hours long!  The callers were often supportive of gay rights, but the really interesting calls were from people who loathed homosexuals and were willing to take me on.  Sometimes (rarely) callers were themselves trained in these battles and thus wouldn’t really argue at all.  They’d just mouth slogans, and no interchange, no dialogue, no movement was possible.  But mostly those who called the station were sincere people whose dislike of homosexuals was based on religious training or common social assumptions (“gays molest children”), and if they’d talk with me some progress could be made. 

The same bald assertions and false premises came up over and over.  Here’s the list and how I’ve learned to respond:

1.  Being Gay Is a Choice

Gays all know this one is wrong.  Ask my husband, for example.  He was routinely bullied and beaten up more or less every day in both elementary and high school, being called “faggot” as early as the first grade.  “They didn’t know what it meant and I didn’t know what it meant,” he says, “but we all knew it was something impossibly bad to be.”  Did this gentle, unassuming boy choose such a horrific life?  Are all LGBT people bonkers because they too made such a ludicrous choice?

When people assert this “choice” in our conversations, I smile and say to them, “Oh, yes!  And I’m sure you remember that big day, when you were young, and you thought carefully about whether you should be attracted to the same sex or the opposite sex, and—after much give and take—chose to be straight, right?”  Invariably they look confused or bemused, and shake their head.  There was no such day in their (or anyone’s) memory.

You can choose to act on your sexual orientation or to hide it, but you can’t choose the orientation itself.  As we grow up at some point we look at the people around us, and the ones who attract us sexually aren’t necessarily the ones our parents would vote for.  This is true of straights as well as gays.  Desire cannot be dictated.

2.  Gays Can Change and Become Straight If They Really Want To

On some of those call-in radio shows my callers would claim that they used to be gay but now were straight.  The law professor in me would go to work.  "You used to be gay, but now you're married and having sex only with your wife?"  "Yes," one male caller replied, pride in his voice.  "And you never have homosexual thoughts—and before you answer, be aware that if you lie even slightly about this, you will deceive hundreds of men in your position who are desperate to change and depend on you to say—if it's true—that you never ever even slightly think about gay sex."  Long pause.  "Well, yes, I guess I still think about it sometimes."  "And sometimes masturbate thinking those thoughts?"  Another pause.  "Sometimes."  "Well, if it's still that important to your pleasure, how do you satisfy yourself with your wife?"  At this point one of the callers frankly confessed, "I pretend she's a man."

I also ask straights who assert gays can change "What would you do if you were a homosexual?"  "I wouldn't be a homosexual," is the usual response.  "How would you avoid it if you discovered that in spite of your upbringing, in spite of your religion, in spite of your strongest desire to change, you were a homosexual like it or not?"  "I'd get help from my pastor or a doctor."  When told that this supposed help doesn't work (with offers of books and websites to prove it), the person I'm talking to changes the subject.  I just have to be wrong.  I just have to be.  The bible commands that I be wrong.  Surely religion or medicine or something can produce the magic pill to be taken twice a day until heterosexuality occurs.  Surely.  Because if I'm right and change isn't possible, then whomever I'm talking to has to rethink their position, and most people would rather slaughter hogs than do that.

As I've mentioned before on this blog [see Related Posts below] I have a standing offer of $5000 to be donated to the charity of choice of any offeree who can produce five men who used to be gay but by the efforts of whatever organization or process can now be tested and found to be totally heterosexual.  After decades of the Ex-Gay movement and the steady efforts of many “reparative therapy” psychologists you'd think there would be thousands of men who would so qualify, but so far not a single effort has been made to collect my $5000.  The reason is clear: you can't change gay people into straight people, and these efforts always fail.  Always. 

All the science, all the experience, all the history, shows that trying to change gays to straights has no more success than would trying to change straights into gays.  It’s a matter of genetics and that’s that.  Exodus International, which for 37 years was a Christian organization that purported to cure gays, closed its doors in 2013, apologizing to all those who had trusted it during its existence, and acknowledging that no one’s sexual orientation was ever altered by its attempts, of which there were thousands.  Ex-gay conversion doesn’t work, and even leading psychiatrists like Robert Spitzer, who once championed reparative therapy, have quit and themselves apologized for a practice that is now condemned by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association.

If you, reader, are a straight person who has never had any homosexual urges or experiences, ask yourself this: do you believe that there is—out there somewhere—a process or treatment that you could undergo that would successfully strip you of your interest in the opposite sex and replace it with a carnal desire only for your own sex?  When I recently asked a very straight male friend this question, he laughed.  “Hell, no!” he said.  “It’s women all the way!”

3.  Being Gay Is Evil

One of the happy things about the success of gay rights in this country is that this veniality idea is dying out.  Yes, there are religions whose books say gays are evil, but we don’t run this country based on religious prejudices.  Those same books condemn all sorts of things we find perfectly acceptable.  Before we prohibit some lifestyle in the United States it has to produce major unacceptable behavior. 

But when gays get married, nothing happens to the rest of the country except there are more weddings and married couples who behave more or less like married couples always have.  Lots of straights go to gay weddings these days, and the economic boom from this is great.  When gays no longer get fired from their jobs because of gayness the result is that more people are concentrating on their work and not on private bedroom behavior.  If gays now can serve in the military, well, so what?  They are just soldiers/sailors/pilots like everyone else.  When I stand in front of my classroom and teach Commercial Law, the students all know I’m gay (my husband and I routinely throw a party for the entire class), but that has nothing to do with the importance of the Uniform Commercial Code and the grade they will get by understanding that marvelous statute.

Study hard---it's heavily tested on the bar exam.

Granting gays the same rights as straights hasn’t produced chaos.  The result has been . . . boring.  How very distressing this obvious fact must be to homophobes!  As they more and more lose this battle, it must be more and more embarrassing for anyone to be (publicly) homophobic.  Friends don’t let friends be so “last century.”  Pat them on the shoulder and say, “There, there . . . keep it to yourself.”

“Gay rights” is a nonstarter as a problem.  Let’s just drop the whole non-issue and move on to something really worth worrying about like [fill in the blank yourself:] _______________. 

There are real problems in this world.  Let’s try solving those.

Related Posts:

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;  

“How To Change Gay People Into Straight People,” September 20, 2010;

"Choose To Be Gay, Choose To Be Straight," January 25, 2011;

"Going Undercover at an Ex-Gay Meeting," September 19, 2011,

“Disowning Your Gay Children,” October 9, 2013; 

How To Cure Homophobia,” July 30, 2015; 

“A Homophobic Organization Throws in the Towel: Goodbye to Exodus International,” June 21, 2013;

Monday, January 2, 2017

Pronouncing 2017

This is a slight rewrite of a prior post, but on an important, and annual topic of communication.  It's about 2017.

Let's begin by agreeing that 2016 wasn't the happiest of years.

                                                   "I'd give it a few minutes kid."

To make the coming year better it's very important that we all agree that "2017" is henceforth to be pronounced "twenty-seventeen" as opposed to "two thousand and seventeen."  Why—you might ask, given all that is going wrong on this planet—is this issue important? 

It's for reasons of being vocally "green," of course!

Consider, blog readers, that "two thousand and seventeen" has seven syllables whereas "twenty-seventeen" has only five.  Just five!  Recently on NBC News as the announcers covered stories about the advent of 2017, the coming year was intoned using both possible pronunciations.  But the announcers who said it correctly (fewer syllables) had more breath and air time to get out two extra syllables, thus perhaps altering their careers for the better.  "Nonsense!" you may mutter—"Whaley has lost it!  How can it ever make any difference?"  But consider that this issue is not just a one year affair, but will go on for 82 more years (and has already plagued the past sixteen years).  Think of all those wasted syllables!  Zillions of them are coming!  It's horrifying!

This crucial dichotomy didn't arise last century because no one considered saying the mouthful that "one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine" would have entailed (much less "1977" which would have added two more syllables to the verbal landfill).  But the disarming convenience of "two thousand" has led us into sloppy temptation.  Avoid it, blog readers.  Avoid it, I say!

Fortunately this syllable battle will not likely be an issue for, say, "2117," since "two thousand one hundred and seventeen" will be too daunting for even the most committed of the current "two thousanders." 

In the meantime, the saner of us (the more "vocally green") must convince those wrongheaded people of the correctness of our cause, and fight lustily for "2017" to have only the minimum syllables that common sense demands it be allotted.

So, blog readers, correct your oversyllablizing friends (having them thank you for this correction as you put their feet firmly on the verbally green path) and send emails of complaint to NBC and like organizations if they fail to live up to modernity in this important logomachy.

Remember: Friends don't allow friends to be "two thousanders!"

Happy "twenty-seventeen" to you all!


“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;