Fun is dead and it's buried in Idaho.
But let's be precise: it's a mere ten minutes' drive from where, in 1974, daredevil Evil Knievel strapped himself into his powerhouse Skycycle X-2 steam-powered rocket and shot up into the sky as a physical manifestation of the ambitious dreams of our pre-Industrial Age ancestors in an attempt to cross the Gem State's Snake River Canyon.
Forty-three years later, the awe-inducing grit on display that day was gone. In its place languishes its opposite - whatever you want to call it - and it has made casualties out of fun and guts and laissez faire and the freedom to fool around.
Ground zero is Twin Falls High School, which recently held its annual spirit week - that time when the only contentious issue should be who crossed the finish line first in the three legged race or if the volleyball net really was at regulation height. You know, things that matter.
But not even something as innocent as this could escape controversy - all the more surprising since student leaders shamefully backed down from the traditional boys vs. girls competitions, opting instead for a supposedly less malicious “blue vs. pink” theme after receiving complaints that the old way of doing things was not inclusive enough for the “gender variant” population.
Fools! To think this would calm the waters is to be as ignorant of the current cultural climate as my cat is of the Titanic sinking. The artistic palate, you see, is the hill some want to die on - assuming, of course, they could even agree on the color of the battle flag under which they'd fight.
This color-coded, cause-riddled spirit week, it turned out, led to even more issues than had student body leaders taken a hands-off approach, something that's hard to come by these days. According to Twin Falls' newspaper, MagicValley.com:
A group of students — including some who are transgender — say they feel targeted after wearing purple shirts to school instead of pink or blue.
In response to this, some teachers held “class discussions about gender” - because nothing boosts school spirit like a forced conversation on the intersectionality of sex, privilege and navy blue cotton t-shirts.
Tensions ran high throughout the week because of this well-intentioned yet needless effort to please:
...[D]uring the all-school assembly at the end of a long day, students sat in two groups: those wearing pink and those wearing blue.
Nothing so simple in theory could ever be so complicated. There were students who simply did not know where to go, feeling as if they didn't belong with either the pink shirts or the blue shirts. To some, it was “repulsive” and alienating. And indeed it was; the color-blind community has every right to be up in arms.
All kidding aside, there are lessons to be learned from this debacle - more useful ones, to be sure, than could be obtained by asking questions like, “Is gender part of a spectrum?”
The first is the inherent side-effects that can accompany a corrective action done in name of good intentions. Look around; you can get racial discrimination with affirmative action, the unraveling of the nuclear family with welfare, and radical, quasi-religious militant factions fighting for control of an unstable Middle East government with overseas nation-building.
And at Twin Peaks High School, by establishing what for all intents and purposes was a uniform, student leaders willingly opened the door to other choices of attire that made it so much easier to identify, ridicule, and ostracize the perceived outliers. But wait - this must be that coveted “dialogue on the issues” we hear so much about, right? Sure - I bet those who wore purple enjoy hearing that transgender people “just need to kill themselves.”
Another consequence here is that the school is in a no-win situation since it chose to intervene in a way that proved to be more controversial than had it just let things be. Yet some, naively, are as blissfully unaware of the looming confrontation as a midnight hour skinny dipper at Camp Crystal Lake. “Perhaps it could have been more inclusive,” district spokeswoman Eva Craner insisted. Yes! The strain of incessant inclusivity must never be too much to bear!
Now obligated to act to stave off accusations of insensitivity, the school has now subjected itself to a never-ending game of whack-a-mole, but instead of bashing plastic rodents, it must withstand a barrage of complaints from students, parents, teachers, and anyone else in the Twin Falls community with the most insignificant gripe.
I had mentioned in a tongue-in-cheek way how the t-shirt idea disregarded those with color-blindness, but watch out: one day this “micro-aggression” will be viewed with the same amount of seriousness and determination as should be put into winning a simple game of tug of war between boys and girls.
Which brings me to the final takeaway from all this. In the fruitless quest for a harmonious, non-offensive environment for all - no matter what - we are micro-managing spontaneity, turning our backs on tradition, and neutering fun.
And that really sucks.