In Doctrine Nation

I just missed a planning meeting of my AAUP chapter because I got caught up writing testimony opposing the spate of anti-public education bills in my state legislature. (Actually, just three of many horrible bills. And I’ll be submitting my testimony rather than delivering it because there’s a pandemic raging and my state house currently has no rules on mask wearing.) As befits the times and my near constant rage at the abdication of the responsibilities of their offices by government officials from DC to Jefferson City and of their civic responsibilities by neighbors near and far, what I wrote is kind of angry.

The sixth Missouri capitol building (there’s been a lot of fires)

I’ve tried to write this next sentence five times and every time devolved into summaries of all of the horrible legislation supported over the years by the legislators who are sponsoring these bills. So I’m just going to share my testimony, say something in closing, and take my dog for a walk before it gets dark. The bills I’m opposing are HB 1474, “The Parents’ Bill of Rights Act of 2022,” HB 1747, which appears not to have the usual misleading name but it’s about making it easier to recall school board members, and HB 1995, “The Parents’ Bill of Rights for Student Well-Being,” which is just confusing.

I am under no illusion that anybody in the state house will read this testimony, and that’s fine because it’s inarticulate and breaks most of the rules of effective testimony. I can only hope that it adds a little height to a tall stack of testimony, though I am afraid that people are too overwhelmed–by the attacks coming from the right on so many fronts and by how hard it is to manage not only to get along from day to day but to manage the rage–to find the time and energy to sit down and write these. But we should all be aware and do what we can. And if the Missouri GOP manages to pass any of this awful legislation rather than just let it fade into memory as part of the ongoing campaign to keep Missouri’s culture war fires burning, then they should at least know how many people they don’t speak for.

One more thing: Today I saw that one of the architects of the manufactured Critical Race Theory kerfuffle, Christopher Rufo, is pivoting from his CRT strategy, which he has openly acknowledged as a strategy like the give-it-all-away Bond villain he is, to “transparency.” He has also decided, as my friend Aaron Hanlon pointed out, to plug into the worst of the right’s conspiracy theories.

Teaching is now “grooming,”and teachers are “predators.”

The cynicism of this tactic is breathtaking, and it couldn’t be more dangerous. The danger, and the danger of the bills above and the rest of them in Missouri and around the country (see Indiana’s, for example), isn’t just to public education. It’s to the idea that the people on the other side, whichever side you’re on, aren’t your enemies but members of your community with whom you disagree, and that we have institutions and mechanisms through which to deal with those disagreements. It’s even dangerous to the idea that if the institutions fail you, you can protest, you can publicly criticize, boycott, make your case heard and your power felt. It’s dangerous to these things to paint the people who disagree with you as enemies, as vile taboo-breaking criminals who should be violently cast out of society, put on lists, exposed and removed. That’s what this “transparency” push is about–make a lot of noise about how you’re shining a light on the horrible things happening in the basement under the pizza place, even if there’s nothing happening and the pizza place doesn’t have a basement. Embolden voters to feel like there’s an evil they must vigilantly guard against and you’ll kill two birds with one stone–your voters will be mobilized, enraged, will storm school board meetings and town halls, and the people who disagree with you will be too terrified to speak up or at least to teach your children that something bad happened in their country, and keeps happening.

It’s getting dark and my dog has been patient, so I’m going to take her and my blood pressure for a walk and take a route where I don’t see my neighborhood’s Gadsden flag. And I’ll try not to see the people I don’t agree with as my enemy or as monsters, no matter how deeply wrong they are and no matter how much of a danger what they’re doing poses to the places I live. They’re not my enemy and they’re not monsters, but the things they are trying to do in our state houses and city halls need to be opposed, loudly, by anybody who can take a deep enough breath, in spite of the rage, to yell. There’s nothing heroic or worthy of praise about trying to not see the people on the other side in as negative a light as they’re being told to see you. It couldn’t be more basic. Don’t tread on each other, the flag could read, and everything might be a little better.

Happy Anniversary

Satellite view of New York City on September 12, 2001

I wrote something a few months ago for the Los Angeles Times about the importance of how Americans remember the events of September 11, 2001–on anniversaries and all the other days–for how we acted immediately and long after. Twenty years of war later, there are people waving the flag harder than ever, itching for a fight with whatever nation calls us chicken and whichever American calls us for us to look critically at ourselves. Tonight, a few hours before the anniversary of last year’s riot and attempted coup, I’m thinking that the way we remember January 6, 2021 will be just as important.

Gallows erected near the Capitol on January 6, 2021

My junior senator, who encouraged the big lie and who never wavered in his pandering even in the immediate aftermath of the attack, when even the likes of Lindsey Graham and Kevin McCarthy were shocked into honesty about what had just happened, has been on Fox and Breitbart revising history like the 1619 Projector of his pretend nightmares. In the op-ed he wrote for the Fox Disinformation Network today, Hawley argues, “The most surprising outcome—and the day’s true legacy—was the Left’s attempt to use the Capitol unrest to foster a permanent climate of fear and repression.”

My junior senator

As the House Committee on the attack inches closer to the organizers of the coup, the leading lights of the Grand Old Party have zoomed straight past gaslighting to pissing on the nation’s leg and telling it it’s raining. Not only were the insurrectionists not doing anything wrong, or just overzealous in their pursuit of secure elections, or crypto-Antifa, the real ones to worry about are–surprise!–“the Left.”

From the studio of George W. Bush

There was a lot of talk the last time we had a peaceful transition of power about moving on from blaming the previous administration for lying us into war, under the idea that the nation might better heal if we didn’t try to hold members of the administration accountable. And so the hawks and profiteers got to ride off into the sunset of the Hoover Institution and the mansion studio, we stayed in Afghanistan for twenty years, and the fiscal and psychic space occupied by the military remains far too big.

We shouldn’t make the same mistake again. You can’t heal if you don’t cut out the thing that’s making you sick. If we want to keep our republic, we have to call out the people who tried to destroy it and are trying still. The traditional gift for the first anniversary is paper, and I can’t think of a better gift than a subpoena. Then maybe we’ll get closer to knowing what the true legacy will really be.