"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, January 7, 2024

The Fallacy Of Diversity - Where Are The Creeps, Misfits, And Freaks?

As a young child Smythe Potter's father had taken him to the Barnum & Bailey circus which came to Hartford every few years.  It was  big event and everyone from New London to Barkhamsted came to see it.  There were lion tamers, magicians, trapeze artists, trained elephants, and clowns.  Best of all was the side show, a collection of freaks that alone was worth the price of admission.  There were the usual bearded ladies, dwarves, and two-headed babies, but Barnum's grandson, Albert, who still had a hand in the choice of circus offerings, went many steps beyond.  

Under his direction the side show had become an assembly of impossibly deformed, half-evolved creatures.  None of Smythe's science fiction comic books even came close to the weird, impossibly grotesque leftovers from Darwin's meal; and this of course why the lines were longest in this corner of the carnival grounds. 

Who were they? asked the young boy?  Did they have parents? Did they go to school? Did they like hamburgers?  Monkey Boy swung from his cage, and elephant man, far more deformed than the real Elephant Man, John Merrick, Proteus Syndrome having twisted his genes into a horrible throwback to pre-human existence, walked on all fours eating the peanuts thrown to him by onlookers. 

He spent hours in the freak house, returning there after watching the clowns bash each other with squeaky mallets and after swilling sweet cider and cherry soda.  It was a fascination and an obsession, having something to do with God who not only allowed this to happen but who created it.  What on earth was he thinking? What divine purpose was there in the confection of such a mess? 


For years he was troubled by the thought of a very weird God with a funny bone, until much later when he joined the movement to right social wrongs and return America to a place of compassion, justice, and fair play.  Diversity and inclusivity finally meant something. 

Smythe Potter was a committed progressive who fought for more inclusivity and diversity in colleges and universities. For him, America was still an antebellum plantation where white overlords ruled blacks, gays, Hispanics, and women. His fight was everyone’s fight, he said.  No slight should be overlooked, and every attempt should be made to make America the truly democratic country the Founding Fathers intended it to be. The bottom line of diversity – everyone is welcome in the big tent., and he would be happy to be in the company of flaming drag queens, bull dykes, pimps, pederasts, homeboys, gangbangers, and welfare queens.  

Even so, his attention kept jumping back to the freak shows of his childhood and his innocent questions about God and being.  If the freaks were indeed God's creations, and if Albert Barnum was his latter-day St. Paul, evangelizing for respect and civility towards them, then why should good progressives stop at transsexuals who were only the tip of the side show iceberg? What about creeps, misfits, and freaks?

This feverish speculation, however, led no place except a bad place, for he began to conflate  the current big tent of gender oddities with Monkey Boy, bearded ladies, and two-headed dwarves.  He was clearly headed for apostasy, for his colleagues all believed that their assemblage of androgynes, demi-boys, maveriques, and neutrois really looked like America, that is, once you got over their alternativeness which you were supposed to do, having a neutrois to supper was the goal. 


So in his confusion, Smythe could not look at his colleagues' gender heroes with anything other than his boyhood fascination at the circus.  Of course he felt ashamed of himself, and yet there he was, an attendee at The Conference For Gender Inclusivity, only wanting cotton candy and sweet cider.  

The more he thought about it, the more he felt that everyday creeps should be included in the liberal pantheon - the man who polished his balls like stropping a pair of cordovans; the barking scarecrow, a demented neurasthenic who snapped orders to no one in particular at the corner of Park and 52nd; the black maria who walked the same block over and over in martial goose-stepping precision; or the grey woman who tried to outrun death on the treadmill. Invite them all in, invent categories for them like gender choices - demi-gone, loose change, Barbary pirate - any nomenclature would do. 

The Barnum & Bailey circus came to Washington a few years ago, and Smythe was among the first to buy tickets; but he was sorely disappointed because it was nothing like he remembered.  Animal acts had been removed in the interest in animal rights and the side show had been completely dismantled and removed.  All that was left were some sorry looking clowns and high-wire acts.  Real diversity had been replaced by a sanitized version which included only approved offerings.  The real circus was at the Conference for Gender Inclusivity  Now, there was a show worthy of the old Barnum & Bailey and then some. 

In all his mental kerfuffle, Smythe was afraid of losing his progressive way.  If he was so quick to dismiss one of the principal books of the canon, how far off could total faithlessness be?  Of course redoubling of efforts for the climate, women, and black people only tired him out and increased his confusion.  Insha'Allah made more and more sense.  Or As The World Turns. 

In the end Smythe wanted his tent to be like a gentleman’s club, all old leather, antique appointments, teak floors and mahogany banisters, polished brass planters, Persian carpets, and impeccable service. 

Does this sound surprising? A crabbed and somewhat bitter view of the world? Not at all. Human societies have dunned out ‘the other’ for as long as they have existed. Cultural homogeneity has always meant security, comfort, and social harmony. Outsiders were looked at with suspicion and circumspection.  The freak show in Hartford taught him to appreciate and consider human diversity, and the progressive movement taught him that the whole idea was a circus act. 

Only his people mattered - the well-bred, socially and politically conservative Potters of Beacon Hill, Palm Beach, and the Vineyard. Cultured people, historically sound people, our kind of people. 

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