Tuesday, April 26, 2016

State of Panic

So, what happens when your state's legislative body calls a special session to pass a law no one needed in the span of time it normally takes to slow smoke a pork butt? The kindest description of the result I can think of is "higgledy piggledy."

Immediately, and frustratingly, the media got itself and the hoi polloi all worked up into a frenzy over transgender bathroom rights within nanoseconds of the governor signing House Bill 2 into law. Since then, all announcements about protesting performers, defunct business expansions, and cancelled conventions have cited the arguments of rainbow tolerance and the right to pee in the stall of your choosing as the causes for the loss of millions of dollars of revenues for the state.

But is that what HB2 is really about? What the NC Legislature did was to purposely serve up a heaping slice of turdcake coated in a saucy mixture of divisive controversy in the hopes the right, left and middle would argue ad nauseam about the sauce without realizing the main ingredient beneath that sauce is a turd. Essentially, Republican lawmakers baited the hook and the media went for it like a fat lazy bass, unwittingly helping misdirect the outcry over HB2 away from all the other things that are horribly wrong with the bill.

What is at the heart of it? A coordinated attack on municipal rights, workers' rights, fair wages and state-level legal recourse for victims of discrimination.

Don't believe me? Read the bill yourself. It won't take long. Not only wasn't there time between the official beginning of the transgender bathroom freakout and the governor blotting his signature dry for much to be written, the ideas expressed aren't very complex or carefully considered. Let's break it down.

Part One -- Single Sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities -- This part states you have to use the bathroom that matches the doohicky or hoohah you were born with, regardless of everything or anything that might have happened in your life or how badly you have to go. Part of me is okay with this, because it means it is now illegal for drunk women at concerts to raid the men's room just because the line is shorter. Sorry ladies, it's the law. Side benefits aside, however, this poorly thought through bit of fear-mongering legislation creates more problems than it solves, which isn't difficult because there was no problem to solve to begin with.

Part Two -- Statewide Consistencies in Laws Related to Contracting and Employment -- Local governments can't require contractors to treat their employees in ways that are more ethical than the state determines is good enough for the likes of them. If Charlotte, Raleigh or Greensboro wants to enact stricter regulations in order to provide an improved work environment and more competitive conditions, too bad. This is where HB2 breaks into its chorus of "the provisions of this article supersede and preempt any ordinance, regulation, resolution or policy adopted or imposed by a unit of local government." With that refrain, Republican lawmakers void all past, present and future workplace protections enacted by all local governments in all 100 North Carolina counties.

Part Three -- Protection of Rights in Employment and Public Accommodations -- Again we hear the "supersede and preempt" refrain, only this time it relates to discrimination. No local government can legally extend additional protections from discrimination to those afforded by the state. It also says if you do manage to have a provable case of discrimination, you can't file suit in North Carolina. Yup, the state is so concerned you might be discriminated against that it doesn't even want to hear about it, especially in any Tar Heel court. Additionally, it limits protection from discrimination to the following factors: race, religion, color, national origin, or biological sex. If you're disabled, you're screwed. If you're a veteran? You're also screwed. If you're a disabled veteran who happens to be gay, you don't stand a chance.

Part Four -- Severability -- Standard legal mumbo jumbo that means just because one part of the law is deemed unconstitutional, the rest of the parts remain in full effect. In other words, even if the ridiculous potty laws get tossed out by the courts, it won't impact the ridiculous employment laws restricting the governing rights of local governments and putting thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of working class North Carolinians at risk of discriminatory employer practices with no state-level legal recourse.

Look, I understand some people live sheltered lives and naively believe they don't know anyone who is homosexual or identifies sexually in ways that deviate from the "norm."

The idea of a man dressed as a woman who wants to use the women's bathroom, or vice versa, is a terrifying notion to these people. They see it as something perverse, different, and strange that needs to be policed, controlled and monitored. As someone who has seen more than his fair share of gas station bathrooms, trust me when I tell you a member of the opposite sex dropping a deuce in the neighboring stall is far from the worst thing you could experience in a public facility. Transgender people are people, and what they want to accomplish in the bathroom is the same thing you and I want to accomplish -- relieving ourselves without catching a third world fungus off the toilet seat.

When it comes down to it, you're more likely to be molested inside a church by a member of the clergy, or in a government office by a member of the Republican Party, than to be accosted by a transgender man or woman in a public bathroom. And you're certainly far more likely to get screwed by the lack of protections afforded by North Carolina's House Bill 2.

© 2016 Mark Feggeler

Monday, April 4, 2016

Deaf Like Me

My selective hearing has given me a bad reputation for being hard of hearing. "Dad's deaf!" frequently are the words I hear after I ask My Lovely Wife or any of our three children to repeat themselves.

The reality is I do hear them. I simply don't begin paying attention until right about the time whoever is speaking has delivered the final word of his or her statement or question. It isn't that I don't care what they're saying. I do. Really, I do. It's just that, because what they're saying somehow doesn't relate to my current task at hand, it takes a few seconds for my brain to switch from whatever it was focused on to listening mode.

There are times, however, when I legitimately am unable to discern the alleged enunciations of my loved ones. I suggest these moments are, for the most part -- and resulting from no fault of my own -- not my fault. Fortunately,  the unintelligible mutterings of my family fall into several convenient categories.

Mumbling Gingers
We have a Mumbling Ginger, which I suspect is the worst sort of mumbler imaginable. Our Ginger (aka, the German) is so softly spoken he might as well be whispering into a hurricane when attempting to communicate with other human beings. This is how most conversations with the Mumbling Ginger begin:

   Him: "Mumble, mumble, mumble."
   Me: "What did you say?"
   Him: "Mumble, mumble, mumble."

It doesn't matter how many times we repeat this opening exercise, the next time the German has something to say it will escape his mouth even more quietly than the last.

The House Crosser
My Lovely Wife specializes in House Crossing. The House Crosser is any individual who begins speaking at normal conversational volume while near you and then, without warning or request for you to follow, leaves your presence and walks all the way across to the other side of the house while continuing to speak at the same volume.

House Crossers might pass any number of noise-making devices along the way -- flushing toilets, running dishwashers, barking dogs, blaring radios, washing machines in spin cycle -- it won't affect the volume at which they are speaking or the degree to which they are annoyed once they realize you are still in the bathroom brushing your teeth and haven't heard a word they've said.

The Verbositizer
The Italian, fittingly enough, has the gift of gab. He's also the kind of kid you sometimes shush when he's making noise only for the sake of making noise, which drives the volume of conversation around him higher and higher until you realize you're yelling to be heard over him.

The Italian doesn't speak, he expounds. The fact he comes by it naturally -- his Mother and I are both card-carrying expounders -- does nothing to ameliorate the effects of being bombarded by a non-stop flood of exposition on his topic of choice. Turning a deaf ear has less to do with not hearing and more to do with self-preservation. Like "Moby Dick" or "War and Peace," the Italian is brimming with tangential details that might seem important but which do not really serve the purpose of the story. If only he came with CliffsNotes.

The Speed Demon
As if it weren't enough that Our Daughter sometimes speaks so quickly her words meld together into stream-of-consciousness babble, she also tends to rise in pitch to squeak level when she does it. It's like listening to a drunk mouse that's been sucking helium.

There is no defense against this attempted form of communication short of immediate mockery, scorn and/or ridicule, followed by a request that she repeat what she said in English and at a tone preferably below that of a dog whistle.

The Non-Transitioner
This one isn't so much a hearing issue as it is a "what the heck are you talking about" issue. When speaking with My Lovely Wife, no matter how long we've been together, I am almost never prepared for the abrupt mental rupture that occurs mid-discussion.

She could be taking the conversation in an entirely new direction, or harkening back to a topic from the previous hour, day or week. Doesn't matter. In her mind, the transition is seamless. I, on the other hand, feel like a thick-brained dullard struggling to figure out how I missed the bit where we went from talking about the German's math homework to a strongly worded condemnation of mayonnaise.

The You've Got to be Kidding Me
This final one is a catch-all for any situation in which any reasonable human being would excuse any non-hearing impaired human being for asking for an unreasonably quiet utterance to be repeated. For instance, when sitting in the middle of the Museum of Natural History Cafe in Washington, DC, on a Saturday surrounded by a thousand bustling tourists all talking loudly in a variety of languages, scraping cafeteria chairs across linoleum, moving tables and yelling at their children to eat more because they just spent their lives' savings on plastic pizza and cold chicken tenders. But, should I say "What did you say?" what do I hear in response? That's right -- Dad's deaf.

2016 Mark Feggeler