Montana Viewpoint: A moral dilemma
I don’t know where to turn. Yesterday I saw a public display of what I am sure is gender-related wrongness and think I need to report it, I just don’t know what government agency to call. Understand, I don’t really want to rat out the suspect involved, I just want to protect myself from being turned in for not performing my mandatory civic duty of turning someone in for something that I think other people think is wrong. If that sounds confusing the way I say it, well, I admit, I am confused.
Look, let me tell you straight out what I saw. I was looking out at a field with cattle in it when I saw a heifer calf “mount” another calf. I don’t know what sex the other calf was, but it doesn’t matter. I do know that the offending calf wasn’t a boy calf because – well, I just know these things, OK? In any case, the offending heifer was exhibiting boy calf behavior and I think I need to report it to protect society, but mostly to protect myself from being turned in for not turning in the calf.
See, it gets complicated quickly. If I see something suspicious, I have to report it to protect myself because somebody might see me seeing it and turn me in for not reporting it. And it doesn’t matter if I think what I see is right or wrong, I have to think about what someone else might think about what I see.
My dilemma put me in mind of that pinnacle of moral rightness, the Florida Legislature, which requires teachers to tell the parents of a student who asks to be called by a certain pronoun. (Parents are always the last to know.) The Florida law puts the burden on the teacher to judge whether or not the kid is exhibiting bad person behavior and then to tell the parents. Swell.
So, what if the teacher doesn’t tell the parents? Maybe the teacher is clueless (it happens). Maybe the teacher thinks the law is dumb.
But what happens to the teacher who, clueless or not, does nothing? Well, by golly, they can get turned in and maybe fired.
And just in case “Drag shows,” where men dress as women, inspire ordinary people to dress as females, Florida and our own Montana ban them. I anticipate arrests for anyone showing movies like “Tootsie,” “Hairspray,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” or “Some Like it Hot,” in which Dustin Hofman, John Travolta, Robin Williams, Tony Curtiss and Jack Lemmon, in that order, appear in full-blown drag.
Fortunately, thanks to Senate Bill 1580, Florida now allows medical providers to deny care to those people who morally offend the doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or hospital administrator. This takes me back to a day in 1961 when a hospital orderly told me that the Emergency Room at Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach, Florida, refused to help an injured and unconscious Black man brought in by an ambulance.
We are setting ourselves up for a lifestyle of paranoia, wondering when we will get turned in by the moral mafia for not doing something we didn’t know we had to do. Last article I mentioned what good guys the Secret Police were in the Soviet Union. They had a lot of help from just ordinary people who did their best to stay out of prison by turning in their friends and family for impure thoughts about the wonders of the Soviet Union.
Here’s how that worked; “The Soviets criminalized aspects of economic and social life, such as tardiness and minor workplace mistakes. People could be arrested, sentenced in a mock trial, and sent to a camp for stealing bread, having anti-Soviet thoughts, being well-off peasants, and failing to report any suspicious activity.” (From a review of “The Whisperers” by Orlando Figes, 2007)
And here’s an example from the same book: “I, Nikolai Ivanov, renounce my father, an ex-priest, because for many years he deceived the people by telling them that God exists, and that is the reason I am severing all my relations with him.”
Finally, I will tell you this; I am NOT calling the Department of Livestock about that heifer!
Montana Viewpoint has appeared in weekly and online newspapers across Montana for over 25 years. Jim Elliott served 16 years in the Montana Legislature as a state representative and state senator. He lives on his ranch in Trout Creek.