October 26, 2017
ORLANDO, Fla.—One of the funniest writers in the sports department where I started my career—a quick-witted guy who should have known better—got promoted to editorial writer. This meant he was responsible for the daily Wisdom Decrees passed down by whoever dwells in those mahogany-lined offices with the big windows that always seem to contain photographs of presidents and home-run hitters.
He lasted three months.
“You can’t pay me enough to have an opinion every day,” he told me when he returned to the safe haven of minor-league baseball and publinks golf tournaments.
I feel the same way, and I don’t even work for an editorial page.
Quick digression: Do editorial pages even matter anymore? By the time I get to the editorial page of the The New York Times, which is usually located on the third-to-last page of the “A” section, I pretty much know what the Sanhedrin on Eighth Avenue has determined to be their duty as the cultural and political custodians of the nation’s conscience. It’s not like they ever break ranks and say, “We respectfully disagree with the seventeen analyses of the health care bill that you’ve already read on pages 1 through 29.” The crusty old managing editors in the news department who once barked, “Save your goddamned opinions for the barroom” have apparently all gone to that great Rewrite Desk in the Sky, and the executives in their place say, “Give me some attitude! Barf it all over the lede if necessary!”
Meanwhile, we’re all expected to vote one way or the other or salute somebody’s battle flag. Every time they write one of those articles that starts out “Never before has our country been so divided…” you know it’s coming.
Which side are you on?
We demand to know.
They never give you a “None of the Above” option.
For example, gay marriage. I never wrote that much about gay marriage while the battle was raging because I didn’t much care about how it ended up. Marriage is a church idea that was appropriated by the state, and I’m not too comfortable with the county registrar being involved with it in the first place. I thought the only goal of whatever legislation we had was just to make sure gay people don’t get dicked around. So we could have done what they do in Europe: go down to City Hall and register so we’ll know who your kids belong to, and then continue on over to the cathedral or just skip it. Your choice. The state will never know whether you got married in a church or not—the state won’t care. But when several states instituted a registration system for gays—you can register as a couple and get your health insurance and tax deductions and all the other stuff—the gay rights movement said no, not good enough, we want the church word “marriage.” So, since gays obviously wanted to join up with the weirdest state institution we have, one that has never worked, one that has such an astronomical failure rate that it clogs up the courts and wastes billions of dollars a year, I washed my hands of the whole thing. The only really good thing about legalizing gay marriage is that, when they make The Hangover Part IV, Stu and Doug can wake up from the bachelor party married to each other.
Another issue I don’t care much about—please don’t start lighting torches—is abortion. The metaphysical question of “When does life begin?” was not solved by Dr. Frankenstein and it was not solved by the classic Monty Python production number “Every Sperm Is Sacred.” So when somebody says, “I know when life begins,” I think, “Really? Marvel should make a comic book about you called Fertility Man because you obviously have superpowers.” What’s truly remarkable about that 1973 court case is that the Supreme Court looked at all the evidence and decided that life starts at around 22 to 26 weeks—they didn’t claim to know this for sure, they just said that was the best they could do and they might revisit it later—and that number has pretty much held after all this time. We haven’t had any first-trimester miracle babies, and most of the debate on both sides doesn’t go into the science at all, it’s just anecdotal stories about what a woman feels like when she’s pregnant. So when somebody says, “I feel life inside me” at the two-week mark, that’s fine, go ahead and have the baby, but we know from Lifetime Movies of the Week that there are also women who feel “There’s a mutant alien space creature inside my body!” and want to abort. Making them watch a sonogram before they abort is like torturing them with the image of the mutant space alien for the rest of their lives.
At any rate, my position on abortion is that we should bring it back to the Supreme Court but only women can vote. We have three of them now, so you can’t make the argument that it’s old clueless men trampling all over women’s issues. Let Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Ginsburg examine the law books, the science, and the secret messages emanating from their collective endometria and settle it once and for all.