Category Archives: Culture Wars

American Fiction


American Fiction  is , as its title suggests, yet another film about Fantasyland.  In some respects it is not real. In other respects it is all too real.  This is a very appropriate title for a film that explores one of America’s many Fantasy Lands. Walt Disney’s Fantasyland is an American creation that has stood the test of time. Just like America as Fantasyland itself.

The protagonist in this film is Thelonious “Monk” Ellison a black writer and professor in Los Angeles. His novels have received academic praise, but sell poorly, and publishers have rejected his most recent manuscript for not being “black enough.”

Monk’s literary agent tries to urge Monk to be realistic and take another approach. Give the public what it wants, even if it is crap. The agent says to Monk, “Your books are good but they’re not popular.” His publisher has rejected his latest book. The agent tells him  “They want a black book.” What is a black book? Monk has an answer: “They got a black book. I’m black and they’ve got the book.” But this incident causes Monk to embark on a flight of apoplexy.

Meanwhile his the University where he teaches has put him on suspension over intemperate politically incorrect remarks he made to his students about racial issues. Teh university bosses  suggest he attend a literary seminar  and spend time with his family in Boston. Of course, he doesn’t really want to be with his family. As he says, “All successful writers are tormented by their families.” His family is certainly no exception.

Monk’s mother is in the early stages of dementia. HIs sister Lisa is a physician who  tries to cheer Monk up. Lisa tells him, “Your books change peoples’ lives!” But Monk asks her, “Has anything I’ve ever written changed your life?” She responds, “Absolutely, my dining room table was wobbly as hell before your last book came out. It was like perfect!”

Monk attends a literary event in Boston in which black novelist Sintara Golden is reading from her new novel We’s Lives in Da Ghetto which seems to pander to black stereotypes. It is immensely popular, unlike his work.  It is filled with black stereotypes that Monk cannot stand. How could she be a successful “black” writer while he is suffering in the wings of the boondocks?

Monk’ literary agent encourages him to do the same thing that worked so well for Sintara. Monk listens to her reading from her novel which he despises. In disgust, Monk decides to write his own black novel as a joke. As Monk said, “If they want stereotypes, I’m going to give them stereotypes. “Dead beat dads. Rappers. Crack.”   He calls the book My Pafology and it contains every trope white readers expect from black novels. It has a melodramatic plot involving bad dialogue, deadbeat dads, gang violence, and drugs. As Monk says, “I just want to rub their noses in it.” And much to his surprise the book publisher loves it and pays him a $750,000 advance which is money he really can use. They won’t even take back their offer when he insists the book be called “Fuck.”

And it turns out to be a book the whites in the Hamptons will love. His black book is a spectacular success. Even though he wrote it as a joke, as his agent says, “its the most lucrative joke you ever told.”

Yet I kept wondering if his book was  really as bad as he claimed. Maybe the readers knew that his “serious” books were crap and his “junk novel” was actually a gem. In the world of fantasies who knows where the truth lies? Not I.

Monk’s family adds elements of great comedy. The film is filled with surprises.  Monk’s brother Cliff is a cantankerous gay man who does everything he can to rock the boat.  When a white neighbour, married to “the rules,” tells them they can’t spread the ashes of their mother in the ocean as she had requested,  Cliff tells him if you try to stop me, “I’ll eat your sweater vest for dinner.”

This film is a black comedy in more than one sense of that word. It really mocks the woke world of liberal white society. And there is no easier target in modern American society than that. The move is an intellectual romp through the racist memes of the publishing world and beyond.  It will make for a fine cinema experience.

A Safe Place to Hate.


There had been a lot of social change just before Rush Limbaugh arrived on the scene. There was gay liberation, women’s rights, and liberalism. Many felt they could no longer say what they wanted to say. Political correctness was seen as a stifling chain. They also thought no one was speaking like them or to them. They were ignored and invisible. As Justin Ling said in his CBC. Radio series , “In the universe of right-wing media compared to the Wall Street Journal and like the later Fox News Limbaugh’s listeners were older, whiter, more conservative, and more religious. For this slice of America Limbaugh created a safe space.” He created a safe place to hate.

Surprisingly, because there was a Republican in the White House, as Ling said, “he convinced these old, white, conservative, and religious Americans that they were disenfranchised!” Even though they were in the majority! It was pure alchemy. He told them they were looked down on. He milked them for their resentment—the elixir of devils. As Ling said, “He formed a kind of counterculture; a resistance against the liberals, and the progressives, and the feminists.”

In the mid-80s he syndicated to about 50 stations across the country but by 1990 he got 450 affiliates. He was the rock star of talk radio and the conservative movement. He led a Rush to Excellence Tour to various stadiums around the country with as many as 10,000 people.  As Justin Ling said, “Limbaugh declared a culture war”. Limbaugh put it this way:

“We are in the midst of a culture war. What are rights? This culture war illustrates precisely what is going on. We in America are in the midst—it’s an exciting time to be alive—we are in the midst of a redefinition of who is going to define right and wrong, what the punishment is going to be for those who violate the limits that we place on our behavior. We are arguing about who has the right to tell us what is right and what is wrong. We’re arguing over what censorship is And to me its pretty scary.”


And there it is again—fear—the secret sauce of paranoia and right-wing hysteria.

Like Trump later, Limbaugh went from being a spoiled rich kid to a champion of the working class. People all over America were starting to take notice of Limbaugh. I remember at the time hearing about him from a friend of mine, a trucker. Truckers loved Limbaugh, just like they later loved Trump and basically for the same reasons. They liked to have a wrecking ball in their corner as did my friend the trucker, and much later the truckers convoy in Ottawa in 2022. They got a rush from Rush Limbaugh.

As Justin Ling said, “On his radio show he was the voice of God on a one way street. And he loved nothing better than to run over liberal women. On his radio show he said, “this is a show devoted to what I think.” On the Dave Lettermen show he said people were bugged by him because “I have almost a monopoly on the truth.” No one could ever accuse Limbaugh of humility. Humility was a liberal vice. And his fans loved it.  He also said “This is a benevolent dictatorship. I am the dictator. There is no first amendment here except for me.”

Now he was entitled to be the dictator of his own show. If we don’t like it, we don’t have to listen to it.


Hysteria Rides (and falls) Again



It is hardly surprising, but hysteria has failed again. That is because hysteria rarely leads to encouraging solutions to real problems. Hysteria interferes with critical thinking.

Many Winnipeggers learned this lesson on Friday. As Maggie Macintosh reported in the Winnipeg Free Press,

More than 1,000 students — including nearly half of one elementary school’s population — were absent from classes in one Winnipeg school district Wednesday as misinformation spread online about its teachers distributing graphic sexual content.


Many Winnipeggers believed the nonsense they read about on social media that teachers planned to suddenly expose children to explicit and inappropriate information. That is typical of the stuff social media spreads, and unfortunately, many parents are inclined to believe such claims. People who are addicted to conspiracy theories believe stuff like this no matter how incredible it is. People living in what Kurt Anderson called “FantasyLand” are addicted to such absurdities.

 Superintendent Brian O’Leary said We had a lot of information circulating on social media, particularly within the South Asian community, telling parents that the schools were planning to hand out books with graphic sexual material to all students.”

As Macintosh reported, the Superintendent  said,

 “false and malicious fearmongering” on social media prompted hundreds of families in the Seven Oaks School Division to keep their elementary-aged children home from classes Sept. 20.


He also said the posts in Punjabi, Hindi and Arabic were “deliberately concocted to scare parents,” and were circulating on Facebook. The problem is that far too many parents, and others, believe everything they hear on social media, particularly if it aligns with their anti-government ideology. The problem is not gender ideology, it is the ideology of automatic distrust in government. Adherents to this ideology would much rather believe nonsense on the internet than government sources.  And this is a big problem for society.

As Macintosh said,

“About 50 per cent of students enrolled at Arthur E. Wright Community School did not show up Wednesday. The absenteeism rate dropped to five per cent Thursday. The abnormal attendance levels were recorded on the same day as the “1MillionMarch4Children” — a protest organized by a conservative group that is “against gender ideology” and claims schools are sharing “sexually explicit content” with students — played out across the country.”


When hysterical parents hear lies this, particularly if they have a sexual element,  they immediately move into high gear before they have a chance to think things through rationally. Hysteria is the mortal enemy of critical thinking.

I don’t think it is a coincidence either that this happened as hundreds of protesters showed up at the Manitoba Legislative Building the day before to call for more parental rights, even though they already have ample parental rights they rarely use.  When parents are haunted by fantastical visions of children being sexually abused, their reactions are on hair-trigger mode.

The president of the Manitoba Teacher’s Society Nathanial Martindale was disappointed that parents had believed such nonsense that  Manitoba teachers are out to harm children. As he said, “nothing could be further from the truth… Educators want the best for all learners and will never be onside with homophobic or transphobic hate.” But reasonable ordinary truth like that  just does not cut it on the Internet when there are salacious lies instead.

Lies and Hate travel at warp speed on the internet compared to dull truth.




I have heard friends, good friends, say they wished the LGBTQ* community were less flamboyant. Particularly they think trans queens are outrageously over the top. Why do they have to be so ‘in your face’ all the time they ask? Or they say,’ Don’t they know they are not winning support with their actions?’ Or, “Why do they act so we see them all the time?’


I used to feel that way. I think it was the residue of homophobia that makes the straight community feel that way. This is our liberation fatigue speaking and we must dissolve it. Members of the LGBTQ* community have always been forced into the dark cracks of society where they could hide.  They had no choice, they thought, because they would be hit hard when they ‘came out.’


Naturally, they don’t want to be forced back into those dark societal cracks. They want to be out in the open as they are entitled to be. I think flamboyance is their way of saying, ‘I am not going back into those cracks again. I am out and I am staying out, get used to it.’ And that is exactly what we should do—get used to it. Let then be. If they want to be flamboyant, so be it.


I think the LGBTQ* community is entitled to do exactly that. The rest of us just have to get used to it. Our discomfort with the flamboyance is only disguised homophobia and we in the dominant group need to get rid of all of that phobia. we don’t even recognize what it is. We need to get rid of it, not just for the sake of the LGBTQ*, but for ourselves. We must cleanse ourselves of all homophobia.  None of it does us well. That is our job in the face of injustice. This will liberate us! Flamboyance fatigue, or justice fatigue, or reconciliation fatigue are all unbecoming. We can do better.

Why do Christians Hate so many Vulnerable People?


It seems odd to me—very odd—that Christians seem to be spearheading every charge against every minority group: women, blacks, lesbians, gays, trans, queer, Muslims, immigrants, and others? Is this what the party of Christ has come to?

Is it because there is something nasty about their religion?  After all the Bible, their Holy Book, does seem to have a lot of hatred for minority groups, particularly sexual minorities.

Yet Christians cheerfully without fuss or muss, easily discard inconvenient Bible prescriptions when they choose to. They don’t think being rich will prevent them from entering heaven no matter what the Bible says. They don’t stone adulterers like the Bible orders. So why do they pick on vulnerable lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and queer?  Why do they religiously follow the prescriptions against these vulnerable people while ignoring so many other divine orders?

I think the answer lies in the word I have been repeating: “vulnerable.”  There seems to be something about the vulnerable that attracts the attention  of  Christians, at least evangelical Christians, and their will to dominate.  It even attracts their hate, though often they deny it. In fact, now that gays and lesbians seem to be increasing in numbers or at least visibility, and hence power,  it seems to me they have eased up on their harassment of them.  Instead,  evangelical Christians are now concentrating more on bi-sexuals and trans. In my view, they are attracted to the easier and less powerful targets! They want to trample on the weak. And are fearful of the stronger.

If this is true it does not speak well of Christians.  If any readers feel I am being unfair to Christians, I ask them to speak up and set me straight. I don’t want to slander Christians if I am wrong.


Problems must be squarely faced


I  like listening to UN Secretary-General António Guterres who always speaks bluntly. He never holds back on his punches. recently,  he said, “We can’t confront problems unless we look them squarely in the eye. And we are looking into the eye of a Category 5 Hurricane. Our world is plagued by a perfect storm of problems.” He was referring to climate change, coronavirus, the war in Ukraine, and the possible recession that seemed to be advancing.

This is an important lesson. American conservatives have not learned it. They want the facts of racism in their country to be sugar-coated for themselves and for their children. This is an awful mistake.

In fact, in my opinion this is what it means to be woke. Confronting problems rather than evading them. That’s why so many conservatives don’t want to be woke.


Steinbach plays instrumental role in protecting trans-gender rights


This headline may shock you.

Canada has now banned conversion therapy and Steinbach has played an odd role in the resolution of this issue. But not the role you might think. After three tries the government of  Canada formally banned conversion therapy by amending the Criminal Code of Canada.

Those techniques can range from talk and behavioral therapy to medical treatments. These treatments though widely endorsed by conservatives have been discredited by major medical associations in many countries as well as the United Nations, World Health Organization, Amnesty International and other groups. Critics  of this so-called therapy, say it causes harm to its victims and is based on the faulty assumption that sexual orientation and gender identity can or should be “cured.”

Many conservatives believe that people really are cisgender and should be left that way. Cisgender is a term used to describe a person whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth. In other words, God never makes mistakes so humans should not intervene. Except that humans can intervene to keep people heterosexual. After years of debate, Canada has entered the fray with legislation.

As Christine Hauser reported in the New York Times:

“This is an incredibly important step to making sure queer and trans people in Canada feel valid and deserving of full protection,” said Michael Kwag, a policy director at the Community-Based Research Center in Toronto, which researches the health of people of diverse sexualities and genders.

“It also sends a strong message to the entire country that any attempt to change, deny or suppress the identity of queer and trans people is wrong,” he said in an interview.


The Code has a very specific and  interesting definition of conversion therapy as follows:

Definition of conversion therapy

320.101 In sections 320.102 to 320.104, conversion therapy means a practice, treatment or service designed to

  • (a)change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual;
  • (b)change a person’s gender identity to cisgender;
  • (c)change a person’s gender expression so that it conforms to the sex assigned to the person at birth;
  • (d)repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour;
  • (e)repress a person’s non-cisgender gender identity; or
  • (f)repress or reduce a person’s gender expression that does not conform to the sex assigned to the person at birth.

For greater certainty, this definition does not include a practice, treatment or service that relates to the exploration or development of an integrated personal identity — such as a practice, treatment or service that relates to a person’s gender transition — and that is not based on an assumption that a particular sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is to be preferred over another.

It is noteworthy that consent of the patient is no defence! In other words, the government of Canada considers that it should be an offence to commit any acts that are “designed” to make such changes in gender. Everyone who knowingly causes another person to undergo such “therapy” is guilty of the offence. As well everyone who knowingly promotes or advertises such “therapy” is guilty of the offence as well. Finally, everyone who receives a financial or material benefit from the provision of such services is also guilty of the offence.

The bill that enacted the new law said such “therapy” harms society because “it is based on and propagates myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, including the myth that heterosexuality, cisgender gender identity, and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.” Wow! Canada has come a long way!

But the most amazing thing was this new law received unanimous consent in Parliament! How was that possible? Where was Steinbach’s Member of Parliament Ted Falk? It turns out he was asleep.

Falk was concerned about the effects of this legislation on religious freedom, such as whether a pastor could be charged if asked to speak to a person about gender identity. I don’t complain about such concerns, I just wish Falk also showed some concern about the long history of discrimination against trans people by members of the religious community. On that he had little to say. Frankly, I think that is much more relevant.

Falk knows where his voters come from in the Bible belt of Manitoba.  I was surprised by the international attention shown to this as evidenced by reporting of National Public Radio and the New York Times in the US. The Times even mentioned Steinbach’s Member of Parliament Ted Falk. Wow! The Times noted that the bill was passed through a unanimous consent motion in the House of Commons on December 1, 2021 followed by the Senate on December 7th.

Amazingly Conservatives who had opposed previous versions of the bill then embraced the 3rd version. Yet “our” Ted Falk was not happy about what happened. This is how the New York Times reported on Falk’s activities:

“But some legislators were dismayed. Ted Falk, a Conservative member of Parliament from Manitoba, said he and other conservatives were “blindsided” by the fast-tracked bill that disregarded written viewpoints and concerns.

In a Facebook post on Dec. 17, he said there was no sign of a consensus or final decision had been reached before the motion was unexpectedly presented just as everyone was rising, giving no time for objections.”

“There were about four seconds in which any one of us could have voiced an objection and, in all honesty, before I could process what was happening, the motion had been passed,” he wrote on Facebook.


I am not so sure that Falk and the other Conservatives were blind-sided. Perhaps Falk was just trying hard to spin a narrative that his supporters in our Bible Belt might accept. Perhaps Conservatives voted for the motion thinking it would be passed anyway and wanted to rush home for Christmas. How could both the House of Commons and the Senate give unanimous consent with Ted Falk as our representative? Personally, I found this aspect of the case highly amusing. I would like to know what really went on.

In any event, thanks to the conservatives napping on the job, Canada joined at least a dozen countries banning this heinous practice much loved by evangelicals. Those countries included France, Germany, Malta, Ecuador, India, and 20 American states!

I love it.



Trans Regret


In the conservative communities around North America it is common to claim that many people who undergo transitioning surgery later regret their choice. It is true that some people later regret the choices they have made, but the numbers are very low. According to Dr. Darren Reimer, who courageously works with Trans patients in Steinbach, about 1-2% of people who underwent gender transitioning surgery regretted it.  The only thing surprising about that number is how low that percentage is. People are complex with complex desires. People make mistakes.

Some critics of gender-affirming treatments have argued that children are too young to make such decisions and often later regret their decisions when they become adults.

According to Samantha Schmidt of the Washington Post:

“A new study…  researchers from the Fenway Institute and Harvard Medical School found that 13.1 percent of currently identified transgender people have “detransitioned” at some point in their lives but that 82.5 percent of those people attributed their decision to external factors such as pressure from family, school environments and vulnerability to violence.”


In other words, they did not really regret an informed decision they had made, they did regret that their decision had not been made freely and voluntarily with all of the necessary facts free from undue influence of others.

People often regret surgeries. In fact, most surgeries have a much higher rate of regret. I know a number of people who have regretted their knee or hip surgeries. Apparently, according to Dr. Reimer, 15% regret having had knee surgery. 12% regret having giving birth! I am also surprised that this is so low.  No one makes all major decisions well.

Some conservatives also claim large numbers of people who have transitioned later regret it, but according to Vox “an average of about 2 percent of respondents express regret… ”  and “… the vast majority of TGD people who opted to detransition did so…not because of changes in gender identity, but due to external factors such as stigma and lack of social support.”

I really wish political combatants in the culture wars, on the left and the right, stayed out of these decisions and left them to the children involved and their parents or guardians together with their trusted advisors.

I think everyone would be better served. Particularly the children.


Surgery for young kids? A reconsideration.


One good thing about saying I am a meanderer, is that no one should be surprised when I have to backtrack. Today is one of those days where I have to backtrack to some extent. Just after I posted my last epistle on the gender wars I read an article in the New York Times that causes me to reconsider some of the things I said.

This article by Megan Twohey and Christina Jewett alerted me to some very recent science that changes things.  This article suggests that although puberty blockers can ease the anguish to transgender youths and buy some time for them to weigh  their options open, now there are some growing concerns about the long-term physical effects and other consequences of such treatment. This makes the decisions transgender youth and their parents or guardians must make even more difficult. The Times reporters pointed out, “concerns are growing among some medical professionals about the consequences of the drugs.” In fact, they said a “small number of doctors won’t recommend them at all.” Evidence is emerging of potential harm from using blockers, particularly to the bones of growing youth who are taking such drugs.  The estrogen and testosterone treatment affect the bones and other parts of the body, including brain. There is also some evidence that the children won’t recover from the losses when they go off blockers as much as earlier believed. As with so many treatments there is often a price to pay for using them and caution is clearly warranted.

As the reporters reminded,

“Many young patients and their families have concluded that the benefits of easing the despair of gender dysphoria far outweigh the risks of taking blockers. For others, the limited studies and politicization of trans medicine can make it difficult to fully evaluate the decision.”.


People have to make a judgment call in weighing the risks and the benefits. This is particularly important in the case of young children who don’t want to make irreparable mistakes.  In Europe people seem to be better at basing their decisions on issues involving sexuality and gender on science than they are in the United States where unfortunately the decisions are often clouded by political considerations or ideology. As the Times reporters said, “…in the United States the public discourse about transgender care is growing more incendiary.”  Or as Dr. Natalie Nokoff, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Colorado, put it we need “less vitriol, more science.”

Obviously I can’t give medical advice. It is the politics of the issue that concerns me and how young children in some cases become fodder in the gender wars.

Clearly, more research is needed. I think all scientists can agree on that. Issues like this need more light, not more heat.




Surgery for young Kids?


When it comes to surgery for children it would only happen if a team of medical professionals discussed all the risks and benefits with their patients and their parents or guardians and all of them agree. Arguments like that of Michael Knowles (who said children who asked for it were immediately whisked off to the operating room) are based on hysteria not facts. [See my earlier post on gender affirming care:]


The benefits of the care can be life affirming. The consequences of withholding gender affirming care can be seriously disruptive. This is the key, What is in the best interests of the child?  Not the parents nor political leaders. A UCLA study of 28,000 trans-people showed that 58% of people who wanted hormone therapy and were not permitted to get it suffered from suicidal thoughts. That is part of the reason, why according to Yale School of Medicine,  3 of the major American professional associations of child and adolescent physicians, psychologist and psychologists “have endorsed  gender-affirming care and condemned efforts to deny it.”


As John Oliver, not exactly a physician, said, “When supported trans kids can experience full, vibrant, lives because trans people are not by default unhappier or more prone to suffering than everyone else. That is something we are putting on them.” People should be free to find their own joy in their own way, free from the hysteria of elders.

Children should be free from the undue influence of their parents, busybodies, and anxiety driven politicians. Let the child decide with her or  his trusted advisors and family members.

The rest of us have no business in such decision making.