My Meeting with Captain Curtis Hooley Regarding My Complaint Against Officer Nelson of the Logan City Police Department
This saga of my police conduct complaint has now become a trilogy. I think trilogies are overrated. Let something be a standalone work for a change, or just give it a number of works that best serve the needs of the story instead of being dictated by the need to make it a trilogy, that's what I say. I will, at least, probably have a postscript in the near future, because the police department is still required by state law to give me written documentation of the investigation.
I misheard the police captain's last name over the phone and consequently misreported it in last week's post. It's not Hill, it's Hooley, as in "Hooley dooley, they've come a gutser." I apologize for the misinformation.
Captain Curtis Hooley had to reschedule our meeting to attend a funeral, so I went on Thursday at 10:30, accompanied by my emotional supporter Kylie. As a classmate, she had read my essay about Calise, Talease and the police, and I feel closest to her out of all my graduate instructor colleagues because we shared an office last year and have had deep discussions about spirituality and faith crisis on social media. She left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but wishes she could have stayed, and I'm the opposite, so that gave us a lot to talk about. She rearranged her busy schedule to be there for me and I am most grateful. It was nice, too, that I had a woman with me to send the message "Look, I have friends who are women who don't think I'm a creep."
I know that mentioning Calise and Talease by name after going to the trouble of blotting out their names when I posted my complaint a couple weeks ago makes no sense. Here's the thing. On the one hand, I have no desire to embarrass them or appear vindictive, but on the other hand, I really believe that if they ever happened to stumble upon any of these accounts and read about themselves, they'd realize how badly they ----ed up and feel remorse and want to make it right. Unless and until that happens, the closure I got this week is probably the most I'm going to get. So I go back and forth on the name thing to get the best of both worlds and probably accomplish nothing at all.
Captain Hooley had a nice little office with some toy police cars and fire trucks and a poster that said "I don't need anger management, I need people to stop pissing me off!" That's funny and I personally can relate to it very much, but I'm not sure it's something I want to hear from somebody with a gun and qualified immunity. Likewise, before the police station parking lot was fenced off to be annoying, I used to shortcut through it after jaywalking across Main Street as a preferable alternative to walking an additional block and waiting five minutes at the crosswalk to get to the library, and one of the police cars had a bumper sticker that said "Nobody cares about your stick figure family" and showed a car plowing through somebody's stick figure family, and I found that funnier at the time than I would now. But it appears that Captain Hooley just has a desk job and isn't out killing people anyway. He was nice, asked me about myself and stuff. I wanted to trust him and believe it wasn't a façade. Having Kylie at my side made that a lot easier.
He asked me to explain what happened before Officer Nelson showed up - the pre-incident incident, as it were - and I did my best, though I stressed that I don't know what exactly I did that bothered Calise and Talease so much since neither they nor Officer Nelson ever bothered to tell me. Captain Hooley then made it sound like this is not an altogether uncommon situation - boy likes girl, girl decides she doesn't like boy, girl calls police on boy. That simultaneously made me feel better about myself and made me want this whole planet to burn.
We didn't return to the pre-incident incident a lot because Captain Hooley wasn't there to investigate it or take sides, but this was the first time anyone in authority bothered to ask me about it or listen to me. Officer Nelson didn't care, the staff at Logan Regional Hospital didn't care, my bishop didn't care. Officer Nelson should have asked me about my side of the story in the first place even if it didn't make a difference to what he had to do. He should have been smarter than to take my neighbors' false witness against me as the final word. I'm still kind of frustrated that they've faced no repercussions for bearing false witness against me. I don't want them to be in trouble, I just want them to be told off for it. Part of me wishes they'd pressed charges, because I would have immediately fought them in court instead of just marinating in trauma for the next year and a half.
My frustration increased a little today when Captain Hooley mentioned a detail I wasn't previously aware of. Not taking sides, not saying it was true or not, he said that Calise said I had "jumped out at her in the dark". I did no such thing at any time. I believe she was referring to the time a week or so before Officer Nelson yelled at me, when she left their little dog Paisley tied up in the snow and forgot about her, then came outside and saw me playing with her. Calise was startled to see me, and I was in turn startled by her yelp, and I later heard from a thirdhand source that she and Talease were ridiculously upset about it, but I did not jump out at her by any stretch of the imagination. I wasn't even standing up. I was sitting cross-legged in the snow on the opposite side of the decorative iron fence around the lower level of our apartment complex. Officer Nelson never even mentioned this particular falsehood to me, even though it sounds worse than any of the falsehoods and distorted truths he actually yelled at me about, but what do I know about police work?
I have only jumped out at a woman in the dark once in my entire life. Ten years ago, still naïve to the ways of the horrible adult world, I was in the campus cemetery at night when I saw two women coming up the path and thought it would be funny to jump out from behind a large tombstone and scare them. I picked up this sense of humor from my dad, but didn't grasp at the time that it was entirely inappropriate in this context. Now it's just one of hundreds of things I've done that I feel really bad about. I'm glad they didn't shoot me. Even back then, though, I wouldn't have considered jumping out at a woman in the dark to be a viable method of making her want to date me, so I don't know why Calise would have thought I'd try it on her and then go on like nothing had happened.
As requested, I brought a printout of the email that the police department never responded to. Captain Hooley was very bothered that nobody ever responded. I had assumed it was intentional. Being ignored is a constant fact of life for me, and I assumed that whoever read the email just thought "Oh, Stalky McStalkerton is mad at us for telling him not to stalk his neighbors" and deleted it. I still wouldn't be surprised if that happened. But Captain Hooley looked at the address and he said that while the address I contacted is legit, he didn't recognize it, and he wasn't sure if anybody at the department was even checking it. The address, email@example.com, was the address that I saw the police department telling negative Google Reviewers to contact when I tried to leave a negative Google Review last year but couldn't because the pandemic somehow prevented Google employees from working online. If someone had taken my email seriously at that time, they could have checked Officer Nelson's body camera footage, but by now it's been deleted. So that's nice.
Captain Hooley agreed that Officer Nelson had erred in not telling me which of my neighbors I wasn't allowed to text, call, or talk to. After being harangued about "Your neighbors" this and "your neighbors" that, I thought it was all five of them when it was only two. Kristina said "Hi" to me one evening and I thought maybe she was trying to get me in trouble. So that was kind of a crappy thing for Officer Nelson to do to me.
As far as looking into Officer Nelson's unwarranted choice to intimidate, threaten and yell at me, it would have been really helpful to have the body camera footage, so that's nice. He won't likely face any consequences but Captain Hooley asked me what I think he should have done differently (besides everything) and promised to bring that up with him. At the time, Captain Hooley said, Officer Nelson had been a cop for about a year, and now he's not the same cop he was a year and a half ago. I don't find it reassuring at all that the trauma I've lived with for the last year and a half was contingent on how much experience the cop had, or in other words on bad luck, but at least he's probably not still doing that to people? Captain Hooley said the cops are busy going to one call after another after another, and dealing with suicidal people literally every day, and sometimes they forget to slow down and listen and focus less on the authoritarian side of things. Yeah, any cop who depends on their authority to demand respect is only proving that they deserve none.
But he was glad Officer Nelson had made me go to the hospital. Hopefully that helped, at least. No, I explained, they also treated me like garbage and made everything worse. Captain Hooley said that the hospital is also very busy with mentally ill and suicidal people, which is consistent with my experience of them treating me like an assembly line product they wanted to finish with as fast as possible.
Kylie wasn't there to testify on my behalf or anything, but she chimed in a little and I really appreciated it. I had been talking the whole time about mental illness. There shouldn't be a stigma attached to mental illness, so I'd been openly saying that I'm mentally ill, that Officer Nelson was well aware of that fact and should have acted accordingly instead of proceeding from the incorrect assumption that I acted out of conscious malicious intent; that Talease is mentally ill, that Officer Nelson should have been well aware of that fact just like everyone else except me and Calise was, and should have adjusted his perspective accordingly instead of employing Calise's double standard where the weird things I said made me a villain while the weird things Talease said were just delightfully eccentric. But Kylie used more enlightened terminology. She asked Captain Hooley what kind of policies or training the department has around neurodivergence. He admitted that he'd never even heard the term before.
She explained the term and pointed out that this incident involved three neurodivergent people. He explained what we already knew - that Utah is way behind in this area. Yes, we all remember how the Salt Lake Police Department dealt with 13-year-old Linden Cameron's mental health crisis by shooting him eleven times as he ran away from them. He said there's crisis intervention training, but not every officer has it, and it's hard to get every officer trained in it when they're so busy and there's such a high turnover. I don't know if there's always been a high turnover or if this is specifically because cops in the post-George Floyd era think being held accountable for their actions is persecution. This is why people say "Defund the Police" - because most police officers simply don't know what the hell they're doing around neurodivergent people, and have killed far too many of us. This should not be one of their responsibilities. Why the hell did we as a country decide that it is?
Afterward, Kylie asked how it went, and needlessly apologized for chiming in with her helpful remarks, and asked what my next step was in this process. I would like to sue Logan Regional Hospital for doing things to me without a consent form and then frantically calling me five times to get retroactive verbal consent after I'd already left, but I can't because they have a lot more money than I do. I would like to file a complaint against my ex-neighbors who got me into this by bearing false witness against me in the first place, but even if such a thing is possible, which I doubt, it would be too much work for too little payoff. So I guess I'm done for now. I'm not done speaking out against police brutality and incompetence, though.
A week of graduate school is past and I'm already very busy. More importantly, on Friday I heard back from someone at the police department about my complaint, so as far as bureaucracy goes that wasn't a bad turnaround time. I'm going in and talking to Captain Curtis Hill about it on Wednesday. On the advice of my friends, I hope to bring someone with me for emotional support and so he can't abuse me - I don't want to assume the worst of him, but he is a cop and I don't have many reasons to trust cops - and one of my friends and colleagues from the English department has agreed to do it, but I can't get ahold of him and find out if that's allowed until Wednesday. I also hope he'll let me record the conversation so he can't lie about what either of us said. I don't want to assume the worst of him, but he is a cop and cops lie literally all the time.
He also asked me to bring in a copy of the email I sent to the police department over a year ago, which I mentioned in my complaint just in case it would help with any statute of limitations they didn't bother to mention on their website. He said somebody dropped the ball by never responding to it. I mean, I'm pretty sure the lack of a response was very intentional, but either way, this is a great and unexpected bonus. First of all, someone else who treated me as less than human, albeit in a far less dramatic fashion than Officer Nelson, may also get in trouble. Second, I now get to share the mocking and sarcastic words of my email with this investigation even though I kept my formal complaint restrained and professional. I think I successfully conveyed my anger and contempt in both media, but the email has more raw emotion. And yet even that was restrained. Because it was written to be a Google Review, it has no swear words in it. I will put the email text in italics here to avoid confusion with the quote within the quote.
Because Google is apparently not publishing business reviews at this time, I decided to send this to you directly. I expect the only thing it will accomplish is to give me some small sliver of satisfaction from knowing that you know that one of your officers single-handedly erased all of my respect for law enforcement months before George Floyd's murder, but I'll take what I can get.
In January a couple of officers abruptly showed up at my apartment, responding to a complaint from my neighbors. I had no idea what was going on. These neighbors had never once said anything to me themselves about real or perceived problems. The police never explained to me in plain English why they had come. They never asked me one single question about my side of the story. Instead, one of them said nothing while the other immediately launched into throwing his weight around and trying to scare me into compliance even though I never showed one iota of resistance or disrespect. For at least ten minutes he was nothing but belligerent while I was nothing but cooperative. He never explained what exactly the problem was but from the details he dropped here and there made it obvious that either my neighbors had straight-up lied about some things or he just hadn't bothered to get them straight himself. He told me to stop doing things that I had never done.
He told me not to talk to, call, or text my neighbors ever again. He said, "Consider this a warning." I would have complied with this "warning" if my neighbors had been adults and made this request themselves instead of pretending to be my friends for months, and I would have complied if the officer had just explained it to me without turning it into a threat. Despite this being my first time hearing any of this, he chose to assume from the moment I let him into my apartment that I knew exactly what I'd done wrong, wouldn't cooperate, and needed to be taught a lesson. And he knew that his uniform gave him impunity to treat me in a manner that would have gotten him fired from any other job.
When this officer was done verbally abusing me, he switched tactics and started pretending to be concerned about my emotional health and asking if I felt suicidal. Yes, he literally tried to play "bad cop good cop" by himself even though he had another cop with him. If he was really so concerned he could have maybe, I don't know, not prefaced it by deliberately confusing and scaring the crap out of me? He made me go to the hospital despite me explaining that I had no health insurance. He knew this was part of his purpose for showing up in the first place and still chose to first treat me in a manner that anyone over the age of three could have told him would only make me more suicidal (which it did, very much).
I was not arrested or accused of anything illegal, but before driving me to the hospital they frisked me for anything I could use to hurt myself (even though the hospital rendered this precaution entirely superfluous by taking my clothes away). For no legitimate reason that I can discern, they chose to do this after we had left my apartment, on the sidewalk in front of their police cars and in full view of the entire block. After the abusive officer dropped me off he said I could call the station and ask to talk to him if I wanted, because he apparently thought I was the stupidest person on the planet and would see him as something remotely resembling a friend or ally. The only reason I would ever want to talk to him would be to say some things unfit for publication in this review.
I forgave my neighbors after about a month because one of them was brain-damaged and delusional in the most literal sense of the word. All of our mutual acquaintances including their own roommate felt that their reaction to me was stupid, immature and uncalled for. But at least it wasn't malicious. I can't say the same for the police. I don't fault them at all for taking the complaint seriously and looking into it - they would have been criminally negligent in their duties if they didn't - but the way they went about it was wrong, full stop. I would feel safer entrusting my mental health to the first person I see on the sidewalk than the Logan Police Department. Their gross incompetence has traumatized me since then and probably for a very long time to come.
It was a one-star review, of course, but only because zero-star reviews aren't an option for some reason.
- Christopher Nicholson
So yeah. Officer Nelson has undoubtedly read my complaint by now, and I hope he has a great Labor Day weekend experiencing a sliver of a fraction of the shock and bewilderment that he sprung on me out of nowhere. And by that I actually mean I hope he can't sleep or focus on anything. And after I submit a copy of this email to the investigation, really, it's only fair that he should get to read it too.
Well, I can't complain too much because many others have experienced far worse at the hands of the American legal system. Any victory for them is a victory for me regardless of how my own case turns out. I'm delighted that former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson was indicted the other day for stopping police officers from arresting the men who lynched Ahmaud Arbery because one of them used to be a cop who worked for her. She was voted out of office last year, but now she'll probably go to jail too. I'm delighted that Kim Potter's charge for not knowing the difference between a gun and a taser, something any toddler could figure out, has been upgraded to first-degree manslaughter. It should be murder, but whatever, we have to take baby steps in these matters.
And I'm delighted that the three police officers and two paramedics who murdered Elijah McClain have been indicted for manslaughter and reckless homicide, even though the police department's previous "investigation" of itself determined that they did nothing wrong when they stopped him for no ----ing reason and injected a fatal dose of ketamine into him for no ----ing reason. Once again his family can thank Derek Chauvin for this case being taken more seriously now than it was when it happened. To be frank, Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, Randy Roedema, Jeremy Cooper, and Peter Cichuniec should be publicly executed just like they publicly executed Elijah McClain, sorry not sorry. Oh, and let us never forget how three other police officers unrelated to the incident (Erica Marrero, Kyle Dittrich, and Jaron Jones) photographed themselves at Elijah McClain's memorial smiling and recreating the chokehold used on him. "A few bad apples" my ----ing ass.
This case hits close to home because he wasn't neurotypical, and I'm not neurotypical, and I've also had some anonymous asshat call police on me for "acting weird" while I was minding my own business and doing nothing wrong. I was even the same age. It was a Saturday afternoon in September 2016, I was swinging in a public park, and somebody decided my mannerisms looked odd enough that the police needed to get involved. When you're not neurotypical, you constantly have to justify your existence to the people who think they're the default humans and you're an unfortunate aberration. On that occasion the police just checked my ID and asked if I needed any help and then left me alone. It set my self-esteem back a few years, but it didn't traumatize the hell out of me like Officer Nelson did. I've also, subsequent to Officer Nelson traumatizing the hell out of me, been dismissed and dehumanized by so-called healthcare workers who were supposed to help me not kill myself but instead decided to make it as obvious as possible that they didn't give a rat's ass about me.
So Elijah McClain's case feels personal for me, but the obvious difference is that I've never been tackled to the ground and injected with drugs. White privilege is very real.
I've felt that if I could channel my anger constructively into advocating for police reform, what happened to me would be worth it. But that hasn't happened because I don't have much of a voice through my obscure little blog or my Facebook shares that the algorithms make sure are never seen by more than two people. I kind of just write about things, express outrage over injustices and happiness over indictments and reforms, creating for myself the illusion that my commentary has any impact on these impacts that go on in a sphere entirely separate from mine. Still, I guess it gives me a sense of purpose. I'd hate to get to the other side and try to explain to God why I was more upset about a black man kneeling during an old English drinking song than about men, women and children of various races, but disproportionately black, being abused and murdered by the men and women who took an oath to serve and protect them.
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently wrote,
"Dear Brothers and Sisters:
"We find ourselves fighting a war against the ravages of COVID-19 and its variants, an unrelenting pandemic. We want to do all we can to limit the spread of these viruses. We know that protection from the diseases they cause can only be achieved by immunizing a very high percentage of the population.
"To limit exposure to these viruses, we urge the use of face masks in public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible. To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated. Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective.
"We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders. Please know of our sincere love and great concern for all of God’s children.
"The First Presidency
Russell M. Nelson
Dallin H. Oaks
Henry B. Eyring"
Notably absent this time around is any mention of this being a personal decision. Obviously it still is one, but I'm guessing they got fed up with all the idiots cherry-picking that part of their last statement in a pathetic attempt to pretend they didn't really mean what they unambiguously said. Of course the omission didn't stop those people from twisting themselves into pretzels around this statement too, but now they know that they're lying to themselves even more than they knew they were lying to themselves last time.
I, for one, am exasperated that I need to start wearing a mask again over three months after I got fully vaccinated like a responsible person. I'm exasperated that Utah's intensive care units are now at 102% capacity because over half of my state's population has refused to get vaccinated. I'm exasperated that the virus continues to have opportunities to spread and mutate to the point where my vaccination may become useless because people are pretending not to understand how herd immunity works even though that was their argument for refusing to war masks and letting a bunch of preventable deaths happen in the first place. I'm exasperated that I've tried to do the right thing and follow health guidelines without complaint for so long and it doesn't matter because everyone around me thinks this whole thing is a joke. Meanwhile, as we in this country turn up our noses at the most miraculous vaccine in history being given away for free all over the place, people in less privileged countries are going through hell from this "flu" because they don't yet have access to it. They must be far more exasperated than I am.
Yesterday I went to a book club meeting yesterday for "Live Not By Lies" by Rod Dreher. Unfortunately, the entire discussion proceeded from the assumption that all of us agreed with everything in the book and only needed to figure out how to apply its teachings in our lives. I did agree with its overall message, but had several nitpicks about specifics and no opportunity to mention any of them even if they had been welcome, which they weren't. Dreher based his book on the assumption that Christianity and political conservatism are the same thing, which would make him feel right at home in Utah. Liberals in Utah (with the exception of Salt Lake City nearby areas) face the same stigma and fear of speaking up that conservatives complain about in the book. The guy next to me did raise a couple of nuanced opinions, but the hostess pushed back pretty hard. He's from the younger generation, she said, so he would think that people should face consequences for advocating death to homosexuals, and not understand that the First Amendment was created to protect hate speech. I think when someone recommended that we all listen to Candace Owens was the moment I knew I wouldn't be coming back.
Before the meeting, knowing that I struggle to articulate my thoughts verbally or insert myself into conversations of more than three people, I wrote my review of the book which I share here in case anyone actually does care what I have to say.
Update on my prostate:
My blood test and urine test results came back from the hospital eleven days later. The doctor didn't know why it took so long. I could have told him it's because the staff at Logan Regional Hospital doesn't see me as fully human, but I let it slide. The tests found no cause for concern other than the increased number of antibodies that one would expect in a swollen prostate. I have "lots of really good blood", he said. After using up my antibiotics I had to go in and let him stick his finger in me again to see if they were accomplishing anything. This time was worse. It took longer and I felt like I was about to ---- on the floor and I tried to disassociate myself and sing hymns in my head, but I couldn't because he kept talking to me. No, it doesn't hurt a bit, please stop. One part of my prostate was a little bit less swollen after two weeks, so he renewed the antibiotics. He also prescribed some other pills to make my bladder stronger and make me drowsy 24/7. The health center took another urine sample and he said there was still blood and protein in it. I wasn't aware that the last one had blood and protein in it. He said I may need to see a urologist if it doesn't resolve itself. In summary, I'm still kind of in hell.
Currently when boys in the United States of America turn 18, we have to register for a thing called Selective Service in order to access some of the rights and privileges of citizenship that girls get by turning 18, and also to not be charged with a felony. This means we get put on a list so we can be drafted into the military and sent off to our deaths if that need ever arises. I don't remember doing it, but I must have because I've gotten federal financial aid. Because women are now allowed to serve in any position in the military, there's a growing movement to replace this blatant sex discrimination with an equal-opportunity human rights violation by making them register for Selective Service too. The thought of abolishing the damn thing altogether doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone in power.
Valerie Hudson, however, argues in a recent editorial that the current status quo should be maintained, with men and women both eligible for military service but only men eligible for the draft. I expressed that same opinion once. My reasoning was that men were more evolved for war-type stuff, so while I would never cite evolution as a reason to forbid women from being in the military or doing whatever else their hearts desired, it seemed like a good enough reason to minimize unfairness by not forcing them to be in the military. I didn't think it was fair to force men either, but it was more reasonable because of evolution. Now I just think Selective Service and the draft should be abolished altogether. What's Dr. Hudson's logic, though?
"And I draw that line," she writes, "not for the reason tradition would give us: That women are weak or delicate creatures that must be protected. After all, most women in the world are not protected in any sense of the word. Would you enjoy living as a woman in Afghanistan, where 87% of women report having been assaulted? Or in Liberia, where the chance of dying incident to pregnancy is 1 in 8? Most women in poor countries do the lion’s share of the work of the household each day, and are given fewer calories to eat despite the fact that their daily work load forces them to expend far more energy than others in the household, including men. They watch their children die of preventable diseases and malnutrition because the powerful men of the country could not care less about such lowly matters. In truth, if women were weak, delicate creatures, the human race would have died out millennia ago.
"No, I do not oppose Selective Service registration for women because of their delicacy. I oppose it because a sex class analysis would reveal that women already sacrifice more for their country than men do, and women should not be asked to bear even more. There should be parity between men and women in the work of protecting our country and giving it a future. Selective Service registration for women would undo that parity, placing an unjustly heavy burden on women, and making their load far heavier than that of men."
She then proceeds to point out that far more women become mothers than men serve in the military, and far more women have died in childbirth than men have died in war. She notes that "The maternal mortality rate in the U.S. is now more than double what it was 30 years ago (it’s now 17.4 per 100,000 and rising)." I didn't know that. I thought I lived in a first world country. I did know that black women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women, and twice as likely to lose their babies, but since systemic racism is a myth and hospital staff (as I can attest firsthand from my experience with Logan Regional) treat all patients with the respect and dignity they're entitled to, these facts can only be explained as unfortunate but meaningless coincidences.
"And this doesn’t account," she continues, "for the 'mommy tax' on a woman’s lifetime earnings of having a child, which can amount to more than $1 million. The greatest risk factor for being poor in old age in the United States is to be a mother (and not a father). And the COVID-19 pandemic has made especially clear the profound economic cost dealt to working women - when the nation needed an army of mothers to step up, they did so at great cost to themselves." These facts, like the foregoing ones, are ----ed up. They speak to the profound sickness of a capitalist society that punishes people for valuing their families over increasing their employers' profits (which of course disproportionately affects mothers because pregnancy and childrearing responsibilities disproportionately affect mothers). Many things need to be reformed and many employers need to be put in their place. Capitalism is not pro-woman, pro-mother, or pro-family, it's pro-profit, full stop.
"But socialism is -" Did I say anything about socialism? Did I? No, I didn't, so don't change the subject.
I have been accused (by a man) of "denigrating motherhood" because I reject the fallacious analogy between motherhood for women and priesthood ordination for men that some people in my church are so fond of, and I suppose I'll be accused of it again after saying what I have to say next. Ahem: With a few possible exceptions, I actually don't believe that women or men deserve to be venerated just for reproducing. Yeah, the miracle of life is cool and all, and pregnancy is a significant sacrifice, but being fertile says nothing whatsoever about your worthiness or competence as a parent. It's literally the least important part of parenthood. Many people have given birth who really shouldn't have. Some parents abuse, some parents neglect, some parents warp their children for life with their unconscionable stupidity, some parents try to cure their children's autism by making them drink bleach, and so on. Have you ever read about Donald Trump's father? When I did, I realized that Donald Trump never had any chance of growing up to be a decent human being. I actually feel bad for him.
After attending my sister's temple sealing a few months ago, I reflected on the oddity of focusing so much on the commandment "Multiply and replenish the Earth." First of all, it's a bad translation that we keep repeating verbatim because we'd rather sound "scriptural" than make sense. In order to be replenished, the Earth must once already been plenished. This phrasing kind of implies that Adam and Eve were actually the sole survivors of a disaster that killed billions. Well, Lillith was there too, but the nuclear fallout turned her into a demon.
God: Multiply and replenish the Earth.
Eve: Uh, you do realize we need about five hundred breeding individuals to ensure a viable, genetically diverse species, right? You do realize our kids will have to -
God: Don't worry, I'll perform a miracle to make it not incest.
Narrator: But he didn't, and that explains the state of humanity today.
(I was going to say the narrator was voiced by Morgan Freeman, but then I remembered that he also played God in a couple of movies, so that felt weird.)
For sure, my church devotes plenty of time and energy is given in other venues to telling people to be good parents and advising them on how to do so, but taken at face value, this commandment to make babies for babies' sake just seems odd. A couple who has four kids and sells them all for drinking money is following this commandment, while a couple who adopts twelve kids, moves heaven and earth to meet their needs, and teaches them to be productive members of society is not. You could, of course, argue a broader and more figurative definition for "multiply and replenish", but then it would have to also include many things that have nothing to do with parenthood at all. I wouldn't object to that, but it seems like a stretch.
While reproduction is, as Dr. Hudson points out, obviously crucial to the future of the United States and every other nation, it's a group effort that transcends any individual birth. Not every person brought into this world improves it just by existing. I think of Derek Chauvin's mother, who recently told him at his sentencing that the day he was born was the happiest of her life. She isn't wrong to love him even though he's an abuser and a murderer, and she couldn't have possibly known he would turn out to be an abuser and a murderer - though she is wrong to deny that he's an abuser and a murderer when the entire world has seen his handiwork - but the fact remains that this country would have been a better place without him in it. I'm not going to thank his mother for giving birth to him anytime soon. Actually, come to think of it, if your child murders someone, the Earth's population has a net increase of zero and your attempt to multiply and replenish it has been retroactively thwarted. Let's hope they only murder one person and you have backup children who are better behaved.
Anyway, I guess I kind of agree with Dr. Hudson and kind of don't. The facts she points out should anger any reasonable person, but I don't venerate people for reproducing and I think her overall argument is moot because Selective Service and the draft should be abolished altogether.
BONUS: Recently I showed my true misogynistic colors. I am ashamed of myself.
Happy birthday, of course, to a country that I love in the same manner I would love a child who grew up to disappoint me in every possible way. I was pleasantly surprised that nobody at church today bore their testimony about how this country is, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, the greatest in the world and the most favored by God. Only one out of eleven people even talked about it, and then only to say that despite its recent ups and downs he's grateful for it and the freedoms he has. I have no objection to that. I'm grateful too. I have to live somewhere, and this is where I live for the time being, and though I hope to do better when I get a chance, I could certainly do worse. In the meantime it's my patriotic duty to improve things by complaining about them.
On Thursday, some kids asked me to get their Frisbee out of the road. I was very happy to do so. In that moment, I felt like I mattered. With the exception of a few guys in Africa who need money sometimes, people don't often ask me for help or admit that they need it if I broach the subject. They ask their actual friends or they just withdraw into themselves. These kids just straight-up asked me and it was great. They gave me the opportunity to performed a service that enrich their lives and, in so doing, enriched mine as well.
On Friday, I saw some kids selling popsicles, but I had no cash on me. I continued on my way and later picked up some cash and returned, but they were gone, the bare table on the sidewalk the only evidence that they'd ever been. I felt guilty about it for hours. What if nobody had bought any popsicles? What if they cried themselves to sleep that night because nobody wanted what they had to offer? They would have to be exposed to the cruelty and apathy and disappointment of life eventually, of course, but not so soon, not so young. I had failed them and negated my earlier good deed.
On Saturday, I went to a potluck that I saw advertised via some flyers on campus. When I RSVP'd via the QR code the night before, I noticed that the hostess was the only one listed on the spreadsheet as bringing anything, and that nearly a month ago, and when I showed up and she asked "Are you Christopher?" I all but confirmed that nobody else was coming. Indeed, nobody else came. I stayed the whole three hours because I felt so bad for her. At one point her roommate emerged from the house, and at another point her neighbor came home, and she offered them food and they thanked her and didn't take any food or join her for even a moment. A while later they both got into the neighbor's car and went somewhere together, and I silently prayed for them to crash and die horrible fiery deaths.
I felt guilty for hours again. My presence had surely not been enough to assuage the pain of such a disappointing turnout after all the work and preparation she put into what was supposed to be a good time. I should have talked more, asked her more questions about herself even though it was so awkward for me to be alone with someone I just met for three hours. I should have tried to get her contact information so our friendship could continue and I would have further opportunities to enrich her life and retroactively make meeting me worth it. But I can't do that anymore. So I felt that my effort wasn't nearly enough and I hated myself for that, but hey, at least I can pick up a Frisbee.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.