As usual, I find myself shaking my head at the political argument of the day. Over the last few weeks there’s been a great deal of talk about public bathrooms. The left argues that everyone should be able to relieve themselves wherever they like. The right argues that boys should be boys and girls should be girls. Those of us in the middle scratch our heads and say, “Are we really having this conversation?” The simplest solution for modern America would be more privately designed public rest rooms, but then they wouldn’t get to keep arguing. The issue has nothing to do with bathrooms, and everything to do with the death of common sense. The two camps chase themselves around in circles, and everyone looks crazier by the day. Like Roger Miller queried, “Where have all the average people gone?”
As I have watched this argument drag on, I have been thinking about a video I watched several weeks ago from an internet philosopher talking about how the elites treat us like cattle. While I think the guy (who has tons of followers, btw) is a little kooky, I did appreciate what he was trying to say. I understand cattle. Cattle help me understand people. They mourn their dead. They sometimes reject their offspring. They push to the front of the line to belly up to the trough. The crazy ones have a strange look in their eyes, and carry themselves differently than the others. Lastly, most of them aren’t terribly bright. Yeah, cattle and people are a lot alike. And cows are not free individuals. While everybody wants to jump up and shout about their American pride, they would do well to think about all the freedom they’ve lost instead of all the freedom they have. Over the last 100 years, Washington has been carefully constructing fences. They treat their herd more like free range cattle than a closely managed small herd though. Small herds have pastures, and stables, and get worked regularly by their owners. Free range cattle are a different animal. Free range cattle generally go where they want. They do have a lot of freedom as the name implies, but they are still owned by their masters. Masters tend to remind them from time to time, most commonly right before that trip to the slaughterhouse.
When I was in college, a friend asked me to ride home with him to help on a little roundup. His dad had some cattle he wanted hauled off, and he knew I was a bit of a cowboy. Load ‘em up. Haul ‘em off. Easy peasy. What he didn’t tell me was that they’d been running free over a pretty big range for quite some time. Set a dozen cows free on a two hundred acre pasture of woods, hills, lakes and streams, and they are not going to respond well to being forced into a small corral and loaded for the slaughterhouse. We were less cowboys and more rodeo clowns that day. I honestly don’t remember if we got them on the trailer or not. What I do remember is jumping gates and praying for my life when they turned on us, mouths foaming, in the corral. They were not going peacefully; that was pretty clear. Cows are generally pretty docile creatures. Put them on their own for a while, and let them do whatever they like; that’s a different story. I escaped without injury and was paid for my risk to life and limb, but the day stands out in my mind as a stark reminder of how easily tame animals become wild when left to their own devices.
Since the counter culture movement started in the 1960’s, our society has been looking like an open range with a bunch of wild cows. No longer constrained by the institutions of old, people have been running this way and that, doing whatever they “feel.” As a result, our neighbors are using their hurt feelings to make decisions more than their brain. Pop culture has told them for years that their feelings are the most important thing, so people generally do what feels good. The problem with that is, most good decisions hurt in the short term. Pain doesn’t feel good, so the cattle keep roaming on their free, but shrinking, range. The cattle barons likely don’t mind us arguing over silly things like bathroom stalls. Every day wasted arguing about something crazy is another day they can work on tightening the fences and strengthening the gates; counting the money and enjoying the steak.