THE CHRISTINE JORGENSEN LINE

1. It’s Monday, June 26, 2017.

It’s the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the United States.

2. There’s a temptation to say that the ruling didn’t cause the country to fall apart, as its detractors feared.

But it did. It just played out differently than we might have thought.

Because we have Trump as president. And when you think about it, when you really think about it, how much did factors such as the same-sex marriage ruling influence that election?

This is something I started thinking about yesterday while doing two things. Seeing the coverage of gay pride parades across America and the world. And rereading something I wrote exactly a year before to the day.

My post on June 25, 2016 was entitled “For Those Who Think Young,” which was the tagline for Pepsi-Cola commercials in the early ‘60s.  It followed the Brexit vote in England and noted that there was a sharp generational divide over the issue – young people voting to stay and older people voting to leave.

What I said was that the American election had the same dynamic. Younger people welcome change and openness – heck, their motto is practically “bring it on.”

An older generation, starting maybe a little younger than my 63.2 years, doesn’t feel that way at all. Change is a problem. Things were better back when.

3. That manifests itself in lots of ways.

Which brings us to the pride parades. If you’re my age, I want you to think really hard about the scenes you saw yesterday in places such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco. 

Can you imagine them 40 years ago? 50 years ago? Seriously?

They would have been the subject of some Johnny Carson’s monologue jokes. Some snickers at the office or from the kids at school the next day.

And there are a lot of folks in my generation who would share that sentiment, having not moved past those ideas. In their eyes, when America was great, all this sexual stuff didn’t exist or, more likely, remained hidden.

But there are generations after mine for whom the idea of a gay pride parade is no BFD.

They have embraced the changes in society that have transpired over the past 50 years and they’re ready to move forward. They don’t give a damn that older people haven’t quite absorbed all this.

It’s not just the idea that who you love is who you love. It applies to religion – either you don’t have one or, if you have one that isn’t mainstream, that’s fine too. That’s why young people embrace eastern cultures and don’t seem as bothered seeing a women wearing hijab on the street.

It’s harder for us – us being 60 or so and older. It seems part of the nature of getting older that you get more set in your ways, and set in your views of the world. And you tend to be nostalgic – even when that nostalgia overlooks a lot of the flaws of the past.

That’s why older Americans will say that making this country great again, the keywords of the Trump campaign, isn’t about racism. It’s about bringing back manufacturing jobs and the feeling of American superiority in the world. Forget that the past also included segregation and other forms of discrimination. The old ways were the comfortable ways, and that’s what we need to feel again.

Young people don’t want comfort. They just want to see what’s next. And what’s after that.

4. What inspired the title of this is a line uttered in the 1970 congressional campaign. Richard Nixon’s vice president at the time was Spiro T. Agnew, and he was out stumping for Republican candidates.

Except one. Charles Goodell, the senator from New York who had been appointed by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to the seat left vacant by Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968.

To almost everyone’s shock, Goodell – the father of current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell – decided to vote more like Kennedy than a Republican like Barry Goldwater. This pissed off the Nixon White House, and it campaigned for James Buckley, the Conservative Party candidate.

Agnew, in one speech, labeled Goodell the “Christine Jorgensen of the Republican Party.”

Now, Christine Jorgensen was the first really famous transgender person. Born George Jorgensen, she underwent medical procedures in Europe to become Christine. And she became a spokeswoman for transgender people.

So Agnew was trying to diminish Goodell with his line. It might have worked – Goodell finished third in the 1970 race that Buckley won.

But would that be as much as a diminutive in 2017?

With my generation, probably. Being called a Christine Jorgensen would imply a major change in stature. It would also call someone’s masculinity into question.

A younger generation would shrug off that comment. So what? They’re so used to seeing transgender people, or gay people, or whoever. It’s the subject of popular TV shows, the nightlife of the generation.

That’s no BFD. LOL.

5. There’s one other complication here.

Generational conflict isn’t new. You had it with your parents, and they had it with theirs, and so on.

But the problem with my generation is that it’s so freakin’ big. The post-World War II population boom was the largest in world history.

And because of medical advances, we’re not going to die off that fast. We routinely live into our 80s. Back when I was a teenager, 70 was thought to be pretty impressive. Forget that – that’s dying young in this era.

Because we can’t be pushed away that easily, the divide between us and the younger generation is going to grow. It’s going to get worse.

The Christine Jorgensen Line is the one that divides a generation that sees the Agnew line as an insult from one that sees it as just plain stupid. In 2016, there were just enough people on the former side of that line – especially in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – to get Trump into the White House.

So the trick for those who find Trump offensive – my hand is raised – is to move that line just enough to the point that he disappears.

The debate over this Republican health care bill could be that point. Or it could be a huge problem.

The idea behind it is to appeal to young people. They pay less than older people, mainly because most of them don’t need health care. They’re healthy. We’re not.

That’s the calculation. Older people will squawk at this plan. But they’re not big on change, and can be persuaded that Trump is going to bring back the good old days.

If the Republicans can sway younger people into thinking that this is good for their bottom line, they can skew the divide and hold on.

If they can’t, the Christine Jorgensen line might just hit them where it hurts.

That’s what’s at stake in the next days and weeks.

 

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