The Left thinks it’s progress to pretend that human beings won’t do bad things simply because we don’t want them to. Observant people call that pride.
President Obama recently said his administration’s directive that the nation’s public schools open both sexes’ bathrooms to transgender children came in response to school districts that contacted his Education Department for guidance.
This scenario contains multiple wrongs, but three are prominent. One is that school districts could not solve this problem on the basis of common decency or, failing that, common sense. The second is that when they dialed 911, the phone rang at the Education Department, which responded with a uniform national policy rather than allowing local experimentation, especially in the absence of any federal law.
The third is that all this is bunk. Everyone knows this issue was crowbarred onto the national agenda. The only question, given the fractions of fractions whom it affects—at least the fractions of fractions it affected before everyone’s bathrooms and locker rooms were involved—is why. The reason is progress. Those with an infinite appetite for it were running out of issues.
That is not to say all progress had been made or cemented. But quite a lot had been, and what has not, in terms of civil rights, pertains largely to ideals unrealized, not unrecognized. Yet progress does not work that way. It is never satiated. It goes looking for ever smaller perfections, and when it cannot find ills, it invents them. This brings us to the central issue: In the conversation over transgender access to public bathrooms, progress is most fundamentally at stake.
The Left’s Movement from Science to Faith
To those with a fixed and skeptical view of human nature, it is obvious that allowing men unfettered access to women’s bathrooms and locker rooms based on sexual orientations that are self-selected and fluid by the hour is an invitation to abuse. To those who believe human nature is progressive and perfectible, such concerns are matters of “ignorance.”
This charge of ignorance is itself a sleight-of-hand by which the concern is reversed and turned back on transgender people—as here—to make those who harbor it look like fearful bigots. Yet the concern is not that transgendered people are going to commit abuse, it is that abusers are going to pose as transgendered people and commit abuse and there will be no grounds on which to inhibit them. Only a supreme optimist about human nature would be unable to foresee this possibility.
This brings us to the heart of the matter, and the heart of the capital-P Progressive mentality: an unrelenting faith in humanity’s progress toward a postlapsarian state in which the sexual abuse that many of the same activists tell us is ubiquitous in other contexts is unthinkable is in this one. On the campuses, predators lie in wait, but undress without worry in the locker rooms. Who would go there with ill intent?
Call this the New Progressivism. It shares with the old a belief in society’s evolution but breaks with what was at least its purported rootedness in science. This faith in evolution beyond evil and this rejection of a fixed and fallen conception of human nature constitute the essence of the New Progressivism and are the fundamental distinction the bathroom debate reveals.
People Will Stop Doing Evil Because We Want Them To
The question is not the particular prevalence of prowling in bathrooms today: Bathrooms are not yet widely open at will to the opposite sex based on self-declaration. This is not a question of social science, it is one of human nature. Are human beings inclined to evil in general, and are there particularly evil human beings who, if impulse meets opportunity—and the administration’s bathroom edict certainly facilitates that meeting—will commit particular evils?
To answer that question “yes” is now to be marked as “ignorant.” The descriptor is significant. It is a nearly clinical, almost sympathetic, designation. It denotes one who has not yet made the intellectual progress others have.
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