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.
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.
For my birthday I went hiking up the Logan River Trail and then to Panda Express and then to Hyrum Reservoir, with guests rotating in and out as their schedules permitted and only a few stalwarts making it all the way through. This year, fed up with month after month of soul-crushing isolation, I took matters into my own hands like never before to make something happen and invite people to it instead of just hoping someone else would take care of everything - a couple of my graduate school friends helped, but I didn't ask them to or drop hints about my upcoming birthday. I had a rough plan in mind and invited them to it and then they offered their assistance. The last time I took this much initiative to plan basically anything was a surprise party for someone else years ago. I had also planned to watch the classic sci-fi "Metropolis", but we ran out of time at the beach and I decided to adapt rather than insist on a strict schedule to the point where it ceased being fun. That movie's kind of an acquired taste anyway.
I had reached out to this one guy years ago because he was also autistic and needed friends, and continued to invite him to things sometimes, but I rarely saw or talked to him. I knew he was gay, but that fact almost never crossed my mind because it simply wasn't relevant to anything. I had not the slightest clue why he asked to talk to me in private when we got to the beach. He began, "Remember when you asked if I'm interested in anyone?" No, I had no memory of asking him that or anything like it. I don't ask people about that kind of thing, mostly because I don't care. But he continued before I could say anything. He said, "Well, I'm interested in you."
He hastily went on, "I know I'm probably not your type," which was true enough, and not just for the obvious reason. And it should have been the simplest thing in the world to just say, in case there was any confusion, in case whatever mannerisms caused everyone on the school bus to call me "faggot" five times a day had also given him an erroneous impression at any time, "Sorry, I'm straight" - not a strictly accurate statement, but close enough for the present intents and purposes. Yet I couldn't bring myself to say it, because it felt in that moment like such a cruel and gratuitous thing to say, a bit of knife-twisting, and I thought back almost a decade to Kelsey's attempt to comfort me after I caught feelings for her.
If it helps, I've always had that problem. Straight girls.
It didn't help. It destroyed my faith that God loves His children, as I imagined how much it must suck to be gay because of that very problem, no matter how accepted by society or even religion one may eventually be. So now I didn't say anything.
We hugged, and I was very grateful that I'd kept my shirt on as I always do at the beach. He said, "I would have kissed you for your birthday." We let go. He said, "I'd still like to kiss you."
That didn't register, but after a moment he interpreted my blank stare as consent (it wasn't) and moved in. Oh well, I thought, it's only a kiss, and I'd kiss a guy if I were an actor playing a gay character, so it's not like it's the worst thing in the world that I'll never do under any circumstances, and anyway, the few kisses I've shared with women didn't mean anything either so the difference is kind of arbitrary. I stood stiff as a board and let him do it and then we rejoined the others. That's all he's going to get from me, so I'm not sure if it made him feel better or worse.
My neighbor Hailey got some pictures of me that I don't hate, that rarest of rarities. She saw me walking along the beach and made me go back and start over. I'm glad she did.
Later it transpired that Hailey and Mia had both observed my contentious comments on public Facebook posts without me being aware of it. Hailey found them alarming and Mia found them amusing. So I'm still not likely going to stop.
One of the greatest birthday presents I could ask for was delivered a couple days later in the form of a 22.5-year prison sentence for Derek Chauvin over his murder of George Floyd. Though far less than he deserves, it's about as much as one can expect under current laws. I think Peter Cahill is about as fair and impartial a judge as you can get, and I'm not surprised in the slightest that his sentence didn't give either the prosecutors or the defense what they really wanted. But the fun doesn't stop here. In a few days, Chauvin and his now ex-wife begin their trial for $21,853 worth of tax evasion - yes, 1092.65 times the amount he murdered George Floyd for - and this fall, he begins his federal trial for civil rights violations in both the George Floyd case and another one where he split a (black) teenager's head open with a flashlight and pinned him down for 17 minutes for no reason. If experiencing joy as I watch this fascist pig's life get ruined is wrong, I don't want to be right.
Of course, even a fascist pig has friends and family who love him. (The emotion bootlickers feel toward him isn't love - it's more akin to the mindless biological drive of a male preying mantis to let his mate tear his head off.) Chauvin's mother reminded us that he isn't Satan incarnate. She extolled his years of service as a police officer and his dedication to the job, conveniently neglecting to mention how many conduct complaints he accumulated during that time. She didn't want him to go to jail for a long time because she might be dead when he gets out. And she maintained that she believes in his innocence. Okay, so she isn't wrong to love her son or to be distraught over the situation, but I'm sorry to say that love has made her delusional. If I ever have a son who murders someone and everyone in the world sees the murder, I don't intend to show up in court to try and protect him from justice. Familial love and parental mortality are not arguments for letting people out of jail early.
Chauvin, we were told, has run through what if scenarios in his mind constantly since the day of the murder. What if I hadn't volunteered to work that day, what if I hadn't responded to the call, and so on. Notably absent were the questions he actually should be asking himself: What if I had taken my damn knee off his neck? What if I had moved him onto his side like Officer Lane suggested? What if I had offered medical assistance after his pulse disappeared? What if I hadn't completely disregarded my law enforcement training and ethics? Excuse me, but are we really supposed to sympathize with a 19-year police veteran for whom nine and a half minutes isn't enough time to make a split-second decision? Are we really supposed to feel bad that he feels bad - assuming he does, though we've seen zero evidence of that? Get out of here. He's had ample opportunity to apologize and/or show some degree of remorse. He never has. Not once. And the obvious reason is that he's a fascist pig who doesn't think he did anything wrong.
He did express his condolences - not an apology - to the Floyd family on this occasion. And all I could think of was a line from Kylo Ren (aka Matt the Radar Technician) on Saturday Night Live: "Hearing that Zack lost his son really struck a nerve with me. Especially since I'm the one that killed him."
Social media rumor has it that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is running a pilot program to find out if women can count.
This comment should have won the LDS internet as far as I'm concerned.
In other LDS Twitter news, the unofficial smattering of far-right vigilantes known as #DezNat has fractured, with founder J.P. Bellum and many others deleting their profiles after @ExposeDezNat started to publish their identities along with the racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and more violent than usual things they say when they think nobody is looking. I'm immediately reminded of cockroaches fleeing when someone turns the light on. And then of course the joke writes itself: "What's the difference between a cockroach and a DezNatter? One is a repulsive little insect that spreads filth and disease, and the other one is a cockroach." I'm sure not everyone who uses the hashtag is evil. But the movement is evil. If these people really believed they were doing good, they wouldn't need to be anonymous and they would have nothing to fear from being exposed. I think that's self-explanatory.
In Facebook news - I use Facebook a lot more than Twitter, and first learned of the above stories through Facebook - I posted this a week ago and am repeating it here to get twice as much mileage out of the effort spent writing it. Quote:
Of all the provocative, edgy, and just plain rude things I've written that could have landed me in Facebook jail, do you want to know why I finally did go to Facebook jail?
Utah is in its worst drought in at least 1200 years. The governor is considering banning all fireworks (which he should have already done, but this is a state where we trust people to do the right thing of their own volition despite their demonstrated constant refusal to do the right thing of their own volition). The Deseret News reported this, and Deseret News readers responded the way Deseret News readers always respond when someone dares to suggest that they aren't the center of the universe. But I was mature about it. Instead of starting arguments, instead of pointing out how stupid and selfish and contemptible they were, I joined in and mocked them by commenting, "No. I have a constitutional right to burn down my neighbor's house."
Facebook's Community Standards police, who for a decade or so have consistently refused to do anything whenever I reported blatant hate speech, pornography, or fake profiles, decided that this obviously sarcastic comment in a context that anyone old enough to read could grasp in five seconds was an "incitement to violence", and banned me from posting or commenting for 24 hours. I disputed the decision and they upheld it. So now I know the whereabouts of the very few unfortunate people who fail to meet the almost nonexistent standard of intelligence for real law enforcement.
I mean, the stupidity here is astronomical. It's incomprehensible. It's mind-bending. And I say this as one who had no faith in humanity to begin with. Kim "I've been a cop for 26 years and I can't tell the difference between a gun and a taser that look completely different, weigh completely different, have the trigger in different spots, and are holstered on opposite sides of my body" Potter looks almost as smart as a banana slug compared to the evolutionary dead-ends who (don't) enforce Facebook's Community Standards.
In conclusion, please get bent, Facebook.
As I was composing this, it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't toss around such rude and derogatory language, but on the other hand, you can't tell me this post wasn't a work of art. I'm very pleased with how I organized the words to express myself. That's what I love about writing and being good at it. I was also very satisfied and overjoyed with being able to draw such a natural comparison to police officers and get in a few more well-deserved jabs at them. Three police cars with flashing lights pulled up to my apartment complex this evening moments after I'd left, and I wondered if maybe they were coming after me again for doing nothing wrong whatsoever again, and I knew that if they were I for damn sure wasn't going to respectfully sit there and take their abuse again. But I came back an hour later and they were gone and my roommate hadn't noticed them, so you won't see me in the news this time.
On Friday, the people that Logan Preferred Property Management hired to prune the tree that was dropping things in the yard next door showed up an hour before they were supposed to and woke me up with a chainsaw at 7:19 in the morning. Given how long it took me, through no fault of my own, to get to sleep in the first place, and given that this was not my first time waking up during that sleep cycle, it kind of ruined my day. I contemplated whether I would get in trouble for explaining to Logan Preferred that if this ever happens again somebody is going to get hurt, but I didn't so that has nothing to do with why the police showed up. I contemplated how much better my life would have been that day if they'd been killed in a car crash on the way over. And then I forgave them because they were probably just doing what their boss who lacks the mental capacity to understand concepts like basic human decency or reading a clock told them to do. Their boss is still overqualified to be a police officer.
Saturday was much better. I spent most of it at Summerfest, the annual arts faire that was canceled last year for mysterious unknown reasons. I went alone, but Shalese who was in my ward last semester brought her boyfriend over and sat by me while I was listening to music, and that was nice of her but I was afraid she felt so sorry for me that she would ask me to tag along with them for a while, so I was relieved when that didn't happen. Then I ran into Riley from my ward and then we were rudely interrupted by my ex-coworker Audrey (previously referred to on this blog under the pseudonym "Dory" because of her memory problems) and her husband and her parents and her sister, soon to be joined by two brothers and a sister-in-law, and they were going to get food and I wanted to get food so I went with them for three hours or so. I'd never met Audrey's parents, though I'd seen them in a picture. I once told her they were both very attractive, and she said thank you, and then I asked what went wrong. Her mom said they'd heard a lot about me, and Audrey quickly assured me that it was all bad. No duh.
Food is the only thing I've ever bought there. It's overpriced, of course, but it's part of the experience and good for my mental health to be able to throw money around, and actually the Kettle Corn is the best part and it's not overpriced, it's a real bargain. Not like paying $12 for three ant-sized tacos at all. I never buy any art. Most of the art, from what I can tell, is reasonably priced when you consider the work that goes into it. I just can't afford such luxuries. I hope I can someday. Until then I just go to wander around and look at booths from the corner of my eye or wait until the vendors are distracted, because I don't want to get their hopes up that I might actually buy something. I recognized many of the booths and vendors from years past as if they were old friends. One I didn't recognize was an Asian woman whom I overheard asking an Asian customer if he was Japanese. He said he was Vietnamese. She said, "We all look the same," and they both laughed. He said he could tell Koreans apart from other Asians and she was eager to know how. I felt privileged to have heard that conversation.
Summerfest was located on the fairgrounds this year instead of the Tabernacle grounds. It was a much better location with a lot more space, and the stream running around the edge came in very handy. As I and Audrey's family dipped our appendages in it, three little girls kept drifting through on inner tubes, but then on the third pass one of the tubes was empty and one of the girls was running along the shore, and she jumped onto it but her legs dangled all the way off and I guess they were dragging on the rocks because she kept saying "Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!" well past the point where I assumed she would stop, and in that moment my heart shattered for this poor little girl who just wanted to have some fun with her friends but got pain instead, because that's what life is and God only knows what far worse things it has in store for her as she gets older and discovers how dark and unfriendly the world can be, which, if she's lucky, she can scarcely imagine now in her childish innocence, and I wished I could jump down there and help her but I didn't want to get arrested or shot on sight for touching a little girl, so I just kept an eye out for her later to reassure myself that her legs weren't bleeding and she was having fun again.
Having an excess of empathy really, really sucks. I have to actively suppress it a lot of times or I'd never be happy.
Last year, Taylor Petrey published a book called Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Mormonism and it became popular and got flattering reviews. I saw no critical reviews and no response from the Church's self-appointed apologetics organizations, but I recognized from the book's impact that they couldn't just ignore it like they did Moroni and the Swastika. I reached out to Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship - even before I lost respect for FAIR, Interpreter was the organization I trusted most to do an intellectually honest job - and said they ought to put someone on it. On August 23, Steve Densley responded that "a reviewer has been working on 'Tabernacles of Clay.' Apparently, he has found that there is so much to say about that book that we will likely be publishing a number of reviews that address the book in sections. It sounds like we should have the first part ready for publication within the next few weeks." So I waited a few weeks, then a few more weeks, then a few more weeks, and then I concluded that they had found it too difficult and given up.
On March 5 of this year, they published the first and so far only review from Gregory L. Smith. It's very long and has 504 footnotes. Brother Smith spends most of it documenting Dr. Petrey's misuse of sources in the first two chapters. "So serious are these problems that," he writes, "on one level, it is astonishing that this work would be published by a university press. Granted, the book’s ideological agenda and subject matter is popular in some quarters,4 and such works have their place — if they are honest with themselves and their readers about what they are.5 But what Tabernacles offers is not good history. Tabernacles of Clay is a good argument for the necessity of review by experts in both the theology and history of the Church of Jesus Christ when academic presses do 'Mormon' studies. Experts in queer and gender theory might find it compelling; anyone familiar with the religious sources ought to know better." He isn't wrong. Nonetheless, the sources themselves are so interesting that I still wanted to read the book with this caution in mind. So I did.
For this post I will focus only on part of his conclusion that I wanted to share because it stuck with me:
One can expect further pressures on LDS institutions and culture as they continue to swim within a broader environment that is still moving away from so-called traditional values. Resisting these trends, church leaders have expressed dim prospects for any considered change on teachings regarding same-sex marriage.22 At the same time, these teachings are producing an increasing strain on church members, especially younger members who have grown up in a world that is more open and accepting of nonnormative identities and relationships. When recently surveyed, 60 percent of regularly attending millennial Mormons (eighteen to twenty-six years old) and 53 percent of older millennial Mormons (twenty-seven to thirty-nine years old) believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. Latter-day Saint support is growing rapidly in all age groups. In 2016, overall Mormon support for this statement was at 48 percent, double what it was just ten years before. Among Mormon millennials who have left the church, they cite “LGBT issues” as the third most important reason they disaffiliated. The generation gap is massive on this issue and has only grown, despite persistent LDS messaging from the top.23
No lies detected. I saw Lynne Thigpen portray a police chief on the game show "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" before I was old enough to know what police were, so it never in my life would have occurred to me that women (or black people) shouldn't be police chiefs. For example.
The ban on female ordination is not, strictly speaking, analogous to the ban on ordination of males of African descent. Black men and women before 1978 were also denied the temple ordinances necessary for eternal families and exaltation, and were said to be under a curse because of things they did before they were born. (On the other hand, black men before 1978 could serve in Sunday school presidencies, which don't require priesthood, but women still can't. Figure that one out.) I actually agree with the logic that people don't have to be the same to be equal, and as long as everyone in the Church is eligible for the same eternal blessings, their role or position in the earthly organization doesn't matter. The President of the Church is no greater than someone who's given a useless made-up calling to make them feel included. So I consider priesthood ordination a far less important issue than whether women are treated as equal partners in marriage and whether they can pursue careers outside the home without men like my bishop calling them to repentance. I'm totally agnostic on whether it should happen at all.
Nonetheless, I have little patience anymore for the reasons people make up to explain why women aren't ordained, reasons that are usually patronizing to women, demeaning to men, or both. And if you go back a few decades, the reasons just become even more blatantly sexist and that should be quite a red flag about how made up they are altogether. Rodney Turner's 1972 book Woman and the Priesthood taught that, notwithstanding "[w]e believe men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression", women are punished for Eve's transgression to this day. Nowadays we've made the different-but-equal paradigm work by changing the definition of "preside" and disregarding the statements well into the 1970s (or in the temple until 2019) that unambiguously assigned men to a position of authority over their wives. Anyway, I'm not an activist for women's ordination but I do enjoy annoying people by pointing out the inadequacy of the reasons they make up to justify the lack thereof. Michael Otterson was honest enough to cite the one and only actual known reason: precedent.
And while I'm on the subject,
God may, in fact, have some legitimate reason for this division of labor. Even that wouldn't necessarily preclude it from changing in the future. I don't believe for a moment that women's anatomical or mental differences make them intrinsically, eternally, and divinely incompatible with priesthood ordination. I find the notion absurd. I don't predict, as such, a change to this policy within my lifetime, and yet I won't be the slightest bit surprised if it happens either. There have already been several adjustments to the scope and visibility of women's role in the Church within the last decade, largely in response to Ordain Women and other internal feminist movements (copied from my Brief History of Women in the Church of Jesus Christ):
October 6, 2012 - President Thomas S. Monson lowers the minimum age of missionary service for women from 21 to 19.
April 3, 2013 - The Church announces, "The role of sister training leader has been created as more female missionaries serve in missions around the world. Sister training leaders will be responsible for the training and welfare of female missionaries assigned to them and will be members of and participate in, the new mission leadership council."
April 6, 2013 - At the close of the Saturday morning session, Primary general presidency first counselor Jean A. Stevens becomes the first woman to pray in General Conference.
October 5, 2013 - For the first time, the priesthood session is broadcast on the Church's website as all other General Conference sessions have been for years. Having been denied tickets by spokeswoman Ruth Todd, members of Ordain Women wait in the standby line and are turned away at the door one by one.
April 5, 2014 - For this and subsequent General Conferences, the female auxiliary presidencies (Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary) are relocated to sit in the middle of the First Quorum of the Seventy in the Conference Center, a far more visible position directly behind the pulpit.
April 2014 - The annually updated General Authorities chart (which previously included only men) is expanded to also include General Officers, including the Relief Society general presidency, the Young Women general presidency, the Primary general presidency, the Sunday School general presidency, and the Young Men general presidency.
November 14, 2014 - A policy change allows divorced women and mothers of young children to have or retain jobs as seminary and institute teachers. A memo notes, "This change makes it possible for families to decide what best meets their needs as it relates to mothers working while raising children. This policy is consistent with other church departments."
August 18, 2015 - A woman is appointed to each of three formerly all-male leadership councils - Relief Society general president Linda K. Burton to the Priesthood and Family Executive Council, Young Women general president Bonnie L. Oscarson to the Missionary Executive Council, and Primary general president Rosemary M. Wixom to the Temple and Family History Executive Council.
December 20, 2018 - Updated missionary dress and grooming guidelines allow sister missionaries to wear slacks during most weekly activities, though they "should continue to wear dresses or skirts when attending the temple and during Sunday worship services, leadership and zone conferences, baptismal services, and missionary training center devotionals".
January 2, 2019 - The initiatory is changed so that women are no longer anointed to be queens and priestesses "unto your husband". The endowment ceremony is changed so that women no longer covenant to "hearken to the counsel of your husband as he hearkens to the counsel of the Father", and no longer veil their faces during the prayer circle. The ceremony now speaks of "Adam and Eve" instead of "Adam" throughout while Adam refers to "we" instead of "I". The husband-wife sealing is changed so that the woman "receives" her husband just as he "receives" her, but the husband now covenants to "preside with gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned".
January 17, 2019 - The Church News begins announcing the call of "new mission presidents and companions [wives]" instead of just the mission presidents, though the wives had already been included in pictures and bios alongside their husbands.
January 24, 2019 - The First Presidency states in a letter, "Veiling an endowed woman's face prior to burial is optional. This may be done if the sister expressed such a desire while she was living. In cases where the wishes of the deceased sister on this matter are not known, her family should be consulted."
March 1, 2019 - One of a few policy changes allows mothers with dependent children to serve as temple ordinance workers. The First Presidency notes, "Members should review their circumstances and avoid placing undue burdens on themselves or their families as they consider these service opportunities."
October 2, 2019 - A policy change allows baptized women and children to serve as witnesses at baptisms, and endowed women to serve as witnesses at temple sealings.
January 2020 - The Church implements its new Children and Youth program for members aged 8-18 and cuts its 109-year-old relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. In the process it also ends the longstanding budget disparity between the Young Men and Young Women programs.
March 11, 2021 - The First Presidency creates the new position of international area organization adviser outside the United States and Canada, to be filled by women representing the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary alongside area authority Seventies.
Would anyone be so naïve as to think that the changes will stop there? Would anyone be so silly as to insist that they know where the changes will stop? Why am I even asking these questions? Of course they would and they will.
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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.