Enemies Real and Imagined

“The existence of an enemy upon whom one can foist
off everything evil is an enormous relief to one’s
conscience. You can then at least say, without hesitation,
who the devil is, you are quite certain that the cause of your
misfortune is outside, and not in your own attitude.”

Carl Jung

He came to see me because he was in pain. Everywhere. This had been going on since childhood.  He had undergone the usual array of tests, with negative results. It surprised me to perceive that he had little or no hope that I would be able to help him. He was in my office only because his doctor, who had done an excellent job with his care, had insisted on this visit.

He was in his early 20’s. Short stature; facial acne; the scruffy beard a few days old that’s so popular among young men these days. I noticed that he was apologetic for being there; almost as if he thought that he was bothering me. An aura of sadness seemed to surround him.

I did not find anything abnormal on exam. I went over his list of medicines. Then it hit me: he was in the process of undergoing a sex change. There were two male hormones on the list. I have no experience with these procedures, but I figured that no other rheumatologist did either. Like I do with most challenges, I welcomed this one.

Are you transitioning?

He nodded.

Has the pain gotten worse since you started androgens?

“No. If anything, it’s better.”

I need to know more about the transitioning process. Please be patient and explain to me what has happened since you started down this road.

He did not jump at the opportunity. I am sure that many people possessed by morbid curiosity had peppered him with inappropriate questions in the past. But he patiently did his best to teach me. As the conversation proceeded the level of trust increased. He was able to give me an emotional insight besides the timeline of his experience.

To be brief: the level of abuse, hostility, and just downright meanness that he went through sent chills down my spine. From childhood he knew that he was different, but with the significant exception of his parents, who were enlightened and loving, he had to endure a lot of cruel and sometimes painful situations. I could understand why the wounds to his soul had finally provoked pain in his body. He had had enough.

I made a few suggestions. I made it clear that I would be available at any time; any way that I could help.

When I got home I thought about hate. How a smart and nice person through no fault of his own had become a target of spite. Not even at a local level, but on the national scene. If you saw this youngster walk into the men’s room anywhere, you would never give it a thought. Yet now in some places it’s illegal for him to go into the men’s room. And if he went into the women’s bathroom, there would be a major scene. The classic no-win situation.  

On the other side of the political spectrum, schools are now mandated to allow people with penises into the women’s shower after gym class. Many Americans are not ready to live with this guidance. Probably a majority.

The rhetoric has escalated. The battle lines are drawn. We are going to war over an issue that could have been easily dealt with had there been a minimum of respect and trust for the other side. My patient, all of the people who are in this boat, and the whole country will bear some scars because the idiots who have the power need an enemy to justify their need to keep that authority.

Part of the conflict that transgender issues have provoked is that the science behind gender identification lagged (a lot) behind the social manifestations. For thousands of years society identified individuals as being either male or female. Anyone who did not neatly fit into one of these categories was deemed to be “abnormal.” Once this tag was applied to individuals, it became justifiable to punish and marginalize these people.

The truth is that these people are no more abnormal than those who are left-handed (the Romans thought that left-handed people were sinister. This is the Latin word for left-handedness). Or those who are taller or shorter than average. There is nothing “wrong” with them. They do not represent a majority, that is all. There is solid science that backs me up on this.

We have a struggling middle class. Health care, medications in particular, is unaffordable. Our bridges and roads are badly in need of repair. Children who live within ten miles of each other are receiving either an elite education or are being offered illegal drugs right outside their school building. Our airplanes and public transport systems may be under attack at any time.

Some politicians have seized the bathroom issue to distract us from their utter incompetence to handle the more important things that they are not capable of fixing. They have found an eager cadre of profanity-wielding zealots to help and promote them. We should use our energy and money to find useful ways to promote friendship and general welfare.

We need to start with a clean slate. We must begin the difficult process of learning how to tolerate and respect each other. As hard as this will be for some people, we need to stop asking people what they do in their bedrooms, and how. I find it hard to understand why anybody cares.

If we were being invaded by reptile aliens from outer space, we would find a way to cooperate and work together. We already did this in one movie. Why not now?

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  1. Don

    Well said Paco. Choosing between the 2 candidates is like trying to pick an STD you can live with. But 7 years of division will do that to a people. And 7 years of constant distraction from the “real” issues foments a level of frustration for discerning people who know its all political theater.

  2. rtiepelman

    Permanence is the problem, and education–the solution.
    We hold on to the past to make it real; To trick ourselves into believing that we stand on solid ground; To believe that there is actually an “I” that persists past this very moment.
    But life is not persisting; it is continuous; and this type of thinking goes against nature; against life; against reality. Our minds crave solidity, and when left unchecked, will conjure it from anything.
    Why do we hate? Why do we kill? Because we are weak.
    When we lose something that we identify with, we lose a piece of ourselves. Money; Power; Status; Beliefs; and of course, This Body… They each define what and who we are. They each shape our ego.
    When we have something that we don’t want, we hate it. If it’s out of our control, we despise it. If it challenges our perceived stability, we kill it.
    The Earth was flat far longer than it should have been; The Earth was the center of the universe far longer than it should have been; Evil has reigned far long than it should have; because of Ego.
    We kill to hold on to what we think we are. We fear death for the same reasons. We fail to act for these same reasons.
    We each share this very moment. Inseparable from anything else. By the time we put the present into words, it’s gone. Changed. Only real for as long as we hold on to it.
    The truth? We all die. There is no difference between a man who lives for 1000 years and a man who lives for 20. We all end up in the same state. Dead. Does it matter if the man who lived for 1000 years had a million dollars, or told a million people what to do? Does it matter if the man who lived for twenty was of humble means? In 2000 years we will all have been nothing.
    This truth. This reality. We collectively refuse to accept. All we are is each other. And what we think “we” are is actually just a reflection; permanent only within our own minds.
    We will either learn to live for each other or we will all suffer the fate of nature for countless generations. Either way, we will be gone.

    1. Betty Townsend

      I feel your frustration with our political situation. We as a nation have become so corrupt that I fear it is just too late. That someone like Donald Trump was even slightly considered as a candidate for President is way more than I can understand. Of course I have been voting for the lesser of two evils for years. How can we change anything when the wolf is in the chicken coop?