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  • We Should Have Known

    • Posted on Dec 06, 2015
    Here's this Sunday's (12-6) Waterloo Courier column--instances of being blind to what's right in front of us.  The new film Spotlight reveals this, as does my own rather shameful experience with smoking, and Republicans' continued support of Donald Trump.  We should know, and should have known,  

    Why do we often miss what’s right in front of us?  We have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear, as the Bible so memorably puts it.    

    Three instances worth pondering: 

     First,  “Spotlight,” a disturbing new film about the Catholic Church’s cover-up of pedophile priests in Boston.  It’s a horrific scandal that shook the Church to its foundations worldwide.   

     Four smart and motivated Globe investigative reporters—the “Spotlight” team, grew ever more amazed in 2001-2 when they uncovered Church policies that enabled priests to continue abusing children for decades.  The power of Boston Catholic church officials was all but absolute.  

     Yet the film reveals that the scandal could have been exposed much sooner had these same reporters been paying attention. During their investigation, they learn that they ignored hard evidence sent in by victims—at least a decade earlier.  

     One of many victims, in frustration, tells the reporters flat-out:  “I sent you all the facts years ago. But you buried it.”    

     These conscientious investigative reporters are dumbfounded. Why didn’t they pursue it when they first received it?  Many more victims would have escaped trauma had they paid attention.    

     They can’t explain their inattention.  In so many words, they admit “we should have known.”  

     Besides being a severe indictment of the church hierarchy for actively allowing crimes against children to continue, “Spotlight” reveals how those who ignore evidence share some of the guilt.  

     “Good Germans,” as one of the reporters sheepishly admits, referring to those German citizens who went along with the insanity that gripped Germany for over a decade. 

     Second, I remember with shame my own guilt in UNI classrooms, on a vastly smaller scale, of smoking in class during the 1970s. I would even occasionally bum cigarettes from students who seemed happy to share.  Many others did too.   

     Now we would be kicked off campus and fined, and rightly so.   

     We didn’t see polluted classroom air right in front of us. We should have known.  
    Groupthink, peer pressure, everyone’s doing it, all contribute to explaining it.  But that’s not all.   

    In fact we’re not convinced at the time it was really wrong.  What’s a little friendly smoking between scholars?  And in “Spotlight,” what’s a little priestly indiscretion compared to all the good the church does?  That’s exactly what the Catholic Cardinal of the Boston Archdiocese tells the reporter in “Spotlight.” 

     We have to be deeply and finally convinced, in our heart of hearts, that no rationalizations justify the actions we’re witnessing.   

     Finally, and all but inevitably, we should know by now about Donald Trump.   He has announced his intentions loudly and clearly, many times over.  They’re bigoted, impractical, embarrassing, foolhardy ideas.  As some of his fellow Republicans assert, “He’s not a serious candidate.”  

     When questioned about his exaggerations, distortions, and outright lies—often by Republican candidates—he goes into bully mode, shouting and repeating. He’s a master of the “big lie” strategy that steamrolls those who want to believe.  Worse, he plays off current terrorism fears and gins up patriotic fervor—sure-fire triggers for angry and fearful supporters.  

     They say “He gets things done.”  “Fact checkers are biased themselves.”  “He’s not politically correct, but that means he’s free to tell the truth.”   “He’s not beholden to big money.”   All rationalizations.  All false.   

     Here’s a man whose shameless, egomaniacal blowhardiness knows no bounds, and his button-pushing has garnered support from Americans who should know better.  

    I’m waiting for Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, or John Kasich—relatively reasonable candidates—to come out and say they’d vote for Hillary before Trump.

     It won’t happen.  But it’s what they already should have done.  

    Go comment!
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  • Transgender Explained

    • Posted on Nov 08, 2015
    Here's this morning's (11-8) Courier column.   I really had never understood what "transgender" means until I met Ellen Krug and read her book Getting to Ellen. I found it utterly engaging and clear, and can't recommend it highly enough.  

    Ask a roomful of people what “transgender” means, and you’ll get mostly blank stares.People might know “transgender” as the “T” in “LGBT” for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people, but haven’t the faintest notion what it actually means.  

    As a child I had heard of Christine Jorgensen, the American GI who underwent gender transformation in the early 1950s.  For weeks her “case” caused consternation worldwide, since she underwent experimental sex-change surgery in Denmark.  She may as well have arrived from another planet.    

     Of course we all know that Bruce Jenner became Caitlyn, who declared “For all practical purposes, I am a woman.” She’s currently the most well-known transgender woman ever, the most successful at publicizing her journey.   
    “Normal” men and women find gender changing freaky, downright bizarre.

    Yet it happens, and we’re small-minded to condemn the Caitlyn Jenners of the world for their choices.  To transgendered people, it’s life and death.  And when you listen to what they’re saying, they’re right.  

     As the bard declares, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophies.  Open-minded curiosity is a better attitude.   

     So I’ve felt curious about “transgender,” but mostly ignorant.  
    Then I heard Ellen Krug, whose 2013 memoir “Getting to Ellen” details her long transformation from male to female.  “Ellie” spoke on a panel at a writer’s conference at the Marion Public Library I attended last month, and we spoke briefly afterwards.  

    She was funny, engaging, articulate, and passionate about her journey.  

     She made so much sense speaking as a woman on the panel that I bought and read “Getting to Ellen.” 

     For anyone who’s curious, or who has struggled with the real and profound issue of gender identity, Krug’s book offers the perfect introduction. 

     Krug writes conversationally, with wit, energy, and such personal honesty that I felt only admiration. It’s full disclosure on every page. 

     As a seven-year-old boy he learned graphically that boys and girls were different.  He felt different too.  He found himself drawn to females, not by attraction, but by identification.  Ed, the intelligent seven-year-old, knew that he wanted to be a girl.  
    Those who believe that Ed Krug made a choice to become female need to read “Getting to Ellen.”   She in fact had no real choice.   

     Instead, Ed Krug chose only to deny and avoid his sense of being female. For  decades.  

     Born in 1956 in New Jersey, his family relocated to Cedar Rapids when he was 11. A very bright guy, he eventually graduated from Boston College Law School, then became a high-powered lawyer known as “Killer Krug.”  He succeeded at outwitting, outthinking, and outprosecuting other lawyers, and became a respected and feared attorney.  

     Oh yes, along the way he married Lydia, his childhood sweetheart.  They adopted two children and lived happily, but not ever after. 

     After five years in Boston, Ed and Lydia Krug moved back to Cedar Rapids.  Ed joined another law firm and continued his successes.  Yet he felt nothing but angst.  

     Depressed, even suicidal, numbing himself with alcohol, Krug realized that he couldn’t go on living a false life.  He tried dressing up as a woman and even “passed” as female at times.  But it didn’t change anything.     

     That word “authentic” comes up as a critical life goal in “Getting to Ellen.”  Living a false life offers nothing but psychological hell.     

     Gradually, with massive fortitude and perseverance, Krug began admitting that he could not live inauthentically.  Finally, after divorcing Lydia and undergoing serious medical procedures, she became Ellen in 2009, and completed the surgery in 2010.  

     Though she regrets the years of pain and indecision and hurt, she hasn’t for a moment regretted becoming herself.   

     We can only cheer.   


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