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 has vanished. In its place languishes its opposite — whatever you want to call it — having 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, a time when the only contentious issues should be who crossed the finish line first in the three legged race or if that 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 the 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 agree on the color of the battle flag under which they'd fight.
This color-coded, cause-riddled spirit week, it turns out, led to even more issues than had student body leaders taken a hands-off approach, something that is hard to come by lately.
According to 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 apparently ran high throughout the week because of this innocent yet needless effort to please, culminating in an all-school assembly in which “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 did not know where to go, perhaps feeling as if they didn't belong with either the pink shirts or the blue shirts. It was “repulsive” to some, alienating to others. 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 if gender is part of a spectrum.
The first is the side-effects that can accompany a corrective action undertaken with good intentions. Racial discrimination can accompany affirmative action policies in university admissions, destabilization of the nuclear family can result from unbounded welfare programs, and the possibility of radical, religiously militant factions vying for control of unstable governments looms over nation-building efforts overseas.
And at Twin Peaks High School, by establishing what for all intents and purposes was a uniform, student leaders willingly opened the door to choices of attire that enabled the ridicule and embarrassment of 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 chose to wear purple enjoy hearing that transgender people “just need to kill themselves.”
A second consequence is that the school is now 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 are still 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 so-called “micro-aggression” may be viewed with the same amount of seriousness and determination as boys and girls should invest into winning a game of tug of war against each other.
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.