Spring into summer thoughts

As late spring turns to early summer, here are some things to ponder….

I’m sure I don’t have anything new and insightful to bring to the presidential election table, but I do have one wish I would like to deliver to the candidates: stop yelling so much.

I have always been a fan of actor Patrick Stewart. He was great as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” series. But, he lost some points with me for his portrayal of Captain Ahab in the 1998 version of “Moby Dick.” He screeched through the whole mini-series to the point where I felt like covering my ears.

I am at the same point with the presidential hopefuls for both parties. Even motivational speakers know that sometimes you need to tone it down to get people to listen.

Harriet Tubman will finally receive the credit she deserves for her part in shaping American history. The abolitionist and founder of the Underground Railroad will have her likeness placed on the $20 bill in, get this for timing, 2020.

In an interesting side note, the Hillsboro High School yearbook staff, which I advise, was trying to place an image of the bill in its “World Events” section of this year’s annual. We downloaded an image from a website we subscribe to.

But, when we tried to prepare the graphic with Photoshop, we received an error message stating that likenesses of U.S. currency cannot be imported into the program, presumably to discourage counterfeiting.

How did the software recognize that we were trying to crop an image of money? We live in a fascinating, though sometimes frustrating, time.

Did you hear about a bill introduced by Rep. Duncan Hunter of California to include women in the requirements for young people to register for a possible future draft?

Young men are already obligated to do so. But, in an odd twist, Hunter has said he will vote against his own bill. A former Marine, he merely wanted to create an awareness of issues that this law and placing women in combat roles—which the Pentagon has already approved—would bring about.

“A draft is there to put bodies on the front lines…. The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemies’ throats out and kill them,” he said. Well, when you put it that way….

Target has been under fire lately for the company’s stand on the use of its bathrooms. In an effort to be inclusive, officials made a statement that any guest or worker may use the restroom of the gender with which he or she identifies.

The outcry from conservatives was immediate and intense, led by the American Family Association, which called for a boycott of the retailer.

I don’t get it. I was in a Target on the east side of Wichita recently, and I was struck by the pragmatic approach to labeling of the “facilities.” There was a men’s room, a women’s room and a one-person, locking unisex room, formerly the family bathroom.

This struck me as an excellent approach to the issue.

Those who have vowed never again to set foot on Target soil claim that allowing customers and workers to use the bathrooms of their choices will lead to all sorts of lewd and lascivious behaviors, that children are much more likely to be molested if, as I have seen it proclaimed, a sexual predator can simple state what gender he or she “feels like” that day and enters the facility that matches.

This is laughable.

Assaults in public restrooms by adults of either sex against minors are negligible. Statistics show that male predators in particular are most often trolling for young males. That means, in effect, if a man looks like a man, walks like a man, talks like a man, he will receive no sideways glances as he enters the men’s restroom.

I would want to ask AFA, would you rather have a person who may have been born a male and identifies himself as a female and dresses accordingly utilize a men’s or women’s restroom?

If I were a parent of a youngster, I would not send my child into a large public restroom unattended in the first place. But, that aside, I would prefer that a transgender person simply use the unisex bathroom if for no other reason than it likely will make him or her less uncomfortable about the whole issue.

I would also advise AFA fans not to travel to Euro­pean countries. I have walked into public restrooms in Germany, France and Italy where female attendants, usually elderly, are cleaning the men’s room while the facilities are open for business. Men never seemed to be worried about being accosted there.

The larger question may in fact be what to do about gender identities and restrooms in schools. The Kansas Legislature made a typically clumsy and heavy-handed attempt this session to deal with the “problem.”

One bill would have created a $2,500 fine for each time a student reported an incident in which a person entered a restroom for a gender not identified on his or her birth certificate.

So, in effect, a transgender student could not use a school restroom at all, especially since most people do not carry around their birth certificates.

Fortunately, a bill introduced by the Senate and one by the House failed to make it out of committees.

But, as we think about accommodating athletes, for example, this issue will need to be addressed at some point. Should there be a locker room for males, one for females and a third, single shower option, for LGBTQ students? Where would the money come from for that remodeling job?

To put things in perspective, we at Hillsboro Middle/ High School are still waiting for an elevator to lift students with disabilities to second-floor classrooms in our east building. That, in my opinion, is a far more pressing need. But, I do believe the bathroom gender issue will rear its head again, likely sooner rather than later.

Bob Woelk teaches English and journalism at Hillsboro Middle/High School. He can be reached at woelk@embarqmail.com.

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