There’s a political push by Republicans, self-identified MAGA Moms, accompanied by a smaller number of Yahoo Dads, who are showing up at local school boards, to foment and shout demands for an array of questionable public policies.
They want protective masks outlawed in our public schools, and oppose virus vaccinations.
They want books outlawed, oppose instruction about our nation’s history of slavery and racism, even what we’ve accomplished to diminish discrimination, and, they insist, the school curriculum we have makes Johnny feel bad about himself.
Down in Spotsylvania, Rabih Abuismail and Kirk Twigg spoke of burning books; in recent days, citizens responded with outrage, opposing censorship including any notion of book burning.
These MAGA parents demand that our schools not recognize or protect transgender students, despite the bullying that goes on prompting some to commit suicide and die.
“Christian values” are invoked to justify the refusal to use pronouns suited to gender identity. Our local Circuit Court was just fine with this form of discrimination.
More broadly, “the Moms” oppose any protections against discrimination for LBTQ persons.
The Moms harangue the locally elected officials in and out of these school board meetings.
The Moms seek to remove local elected officials who don’t do their bidding, and badger and coerce those who disagree with them with trash talk calls, offensive social media attacks and physical threats, seeking to scare the opposition into silence or resignation.
One Loudoun County Board Member withdrew, resigned from her post, during a pending recall hearing, because of physical threats to her family.
This is a national problem and the proof is that our AG M. Garland wrote a memo asking the FBI to meet with local law enforcement officials to look into threats, intimidation and harassment directed at school officials, teachers, administrators and staff.
The further proof that it’s a national tragedy is that AG Garland was grilled for hours at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and refused to revoke his memo.
AG Garland’s memo said:
“In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools. While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.”
These wrong-headed school board attacks are calculated to keep our young in the dark, both white and black, rather than promoting understanding and the much needed discussion of racism, its systemic effect, how it came to exist and how we may alleviate its adverse effects going forward toward “a more perfect union.”
Despite the golden rule of the Sermon on the mount, that is, love your neighbor as yourself, these Moms want no respect for transgender children, or any LGBTQ person.
These Moms seek to foist these irreligious beliefs, of isolation and discrimination, on all of us, and insist our schools, and everyone in the community, ostracize and discriminate against such persons.
Banning and burning books is a throwback to European dictators who feared free thinking and tolerance, treating the writings as an assault on the state.
By comparison, this Mom movement has leveled its fire power at our nation’s democratic values and the nation’s original promise we were all equal.
Let’s drill down a little bit on the censorship of reading materials.
When I was a kid, there were libraries that gave you the run of the place.
James Baldwin, a black author and poet, a brilliant and accessible fiction writer and essayist, said, “I went to the 135th street library at least three or four times a week, and I read everything there, I mean every single book in that library. In some blind and instinctive way, I knew that what was happening in those books was also happening all around me. And I was trying to make a connection between the books and the life I saw and the life I lived.”
Republican Moms say they are anxious about books that discuss sex and violence – that’s their real objective – so they say.
But the books the Moms select and the authors who write the books they oppose inform us that their objective is about diminishing diversity and equality and a fair understanding of white supremacy.
If this “movement” was truly about writings of sex and violence, shouldn’t children be directed away from the New Testament when Jesus is whipped and nails hammered into his feet and arms to crucify him upon a cross.
The Old Testament speaks of the slavery of the Jews in Egypt. Should children be directed away from the good book – either as prose or religious scripture.
Ayn Rand is favored by Republicans. In her essay, “What is Capitalism,” she says that “a rational mind does not work under compulsion; it does not subordinate its grasp of reality to anyone’s orders, directives, or controls; it does not sacrifice its knowledge, its views of the truth, to anyone’s opinions, threats, wishes, plans or ‘welfare.’” Still the Moms, our version of the brown shirts, know that intimidation and threats work, though Ayn insisted “a gun is not an argument.”
Frequently mentioned in recent days on the Mom’s black list was Toni Morrison’s Beloved – a heartfelt and painful story of what slavery meant. One overriding message by Morrison was – beware the ghosts of slavery.
Morrison wrote that Slavery was about Sethe, who was tied to a pole and whipped for eating a meal she made herself, forced to give birth to a child fathered by men who forced themselves on her, raped her.
It was about Sethe wondering about the whereabouts of her absent husband.
Worse, it was living with the burial of the unnamed daughter she killed, that Sethe killed, brutally, to save her unnamed daughter from slavery and pain and indignity; Sethe was barely able to afford the carving of the letters, “Beloved,” for her child’s tombstone, her child’s final resting place.
As does Abraham, the father of a multitude, prepare to sacrifice his only begotten son Isaac, as a sacrifice, as Yahweh does sacrifice Jesus on the cross, so does Sethe offer her daughter as a sacrifice, a shocking incident dedicated to the proposition that suffering on earth as a slave could be worse than life itself, and deemed so by the child’s mother.
Of course, Abraham is saved from his choice, prompting Kierkegard’s essay, “Fear and Loathing.”
If a child can read about Isaac and Jesus, can’t a child read about an unnamed “Beloved” lost to slavery.
Not incidentally, Beloved is based on the true story of Margaret Garner.
Are we asking more of the ethics or intellect of this political movement focused on besieging school boards across the nation.
Yes, we are.
While Toni is a black author, the Moms have no use for William Styron’s, “The Confessions of Nat Turner.” William is a white Southerner from southeastern Virginia, where “took place the only effective sustained revolt in the annals of American negro slavery.”
Nor should you expect the Moms to embrace Stephen Vincent Benet’s extended blank verse poem, John Brown’s Body. Benet treats Brown as an historical figure who can “change the actual scheme of things” and, by the power of his personality, bring about a new historical dispensation:
“Sometimes there comes a crack in Time itself.
Sometimes the earth is torn by something blind.
Sometimes an image that has stood so long
It seems implanted as the polar star
Is moved against an unfathomed force
That suddenly will not have it any more.”
As a political martyr, John Brown advanced the cause of the abolitionists.
You should not be surprised that the lists of censored writings by the Moms include Harper Lee’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” after all, it’s about the residents of Macomb resenting that Atticus, the local white lawyer, would agree to defend Tom Robinson, a black wrongly accused of raping a white woman.
We should know the Mom’s movement against what our children may read is itself racist and discriminatory in origin, purpose, and effect.
Eric Hoffer, in his book, “The True Believer,” wrote, “To ripen a person for self-sacrifice he must be stripped of his individual identity and distinctness …”
“The most drastic way to achieve this end,” Eric wrote, “is by the complete assimilation of the individual into a collective body. The fully assimilated individual does not see himself and others as human beings.”
These Moms have been absorbed into a “movement” that resists this nation’s original promise of equality for all.
This movement reflects the most recent strain of American anti-intellectualism, and rejection of our American values.
We are deep in a period when many discount science and logic and clear thinking, though I insist there are more of us who think than those who think hardly at all.
It might be more appropriate to think of this social phenomenon as Richard Hofstadter did, as “anti-rationalist.”
This movement invites our rejection and active opposition as it violates our most traditional American values, especially the phrase penned by Thomas Jefferson, that we are all equal.