Politics Corrupts Parents, Fox Returns to Lying, Texas Wants 10 Commandments in Schools, GOP Plots to Keep College Kids from Voting, Book Bans on Rise, My TV Picks, and Melanie Sings
My take on news, pop culture, sports, and whatever else interests me.
How Politics Corrupts Parenting
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSP) is a behavioral disorder in which a caregiver seeks attention to the detriment of the person they’re caring for. Usually, the parent is the culprit, exaggerating their child’s illness or even worsening their condition by slow poisoning or withholding medicine. Outwardly, they appear loving and distraught over the child’s illness, while actually making their child sicker.
MSP is rare in individuals, but seems to be an epidemic across the country as some conservatives try to use their status as parents to make us believe they are protecting all children when they are actually making them—and by extension, the country—worse.
Parenting is the hardest job in the world because the stakes are so high and the mistakes are so inevitable. Few things are more irritating than someone self-righteously lecturing someone else how to better parent. And yet, there are circumstances when that intervention is necessary for the wellbeing of the children. Parents can be mentally and physically abusive, negligent, or deliberately undermine their children’s futures in order to keep them closer to home. Sometimes the government has to intervene when religious conviction can mean keeping life-saving treatment from a child.
Republicans have made in loco parentis (Latin for “in place of a parent”) the main plank in their wobbly toothpicks-duct-taped-together political platform. Each time they ban or restrict something, they claim they are “protecting the children,” despite never offering any proof that there is a danger or that the law will protect them. To me, making decisions—like passing a law—without evidence such as facts, statistics, or expert opinion is a much more dangerous lesson to our children than reading Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., which was banned because it portrayed middle-schoolers discussing the menstrual cycle. These politicians, and the parents who encourage them, would rather their children be taught illogical thinking rather than critical thinking, which is way more damaging to them as adults, as parents, and as career-minded people.
Worse, they are forcing this anti-education agenda even though, according to a recent poll, two-thirds of voters and parents “are not worried about teachers indoctrinating kids, pushing a ‘woke’ agenda on them, or teaching ‘critical race theory.’”
Two recent news items caught my attention because both use parenthood as a disguise to flog their bad parenting ideas—kinda like Wayne Gacy dressing as a clown. First, we have Moms for Liberty (MFL), the organization behind many of the book bannings whose website brags, “Our rights don’t come from the government, they come from God.”
Although that sounds high-minded, it’s really low-minded nonsense. In the United States of America, our legal rights come from the Constitution, which is the basis of our laws. And, though some of the founders were religious, they all weren’t. In fact, Thomas Jefferson compiled what is known as The Jefferson Bible (The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth) in which he removed all mention of anything supernatural or divine and focused on Jesus as a mortal person. This is why the Constitution carefully and deliberately requires a separation of Church and State. The Founders remembered all too well that the country was founded by those fleeing persecution by Christian zealots who demanded everyone follow their interpretation of morality.
Moms for Liberty isn’t Mothers Against Drunk Driving, whose efforts are to literally save lives. MFL may consist of mothers, but that fact alone does not elevate them to a morally superior position to make their silly proclamations. They have issued an 111-page book ban document that reveals them to not be mothers protecting their children, but mothers harming their children’s intellectual and moral growth by denying them access to ideas and logical thinking beyond their tidy nest. Most parents want their children to do better and be better than them, but these moms want their kids to be just like them. Not trusting their children to embrace the same morals without denying their children choices means they don’t have faith that those morals will withstand critical thinking.
The second entity using-parenthood-as-a-sucker-ploy is the “Dad’s Ultra Right 100% woke-free beer,” created by the director of Trump’s 2016 Georgia campaign in response to Bud Light partnering with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Why is the word “dad” in there? To get the consumer to picture an outraged father doing this to protect his children from…something. Ironically, that kid probably will grow up to be embarrassed by their dad’s lame thinking.
Here’s a challenge, Beer Dad. You present all your evidence that the trans community is a significant danger to anyone to a panel of three logic professors. If they agree with your evidence, then you can proclaim your victory far and wide. But if you can’t, you donate everything you own, including your home, cars, and savings to charity. Same challenge goes to you Ron DeSantis and Ted Cruz.
Conservatives should quit hiding behind their children when broadcasting their ill-conceived, restrictive laws. But they won’t. Sentiment over children sells better than actual ideas. Still, it’s a pretty slimy tactic that doesn’t reveal good parenting.
Kareem’s Short Takes
Hunter Biden and ‘dirty’ New York: Fox News back to basics after lawsuit (The Guardian)
SUMMARY: “With Fox News humbled into a $787.5m settlement with Dominion Voting Systems over election lies this week, it might be expected that the conservative TV channel’s outspoken hosts would tone down the misinformation a bit, soften their rhetoric – basically, just chill out.
“…Instead Fox News has continued just where it left off, serving viewers a largely imagined, and utterly terrifying, version of the US: one where trans people are on the warpath, where people in New York City are never more than 6ft from either a rat or being murdered, and where the government is attempting to ‘send away’ Fox News viewers to an undefined but ominous sounding ‘camp’.
MY TAKE: After being publicly humiliated for repeatedly lying to their audience, you’d think the people at Fox News would use this as a teaching/learning moment to at least pretend to be journalists for a while. Nope. Economist Milton Friedman once said that “the business of business is business,” but Fox takes it a dystopian step further: “The business of business is lying, even if it wounds the country.”
This article gives a few examples that are worthy of closer examination.
After someone from the Department of Justice claimed that the DOJ was going easy on their investigation into Hunter Biden’s finances, Carlson accused Joe Biden of attempting to subvert the course of justice regarding the investigation. He offered no evidence that the claim about the investigation was true, nor any proof that Joe Biden was involved in any way. He then implies that the mainstream media won’t cover the story because of their liberal bias. And yet the original story had been broken by CBS News, and covered by ABC News, NBC News, the BBC, the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press. So, lying again.
Carlson followed this up by saying, “What we’ve learned here is exactly [what] you suspected all along: the Biden people are criminals.” Yet, none of “the Biden people” have been convicted of any crimes. However, eleven Trump associates have been convicted of or pled guilty to crimes, with several serving time in prison.
Fox’s war on their audience’s favorite punching bag, transgender people, continued with Carlson declaring that they were “blowing stuff up.” “They detonated explosives at the University of Pittsburgh the other night, because somebody said something they didn’t like,” he said. He then added: “there is an enormous amount of transgender violence going on.” If he meant violence against transgender people, he’d be right (“Anti-Trans Violence and Rhetoric Reached Record Highs Across America in 2021” Time). According to The Guardian, “the story, about activists in Pennsylvania protesting against an anti-trans speaker, was wildly overblown – the ‘explosives’ the students ‘detonated’ consisted of a firework and a smoke bomb, according to police…” If a firecracker and a smoke bomb equals “enormous transgender violence,” July Fourth will have terrorists at every barbecue.
This kind of rabble-rousing isn’t just bad journalism, it creates a climate of hate and violence against the LGBTQ+ community. Trans people are being beaten and murdered. Their blood is on Fox’s impeccably manicured hands. They know it. They just don’t care.
Fox News is like an old time opium den in which the audience lounges in worn leather La-Z-Boys, staring with moist, dreamy eyes, hoping this fix of curated outrage and lies will soothe the longing ache for an America that existed only in the foggy nostalgia of Father Knows Best. Fox is more than willing to be their pusher.
Public schools would have to display Ten Commandments under bill passed by Texas Senate (The Texas Tribune)
SUMMARY: “Public schools in Texas would have to prominently display the Ten Commandments in every classroom starting next school year under a bill the Texas Senate approved Thursday.
“…[Sen. Phil] King said during a committee hearing earlier this month that the Ten Commandments are part of American heritage and it’s time to bring them back into the classroom. He said the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for his bill after it sided with Joe Kennedy, a high school football coach in Washington state who was fired for praying at football games. The court ruled that was praying as a private citizen, not as an employee of the district.
“‘[The bill] will remind students all across Texas of the importance of the fundamental foundation of America,’ King said during that hearing.”
MY TAKE: Is it asking too much of our legislators to read actual history books and not just make up historical facts as if they were just juicy gossip around the water cooler? I hate bringing up—again—that pesky separation of Church and State thing in the U.S. Constitution, and how these laws are continual attempts to force Christianity as a state religion by featuring them in our schools.
If these proponents of the Commandments were concerned only about teaching kids morals, they’d just create a list inspired by the Commandments but not so named. But teaching morality isn’t the goal; they want a clear statement that the schools are dominated by Christianity, which is the exact thing our Founders didn’t want. They didn’t want to escape from Christian oppressors to then become Christian oppressors.
FYI: There are 613 commandments in the Old Testament. Want to post that list?
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Top GOP lawyer decries ease of campus voting in private pitch to RNC (The Washington Post)
SUMMARY: “A top Republican legal strategist told a roomful of GOP donors over the weekend that conservatives must band together to limit voting on college campuses, same-day voter registration and automatic mailing of ballots to registered voters, according to a copy of her presentation reviewed by The Washington Post.
“…The presentation — which had more than 50 slides and was labeled ‘A Level Playing Field for 2024’ — offered a window into a strategy that seems designed to reduce voter access and turnout among certain groups, including students and those who vote by mail, both of which tend to skew Democratic.”
MY TAKE: After passing dozens of laws that restrict the rights of women and LGBTQ+ under the excuse of “protecting the children,” the GOP wants to protect youth further by taking away the power of their vote. This final piece of the puzzle gives a clear view of the larger picture regarding youth.
First, restrict children’s education so they don’t have access to information that might make them think differently than the GOP (“Why Are Highly Educated Americans Getting More Liberal?” NPR). They hope to limit both their critical thinking and their breadth of knowledge while they’re young and more susceptible to brainwashing.
Second, for those children who slipped through the cracks of the Republican education blockade, they want to make it difficult for them to vote.
Shouldn’t an ethical political party be meeting to discuss creating policies that will appeal to voters rather than how to circumvent democracy by keeping citizens from voting?
Book bans in US public schools increase by 28% in six months, Pen report finds (The Guardian)
SUMMARY: “Book bans in US public schools increased by 28% in the first half of the 2022-23 academic year, the writers’ organisation Pen America said on Thursday, describing a ‘relentless’ conservative ‘crusade to constrict children’s freedom to read’.
“…‘Since Pen America started tracking public school book bans in July 2021, [it] has recorded more than 4,000 instances of banned books … this includes 1,477 individual book bans affecting 874 unique titles during the first half of the 2022-23 school year.’
“Book bans are more common in Republican-run states. According to Pen, ‘seven districts in Texas were responsible for 438 instances of individual book bans, and 13 districts in Florida were responsible for 357 bans’.
“It added: ‘Of the 1,477 books banned this school year, 30% are about race, racism or include characters of colour, while 26% have LGBTQ+ characters or themes.’”
MY TAKE: Book banners are fond of saying that they aren’t banning books because people can still get them at a public library or buy them. That’s the kind of loopy thinking I’d expect from people who ban books they haven’t read.
First, they are being deliberately disingenuous because the same groups banning books in schools are going after public libraries (“Public Libraries Face Threats to Funding and Collections as Book Bans Surge”). Public libraries are closing rather than be bullied into censorship based on the religious beliefs of a few.
Second, not making books available at a school library creates a hardship for children and parents who don’t share the same political agenda as those (sometimes as little as one parent) banning the books. The children and parents have to travel to the public library or spend money that they might not be able to afford.
Third, these bannings undermine the concept of education, which is to broaden the child’s mind so they are able to know more and think more critically. Banning books because they tell a truth about history that the parents didn’t know or don’t like is pretty much what dictators do, whether they’re political, religious, or cult leaders. The first step is always to limit information so people can’t think for themselves. Because if they did, they wouldn’t stand for this manipulation.
What I’m Watching
Rabbit Hole (Paramount+)
This is one of the twistiest, most riveting suspense shows that I’ve seen in a long time. Kiefer Sutherland plays a corporate spy caught up in a massive conspiracy in which he is framed for murder. I find myself eagerly awaiting each new episode, afraid it won’t be as exciting as the last, but always delighted that it is. Very entertaining.
Sit-coms have lost their appeal to me lately. I guess when you’re my age and you’ve seen so many, every situation and every joke becomes predictable. Shrinking is the exception. It’s very funny, but it’s also touching. The characters are fresh and the situations original. The series revolves around a group of therapists, their patients, and their home life. Although it may make you think of the wonderfully funny Bob Newhart Show, this is a more nuanced series. Harrison Ford as the crusty leader of the group is truly hysterical. Other standouts include Jessica Williams and Christa Miller. But the real star is the exceptional writing. Very funny.
Lucky Hank (AMC+)
This dark comedy is adapted from the novel Straight Man by one of my favorite authors, Richard Russo. William Henry “Hank” Devereaux (Bob Odenkirk) is the head of the English department at a small college in Pennsylvania trying to cope with the clashing personalities of the English faculty as well as his own failures as a husband, teacher, and writer. In some ways, he’s the Mrs. Maisel of academia: self-obsessed, self-destructive, and wildly intelligent. In an impressively bold move, the second episode features real-life literary giant George Saunders (Brian Huskey) as a visiting writer and old friend of Hank. The episode is at turns funny, cringey, and revealing. This is a show that sticks to the ribs. Very insightful.
Kareem’s Jukebox Playlist
Melanie with the Edwin Hawkins Singers: “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)”
Melanie Safka, known professionally as just Melanie, had several big hits in the seventies, including “Brand New Key” and “What Have They Done to My Song, Ma.” “Brand New Key” was banned by some radio stations for sexual innuendo in the lyrics, though she claimed she wrote the song in fifteen minutes from a memory of learning to skate and bike with her dad. You can listen to it on YouTube here.
I selected “Lay Down” for two reasons. First, Melanie wrote the song after performing at Woodstock because she was inspired by the sense of purpose and community of the half million youth who had gathered. Woodstock was the first time young people really had a sense of their power in numbers and that those numbers could be used to change things for the better. It injected new life and determination into the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and the women’s rights movement.
My second reason is the Edwin Hawkins Singers who were among the best gospel singers of the time. Their powerful version of “Oh Happy Day” was included in the “Songs of the Century.” They bring such passion and commitment singing with Melanie that you actually believe “we could stay dry against the rain.”
Re the Texas legislature's attempt to require posting the Ten Commandments in school classrooms: Which iteration will they require -- Exodus or Deuteronomy? What translation would be posted -- the King James Version, Revised Standard Version, the Masoretic text of the Holy Scriptures (Jewish), the Roman Catholic version, or another? If I lived in Texas (which I don't), I'd be posing these questions to my legislator.
As a Mum, I’m pretty sure my daughter learned by example. And one thing she always saw was me reading. It turned out that her talents lean to math and art but books can inform every interest. Personally, I’d steer young women away from romance novels, but freedom of choice is paramount. At 77, I never thought I’d see the day that this country takes so many backwards steps. And the women are doing it in those incredibly high heels. Sorry for the rant but book banning lights my fire!
Thank you for reminding me of the Edwin Hawkins Singers rendition of Oh Happy Day as I practice a very simple version on my piano.