The Jenner Gender Issue and how it Evidences Tocqueville’s Symptoms of Democracy

What have we seen but celebration and sheer mockery over the Bruce (or Caitlyn) Jenner gender crisis. The small mindedness of the American public is on full display once again, and the Founders are rolling over in their graves.

A man has declared that he is now a woman, and Americans have gone nuts over this declamation. For some reason, this major announcement affects all of us and is a profound breakthrough for… which category should I use here? (I don’t even know any more).

What is astonishing is that so many Americans are making such a big deal over this case. As if a major change in regime has occurred, or the most underdog team in NFL history won the SuperBowl. Yet among this I have not seen a concrete reason why this really matters in the grand scheme of things; and no, more equality does not count and I’ll explain why.

What lies at the core of the matter is what Alexis de Tocqueville described as the democratic passion for equality. In democratic times, where conditions are generally equalized among a populace, certain traits grow due to that equality. While there are some benefits to having some level of equality, the problem is that it becomes an obsession, an addiction like heroin. Once it has been awakened in a democratic citizen, there is no way to satisfy this lust.

As Tocqueville writes in Democracy in America,

Democratic peoples love equality at all times, but in certain periods, they press the passion they feel for it to delirium. This happens at the moment when the old social hierarchy, long threatened, is finally destroyed after a last internecine struggle, and the barriers that separated citizens are finally overturned. Then men rush at equality as at a conquest, and they become attached to it as to a precious good someone wants to rob them of.[1]

Quite the words from Tocqueville, indeed. This passion for equality takes control of man in such a way that other goods are soon neglected and forgotten. Traditional standards and habits become socially unacceptable in the name of equality (yes, even one’s gender in this case). When one declares that he/she identifies as a new gender, immediately the passion for equality takes control of the minds of men, and prudence, morality, science, and logic are all seemingly tossed out of the window in the name of equal treatment.

Is there any cure for this passion for equality’s mind melding control? Tocqueville did not seem to think so, once a person has been consumed:

Do not say to men that in giving themselves over so blindly to an exclusive passion, they compromise their dearest interests; they are deaf. Do not show them that freedom escapes from their hands while they are looking elsewhere; they are blind, or rather they perceive only one good in the whole universe worth longing for.[2]

The Jenner gender issue is not exception to this rule in democratic times. When one declares that their birth gender was incorrect, that their individual DNA code was somehow made with the wrong gender in mind, a new object has been created for the passion for equality to be unleashed upon.

What will it be next? Can I just declare that I am a tree and receive some of that equal treatment from the EPA, or PETA? Why not? If I say so, it must be true (right?).

Aboreus from "American Dad."
Aboreus from “American Dad.”

Can we not just stop and ask for at least a moment, why is this important? Why is there so much celebration about this gender identity issue? In the grand scheme of things, how does this affect what really matters (our families, our faith, our fortunes)?

I don’t think that too many Americans are asking these kinds of questions though. They are too busy either cheering Jenner, or making a mockery of it all. (For the record, there have been quite a great deal of memes circulating the internet that have brought laughter from many, but the tough questions are still not being asked by the mockers either).

So, my question to you America is this: what is the big deal, and how does it affect you? If you forget it in a week, then did it really matter as much as you thought it did a few days ago when it made the headlines? To shoot straight here, it’s not an important issue if someone “changes”their gender. But the passion for equality blinds people to this; as Tocqueville wrote, equality becomes the only one good longing after.

In a few weeks though, this whole ordeal will likely be forgotten in the annals of democratic history. Which is really to say that it will just be forgotten, just like all of the important issues.

welcome to america

[1] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. and trans. Harvey Claflin Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 481.

[2] Ibid.

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