Most people, when they think of Genesis, remember that God created everything, told Adam and Eve to leave the tree of knowledge and, when they didn’t, kicked them out of Eden. What few remember is Genesis’s insistent focus on the importance of naming things. In the first chapter, God no sooner creates something, than he gives it its rightful name (emphasis mine):
- In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
- And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
- And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
- And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
- And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
- And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
- And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
- And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
- And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
- And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
And so it goes, with God systematically creating the world and naming it as he went.
In the second chapter of Genesis, God designates to Adam the primary task of assigning the proper name to each of God’s creations (emphasis mine):
- And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
- And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
- And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
- And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
- And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
- And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
What Genesis establishes is that identifying things is essential to understanding their function. Only when Adam had named the animals, properly classifying them as any modern-day scientist would, did he and God determine that Adam had no mate. And once God created that mate for Adam, Adam again had to give her species a name, one that he chose in relationship to his own species: “she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
Leftists are fully alive to the importance of naming things. For example, when Obama came into office, “terrorism” was out; “man-caused disaster” was in. Man-caused or not, “disaster” has such a such a pleasantly accidental connotation. You have your earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes on the one hand, and on the other hand you have your men who cause disasters. That these men happen to be devotees of a cult committed to spreading violence and death wherever it goes is as incidental as the precise wind speed during a hurricane or the decimal valuations on the Richter scale separating one big quake from another.
And yes, Bush created the abstract “War on Terror” designation rather than the more accurate War on Radical Islamists, but at least he was acknowledging that those pesky man-causers were actually trying to instill terror. It was the Obama administration that found even that definition too raw and real.
ISIS’s rise has given Obama plenty of opportunities to try to define away problems. Having unsuccessfully described the nascent ISIS army as a “JV team,” Obama decided to define ISIS right out of Islam. ISIS he opined, is un-Islamic, because a good God wouldn’t countenance its appalling violence.
Well, maybe a good God wouldn’t countenance appalling violence, but it’s a historical reality that a certain prophet would. Mohamed was very clear when it came to demanding that each good Muslim wage war to spread Islam, behead non-believers, and enslave those who were not beheaded (with sex-slavery being the chosen outcome for surviving women).
Intriguingly, the Qur’an, which is normally a very straightforward book when it comes to describing a binary world of peace under Islam and war as a precursor to Islam, also does a little fudging with labels itself. For years I’ve seen Muslim-apologists claim that the Qur’an, at 5:32, explicitly disavows violence. For example, this poster crops up periodically:
It doesn’t seem to occur to any of the apologists that other chapters and verses in the Qur’an, with their litany of punitive acts that must be committed against Mohamed’s many enemies, make it plain that non-believers, especially Jews, are not innocents. Likewise, apostate Muslims aren’t innocents. And of course, Christians and Hindus aren’t innocents. Oh, and devout Muslims who practice the “correct” form of Islam, but somehow run afoul of Mohamed’s dictates, even if they do so unintentionally or through ignorance, are also not innocents.
Indeed, once one gets down to it, it’s clear that the only “innocents” among us are those who practice the “correct” version of Islam, and who do so without ever committing an error — and really, there’s just no reason to kill them in the first place according to the Qur’an. Let’s just say that, if I were the lawyer advising Mohamed regarding all the many acts of violence, rapine, and murder that he demands of his followers, I would recommend that he insert just such a meaningless paragraph as an “out” should he ever be called upon to defend this blood-thirstiness.
But getting back to things here in America….
Jonah Goldberg is so disturbed by the “naming” problem that’s infected the early 21st century that he’s penning an entire book on the degradation of names for very important things under Obama’s watch. Taking a page out of Confucius, Goldberg is working on the “rectification of names.” According to him, “society goes ass-over-teakettle (to borrow a phrase from the academic literature) when names no longer describe the things they are assigned to.” Exactly.
And now I’ll explain to you what got me all heated up about this “naming” thing. It may surprise what did not excite my ire today. Today, I’m not upset that our political class, from the White House down to the police department in Oklahoma City, refuses to admit that, even if a killer is acting alone, when that killer shouts “Allahu Akbar” or beheads people or openly dedicates his life to jihad, while his violence may occur in the workplace, we are not seeing “workplace violence.” We are, instead, seeing a pernicious type of Islamic violence that needs to be named, shamed, and destroyed.
Nope, what worked me up was something entirely different. Yesterday I spoke with a physician who was saying that his health care group is running into very specific problems when treating people who have had sex change operations. It all goes back to the computer systems that Obamacare insists all doctors and hospitals have.
At least for this doctor’s health care group, when it comes to assigning a person’s sex in the health center’s computer system, the health center’s policy, after a sex change operation (whether or not the health center performed that operation), is to assign to the person that person’s “preferred” sex. What this means is that, if Jane Smith comes to the hospital, has her breasts sliced off, has excess flesh shaped into a simulacrum of a penis and testicle sac, and begins taking hormones to coarsen skin, create facial hair, and develop male-pattern baldness, the fact that Jane now identifies herself as John Smith means that the health center must change her sex in the computer system from “female” to “male.”
The problem is that, for all the superficial changes Jane went through to become John, the biological reality is that she’s still Jane — she has a uterus and ovaries (unless she joined a hysterectomy with the rest of her surgery). That biological reality explains how you can end up with flesh-and-blood oxymorons such as a “pregnant man”:
At the hospital level, the political correctness of letting patients identify with their cosmetic sex, as opposed to their birth sex, means that they don’t get treated for diseases unique to the sex embedded in their DNA (XX or XY). This problem is different from things such as the male-to-female transgender who, once he takes female hormones, becomes prone to breast cancer. Instead, this problem lies with core matters of self-identification versus real identification — people aren’t getting the health care their DNA demands.
Our hypothetical “John Smith,” for example, isn’t going to get annual notices that “he” needs to get a pap smear. If John doesn’t go to an OB/GYN, because John is a “man,” John’s at higher risk of uterine and ovarian cancer — both of which are treatable if caught early, and both of which are expensive and, sadly, fatal if caught late. Likewise, if John has a friend who once was Paul, but is now Paulina, when Paulina goes to the doctor, there’s a good chance “she” won’t be getting her prostate checked nor will she be getting appropriate checks for heart disease. Both John and Pauline are at greater risk of entirely preventable problems because they have demanded that the hospital ignore what’s going on beneath their cosmetically- and hormonally-altered appearance.
Here’s where I stand on the matter should I ever meet John Smith: In all social settings, I will be completely willing to acknowledge his chosen identification as a male. That will probably be true too in most work situations. But I will not ever allow myself to believe that he’s actually male. He is pretending. If it makes him happy, I’m good with it. But I won’t delude myself that it means that I should enlist him in the military and pretend that he is, in all respects, a male. Likewise, when I meet Paulina, I’ll call her “Ms” if she likes, but I won’t allow her to get into a Mixed Martial Artist cage with me in the women’s class.
Moreover, at home, I’m not going to tell my children that a transgender person has magically been transformed into the sex of his or her choice. What I will do, though, is tell them that, whenever possible, they should accord that person respect, they should never bully that person or discriminate against that person, and they should use the pronouns and honorifics that the person prefers to have applied to himself or herself. And that’s it. Naming things matters and, until we acknowledge what something really is, rather than what we want it to be, we will be, as Goldberg says, a society that is “ass-over-teakettle.”