Imperfect choices

There was supposed to be a ruling this afternoon about the specifics of the Jeffrey Younger/Anne Georgulas custody case in Texas, but the judge has delayed the ruling until tomorrow. While largely being ignored in the mainstream media, on many other outlets, including Breitbart, where the article has garnered over 25,000 comments.

The case is important, not just because it deals with children and transgender ideology, but because it also touches on things like parental rights, freedom of speech, religious freedom, freedom of association, as well as the very 1984-esque concept of “wrongthink”.

It’s amazing, too, because in seeing the comments in a fairly mainstream outlet, the UK Daily Mail, even people who label themselves as liberal or very liberal think this is crazy because the child at the center of this controversy is only seven.

For the people on the comment boards who are defending the mother, one of the most common refrains is that the father, supposedly, is a liar and a fraud and has been involved in questionable activities, etc. They want to equate whatever failings of the father as justification that the mother is doing what is in the “best interests” of the child.

However, the thing is that no parent is perfect, and even in happy families, parents have failings. Some are greater than others.

The thing is that these children have two parents, both of whom are imperfect. However, the path that the mother, regardless of her intention, is almost guaranteed to do lasting physical and spiritual damage to her sons. The father, on the other hand, and regardless of his other faults, seems to want to take a more sensible tack in raising his children. When we are talking about the welfare of the children, then, he should be the preferred parent. This is what matters in child welfare and custody cases.

The choices laid out before us are often not perfect or easy. These two children have two parents who both seem to have issues. Regardless, a choice has to be made.

In many ways, this reminds me of the 2016 election. Many devout Christians have gotten all sorts of flack for voting for and sticking loyally by President Trump. However, very few of them will pretend that he’s a perfect person. That’s just silly. A choice was presented to us in 2016 between Trump and Clinton. And very many of us felt that to choose Clinton, regardless of her nice words and “experience” and all, would be a vote to go down a very dangerous path, and so ended up going with the other choice of Trump. In my opinion, he’s exceeded (my admittedly low) expectations. As for loyalty, though, if Trump’s performance hasn’t been good enough, as things are shaping up for 2020, again, everyone running on the Democrat side seems to be on the same destructive course as Clinton. For me, then, the choice is already clear, as imperfect as it may be – just like the choice in this custody battle ought to be.

In the meantime, PRAY!

Sacrificing children to the gods of the age

My youngest is two years old. She loves trucks and tools and blocks, and if something in the garage needs attention, she’s out there like a little mechanic trying, alongside us, to “fix” it. It’s sweet, and we’ve really lucked out here, too, because she loves to wear the “boy” hand-me-down pajamas with the forklifts, bulldozers, and what-have-you. I’m sure a lot of the “feminists” would be proud – she’s breaking through gender-norms or some such.

The thing is, though, that as much as she enjoys the “boy” stuff, she’s all girl. Having both male and female children, it’s quite interesting to see how this plays into how they encounter the world.

There’s a case in Texas that has gotten some national and international attention (particularly in Russia). I linked to the related crowdfunding appeal here: https://orthodoxhelp.wordpress.com/2019/10/08/save-james/. In short, it’s a case where the parents are divorced, and mom believes that one of the children was showing signs of being transgender at three – and she’s petitioning the court to have the dad’s rights over the children curtailed so that she has control to allow one of the boys to start “transitioning” to female. Dad is adamantly opposed, but seems to have lost his bid for conservatorship this week.

This is frightening on a number of levels. Yes, I know that there are people who really struggle with their identities, and that it is a long, grueling, and painful struggle. However, with children, the large majority who “take on” an identity of the opposite sex will grow out of it on their own before they hit puberty. Furthermore, in this instance, it seems like the child is happy being a boy away from his mother’s influence, but puts on the female persona around her – which is not the typical behavior of someone with “gender dysphoria”.

The thing is, too, that the makers of television shows for kids and toys have been trying for years to break away from things being called “boys” or “girls”. Target and McDonald’s have both come under fire for toys labelled “boys” or “girls”. Right and left one hears about toy-makers being asked to make things less gender-exclusive, from the Easy-Bake Oven to little green soldiers.

Yet there is a duplicity about this. I’ve written a little bit about this before, again, in regards to my youngest, talking about how although she loves a typically “boy” show, and there’s a girl featured on it, there is no merchandising of that character. However, again, as a girl who likes “boy” things, she’s the type of girl who would be championed by the feminists.

The danger happens, though, when boys like the typically “girl” things. On one hand, they’re being taught that there are no “boy” or “girl” toys and that it’s a good thing to let little boys experience the more “feminine” things. On the other, when you do have little boys who then show affinity for the “girl” things, instead of it being taken in stride, the first thought is that somehow they must be gay or transgender or something. In the Texas case, the mother testified that she first suspected that her son might be transgender because, at age three, he picked the “Starfire” toy at McDonalds over the “boy” choices. I think my kids even have that toy, and if it’s the same one, Starfire is dressed as a ninja, all in black. Yes, there’s a shock of a pink ponytail in back, but for a little kid who probably thinks ninjas are cool, and that boy or girl doesn’t matter, why should this choice determine so much of the rest of his life?

Right now the West is being bombarded by a barrage of insanity under the guise of being sensitive to the LGBTQ+ crowd, and particularly in the last couple of years by the transgender “movement”. Yet when one looks at the mainstream media who are pushing this hard, it’s apparent that they don’t believe in the nonsense themselves – they’re still using standard pronouns on air, they still talk about political polling based on binary gender, they still talk about “men” and “women” and “boys” and “girls” without asking each person for affirmative consent on their preferred pronouns. (And, barring this consent, such as in the matters of small children, they don’t make an effort to talk about the child in a gender-neutral way.) Look at the Democrat forum on LGBTQ+ issues, where Kamala Harris announced that her pronouns were “she, her, and hers” and Chris Cuomo responded, “Mine too“. He felt free to do that because for so many “champions” of LGBTQ+ causes, it’s a joke; it’s not serious, they’re not serious about it themselves, but it’s a handy weapon to try to bludgeon the rest of us “rubes” with.

The judge’s final decision in Texas is due tomorrow. Just knowing that the jury ruled against the father is very discouraging for a lot of people, in particular because all he’s asking is that there be no medical intervention to transition his kid until the kid is old enough to have some idea of the ramifications. How is that not the most sensible course of action? The interesting thing is that there was a neutral advocate assigned to the case and the advocate’s thinking seemed to run roughly along the lines of the father. One would hope, then, that perhaps, considering the animosity between the parents, maybe the judge would rule that the advocate be party or have to approve any life-changing medical procedures for the boys.

Is it a long shot? Perhaps. But the thing is that even in the midst of the greatest discouragement, we are told not to give up hope and to cling all the more tightly to God. We do not understand the times or the ways, but with faith, He has a way of bringing miracles out of great evil. One of the reasons that the mother here can do this is because, at present, no state has any laws about the minimum age for a child to start “transitioning”. Maybe this case is a call for people to start contacting legislators to start writing some laws about this. Who knows. But I find it interesting – the family in Texas here is Orthodox, and the boy in question is named James after James, the brother of Jesus. The judge’s ruling is set for tomorrow, which also happens to be one of the feast days for St. James. Coincidence? Maybe. But for those of us of faith, let us continue on in prayer.

Joy as Necessity (Dancing in Iran)

As much as the Puritans had an outsized influence on American culture, I think that one of the primary things they erred in, theologically, is the notion that joy – or maybe intentional happiness – is somehow frivolous, and therefore sinful.

Joy is a necessity of life, and while it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are experiencing “happiness” all the time, it’s a sustaining force that allows us to draw from happiness something greater, something that give us hope and perspective when times are rough. People are not mindless drones, although work is an important part of life, the soul needs more than constant work, constant busyness, to be satisfied.

This is part of what makes this story so disturbing. According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, the Education minister is cracking down on the school officials who allowed Iranian children to dance around to some music in school. https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2019/05/title-irans-education-minister-cracks-down-on-school-kids-dance-challenge/

From our perspective, it’s a sweet little video. Little kids bopping around, smiling and laughing, the way little kids do. They are experiencing one of the ways in which music touches the soul, that delight. Now, from what I can tell in the English translation, the song is far from profound, it’s meant to be more of a Eurostyle techno earworm to get people moving on the dance floor. “Shake it sexy” isn’t necessarily a phrase little kids ought to be familiar with, but that’s not what kids are doing here. It’s hardly the type of thing, with all the other serious problems Iran is dealing with right now, that needs officials up to the deputy speaker of Parliament considering a crisis worthy of investigation and punishment.

Official video of the song “Gentleman” by US-Iranian artist Sasy

The singer, Sasy, for his part, has not backed down either. It helps that he lives in California, but still, publicly standing up to Iranian officials on this matter is no little thing, and he ought to be commended.

God is Love, and in His love and in loving others, we find real, sustaining joy. Music is part of that expression, whether it be for love, for mourning, for silliness, for dance, and it is no coincidence that music is so often referenced in the Bible.

Hard-line Islam, on the other hand, shuns music. In some sense, like the Puritans, there’s kind of an idea that the soul doesn’t need joy, that one ought to operate, always, in a way that is contra to this. Yes, the Christian life, and in Orthodoxy, in particular, we are taught that we need to live in a manner that curbs the passions, but when we actually do this, it almost always brings to us a more joyful life. It is not a blanket prohibition on fun (which was a common criticism of Christians I heard as a kid).

We need joy. We need the times to be happy and the times to mourn. As the passage in Ecclesiastes says:

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Chapter 3:1-8 (King James Version)

Even this mentions dancing, because it’s so important to the human condition, an expression of joy. May we all pray that the time for dancing in Iran be near!

Word and Action, Corporate Edition (No love for Gabby)

Blaze and the Monster Machines is a Nickelodeon show (Nick Jr.) featuring lots of anthropomorphized monster trucks along with a couple of kids who interact with them. The star, of course, is the character Blaze. The children are A.J., a boy, who is Blaze’s driver, and Gabby, a girl, who is the mechanic to the whole group. A.J. appears in every episode, and Gabby appears in most, if not all, of the episodes, though her role is smaller than A.J.’s.

The show hopes to introduce small children to science concepts, in particular those with math, mechanics, and engineering. (I wrote a bit about this at my other blog here: The Fallacy of “Educational Television”.) Regardless of whether I think educational television actually works, my two youngest children have fallen in love with the show. The thing is, one is a boy, the other a girl.

Now, for my son, finding him Blaze stuff was no problem. It’s obvious that probably 97% of kids who name Blaze as their favorite show are boys. There are coloring books, shoes, pajamas, toys, what have you, just as you would expect with any Nickelodeon cartoon.

My daughter very much enjoys that we have these things in the house. I have no problem with her running around with the monster trucks or wearing grey, black, and red Blaze pajamas.

The thing is, though, because she’s a girl, I’m sure she pays more attention to Gabby than the boys do. She pays attention to all of Gabby’s tools and can name them all, even at two years old. However, although Gabby is a “main character”, there is almost no Gabby merchandise. An Amazon search for “Blaze” and “Gabby” shows one car, which has poor ratings due to the fact that it is smaller than the rest of the series. No T-shirts, no pajamas, no dolls, nothing.

Obviously, the show’s fans are primarily little boys. That much is clear. However, if they are going to go through the trouble of putting a female character in the show, how about giving that character a little love? My daughter is very much a “girly-girl”, but there is no reason that she can’t aspire to go into the hard sciences if she wants to. A girl doesn’t have to be a boy to do that. Gabby is kind of a representation of that – a girl who is smart, competent, and feminine in a traditionally male environment. For all the whining there is these days about girls not wanting to go into STEM fields, you’d think that Nickelodeon might throw the minority of girls who love Blaze, like my daughter, a bone by giving them something in the way of merchandise choices. If nothing else, I would even wager to guess, that with her purple hair, Gabby would sell decently well with girls on the cuteness factor alone. I’m not saying that my two-year-old’s future in STEM is dependent on whether I can find some official Gabby merchandise. However, it just seems like this is another case of liberal corporate hypocrisy, where they say they are in favor of one thing, but their actions say something else entirely.