I love to keep my tempests in teapots—it keeps the rhetoric hot, even if there’s no real substance. For example, the brouhaha regarding who gets to use which bathroom. Last report that I heard on NPR was that in the state of North Carolina, where the sexes are separate, but equal, the number of complaints regarding use of the inappropriate bathroom was zero. Nada. Zilch.
I suppose that between NPR and myself, our comments will encourage someone somewhere to complain. So be it.
Those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan either had various choices for conducting urination and defecation. Some had the pleasure (?) of field latrines, others the ubiquitous porta-potties, or, around places like Al Faw Palace near Baghdad, the existing bathrooms were declared co-ed. The stalls were first-come, first-served (oddly, there was no competition for the urinals). That’s what was there, so that’s what the Americans used. (Of course there were the Arab toilets, a hole in the ground with footprints marked on the surrounding concrete, and a short garden hose. I’ve used them–works for them, not for me.)
The reason that it doesn’t matter was best described by that Great American Canadian, Bill Murray in Stripes, when he said, “We’re all mutts! See—his nose is cold!” And it’s true, we are mutts, and that’s what makes Americans, well, Americans.
Don’t believe me? The following is a true story:
A senior Marine officer was at one of the detention sites shortly after the fall of Iraq in order to make sure that the prisoners were being properly treated (for every Abu Graib there were dozens of facilities that were run in accordance with international law and reasonable civility). An Iraqi general kept frantically motioning that he wanted to talk, and although the Marine officer was not really interested in getting into a debate with the Iraqi general, he realized it was his duty, and courtesy demanded that he acknowledge the general. The Iraqi spoke English with a heavy accent, so it took a while before the Marine understood what he was being asked.
“Why do you conquer us with this confederate army?” the Iraqi general wanted to know. He pointed to the enlisted Marines who were with the officer. “This man,” the Iraqi continued, “is obviously from Asia. That one from Africa, and the other probably from somewhere in Central or South America! Why did you recruit these foreigners to invade us?”
The officer looked around; until that moment, he had never given a thought to their different ethnic backgrounds; he had always seen these people as fellow Marines.
We are not a nation bound by common ancestors; we are a nation bound by an idea. Every one of those Marines had sworn an oath to that idea—the United States Constitution.
We Americans are all different from one another. My recommendations to survive this great challenge are, when using a bathroom:
- Don’t trash the restroom (which for teenagers will be a HUGE challenge)
- Be polite to whoever else is in, entering, or leaving the restroom
Oh, and this may shock you, but everybody without four legs or wings, who visits my home, regardless of ANYTHING, all share the same bathrooms.