WHY? WHY? WHY?

The death of diversity and equality

George Orwell finished authoring his classic novel 1984 in the year 1948. Orwell was a British writer who composed lucid prose with a tinge of social criticism, professing strong opposition to totalitarianism while supporting democratic socialism. In the grand scheme of things, he was the man with a bright lantern showing us the future. In his book Animal Farm, Orwell pointed out, “The animals conspire to take control of their farm from humans, establishing ‘Animalist’ commandments to prevent the reproduction of the oppressive behavior of humans.”

There you have a not-so-subtle slash at the dictators, demigods and douche bags with narcissistic personality disorders. They desire to control those they believe are “less superior,” viewing them as sinners, seditionists and suckers. If you just believe what they believe and give them the power to manipulate things their way, life will be much better… for them.

Florida is the frontline of the culture wars because there are no checks and balances on the power of one man, the governor. This will surely spread, and there are those who will conspire to take control of their farms, their schools and their cultures and create a great crevasse between those who agree and those who pray to the god of critical thinking and logic.

I had the pleasure of watching the Netflix movie The Wonder, a story about a small village in Ireland that bought into the myth of a young girl being the vehicle of a higher power because she didn’t have to eat. The city leaders, doctors and priests thought this was good for their community and could put the small town on the map. A nurse visiting from London observed the girl to determine the truth. With all the town folk captivated by the illusion, the nurse broke the news to the men who ran the small town that their little angel was only human and must eat to stay alive. The metaphor from this movie is clear; men, religion, power and misguided beliefs of the parents were more important than facts and safety. In this case, a young girl’s life was at stake.

I was struck by one person’s statement in the Florida school board wars, “The schoolboard doesn’t own the kids, the parents do.” Oh really, mothers and fathers “own” their kids? Well, morally, ethically and legally, parents don’t own their kids. Caretakers have a responsibility to keep those kids safe, I get that, but their power stops at the first step of the Constitution.

In the 1969 landmark case, Tinker v. Des Moines, on students’ rights to free speech in public schools, the Supreme Court ruled (7 to 2) that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” So, the idea that a schoolboard can stop any student from expressing themselves goes against the ruling and spirit of free speech. As a student I should be able to declare my personal gender, discuss matters of diversity and equality and doubt whatever so-called “fact” is thrown in their face regardless of whether I am gay, straight, or trans. It’s called education, not indoctrination.

When the far-right claims being around someone different from themselves will somehow force them to adopt that different person’s personal persuasion, they demonstrate a lack of understanding of the power of the human mind. People do only what they want, and even if they are told what they are doing may harm themselves or others, they often continue. Think about all the public service announcements stressing how smoking increases the chance for cancer, yet people keep smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.8 million Americans still smoke cigarettes while 480,000 folks die each year from ailments and diseases caused by cigarettes and smoking. Some of these smokers scream at school board meetings about how the teachers are grooming their kids, while their children are ingesting second hand smoke every day at home. Even worse, some kids will be inspired to adopt their parent’s harmful addiction.

Bridget Ziegler from TheDreamWindow.com

Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Brenda Ziegler as the Chairperson of the Sarasota School Board to rid that body of anyone who disagreed with his draconian laws, policies and prejudices. DeSantis is clearly homophobic, and the equally tainted chairperson was quoted as saying, “homosexuality is evil.” Now on the board, she claims “…there was a toxic culture within the School Board.” Ziegler underscored the unwillingness of some members to respect those with opposing views, but when the chairperson allows a speaker to harass the one member of the board who is openly gay, her lack of regulating hate speech in the chamber is allowing that “toxic culture” to grow. BRENDA ZIEGLER is the problem.

On March 15th of this year, I picked up my daily local paper and read the headline, “Bill prohibits diversity, equality and inclusion on campuses.” I wondered if the headline was an Onion comedy bit, asking myself, “Jeez, what country am I living in?” Shortly after that, one of the most liberal state funded universities fired all the people who worked in their diversity office. In the myopic view of Chief Justice Roberts, we don’t need a law to protect the voting rights of minorities and the disenfranchised, yet the white, mostly male rulers of the land have decided they will control a woman’s body and they will control the speech of students and teachers. Instead of promoting freedom they are prohibiting it.

Ron DeSantis is not the only problem in America. There are at least a dozen ideologs in state governors’ offices who are attempting to roll out restrictions for gays and trans people, while not so secretly censoring the rights of African Americans by banning books and thwarting discussions of slavery and the civil war. When they say they are protecting the feelings of the students, they are really saying, “we need to make sure white students are not burdened with the guilt that comes out of slavery.” REALLY?

This just in from the Washington Post, “Transgender Americans experience stigma and systemic inequality in many aspects of their lives, including education, work and health-care access, a wide-ranging Washington Post-KFF poll finds.” So, it’s only the “normal” kids who get rights. The animals on the farm want to dehumanize the herd.

Donald Trump may have given people the courage to be bigots and total assholes in public, but it’s time to stop the wannabes and dolts who think the Trump playbook is necessary for a more perfect union. They are wrong.

And now, the Governor and the cult in the Florida legislature want to make the “Don’t say Gay” law apply from kindergarten through senior year. If a teacher discusses gender or being gay with their students they can be criminally prosecuted. The fire has been started but the firemen and women are not answering the alarm bell. They are ignoring a danger which has a serious potential to melt our freedoms away. And I have to ask, “Why? Why? Why?”

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ON BEING ANTI-WOKE

Bogeymen in Blue Suits and Red Ties

Malevolent men and women have always used fear to control us. Without the anxiety they try to induce in us, they are only paper tigers. A bogeyman is one who is evil or unpleasant and makes others afraid. A paper tiger is one who is outwardly powerful and possibly dangerous, but inwardly weak and ineffectual. Now that we have the terms of this game, let’s try to figure out why these creatures have glommed onto the term “woke.”

The timeworn African American slang term “woke” once referred to someone who was alert to racial prejudice and discrimination, but just as people grow up and change, so do words, phrases and slogans. Today, there are those who characterize a woke person as “hip” or “open-minded.” Therefore, it follows that an anti-woke person is CLOSE MINDED. This background, however, doesn’t answer the question about why so many politicians and mouth-breathing zealots have decided to force this term into the malicious column. If I am aware of cultural discrimination, while being open-minded enough to see beauty in every culture and tribe, why am I the enemy?

A “woke monster” is born when she or he puts down others, then rallies people around their criticism and attack. With the power of social media, it takes mere minutes for a stupid policy, statement or action motivated by self-profit to be consumed and believed. Every time Donald Trump, Jr. opens his mouth, all the pundit putdowns, comedic ridicule and digital abuse will not make him smarter. He will always be enormously close-minded and far from hip.

But why do the bogeymen label those who disagree with them as “woke?” It’s an incorrect term for a putdown. A person who is “alert,” “awake” or “hip” is trendy, cool and up on the latest things. Such a being doesn’t warrant a repugnant response from an elected official. One who attacks another person or group using the term “woke” means they are discouraging critical thought on any level. And guess what; that is exactly what they want to do.

I remember Richard Nixon used to call protesters against the Vietnam war, “outside agitators.” This was always offensive to me, a protester, because I was just as much a citizen as anyone else. Regardless of what I chanted while marching, I was still an American. Positioning us as OUTSIDERS, who the White House claimed were bused in for protesting, was an US and THEM tactic. We were protesting a corrupt and unjust war, and gee, we eventually discovered that was a hundred percent true.

What gets my goat are these self-serving hypocrites who run around the country talking about how they support the First and Second Amendment with no true understanding of what those articles even mean. The governor of Florida constantly claims grievance from an invisible foe of “woke culture,” but introduces and promotes laws to restrict school books, courses and curricula that he personally disagrees with, even when educators tell him he’s wrong. Once anyone tells Ron DeSantis he is wrong, they are moved onto his Enemies List and classified as “radical.” I honestly believe not teaching students about the true history of America is unamerican.

There have been some interesting characters throughout US history. Remember Senator Joe McCarthy? He wanted to round up all the commies in the country and put them in jail. Then there was Governor George Wallace, who genuinely believed in segregation and used racist tropes to gain power in the south. Now we now have about twenty people in Congress who are using lies, misinformation and conspiracy theories to raise money, defraud their constituents and disrupt the normal business of Congress. They need you to believe in woke scapegoats to move their narrow, dogmatic vision of America. They work tirelessly behind the scenes to devalue the vote of minorities and disenfranchised citizens. Why?

The divide makes Rupert Murdoch and Fox News billions of dollars, because they feed back misconceptions and lies to their eagerly misled audience. What a country! They box up a term like Critical Race Theory (CRT), demonize it, slap it and push it as evil by saying they want to protect the feelings of white students. Oh really, isn’t that fake wokeness? CRT is fundamentally an advanced college concept proposing that systemic racism and the way our laws are written place people of color at a disadvantage.

Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis and Margorie Taylor Greene say they are aiming for clarity, but they’re just manipulators in search of attention and fame at any cost. If you took all the money out of Congress, all three would be working other jobs.

We liberal thinkers and writers are not the bad guys. Those are the men in blue suits with red ties who hate immigrants, colleges and criticism. They want to “take their country back.” But to where? 1950?

Derrick Bell

For every book that is banned, smart kids will be motivated to independently search the internet to get at truthful information. I once cracked, “I agree we shouldn’t teach CRT in public schools because most white kids are not smart enough to understand the concept.” But seriously, what is the big deal? Derrick Bell, whose views formed the foundation of CRT, wasn’t as angry as white politicians want you to believe.

When states ban teaching CRT in schools that receive taxpayer money, they are simply proving Mr. Bell was right. It’s white people making laws that disadvantage Black people. It’s socialized racism that gerrymanders the boundaries of what can be taught and closes the door on critical thinking. It’s a mystery why Ron DeSantis, who attended Yale and Harvard, believes he can erase history and whitewash the truth. His malevolent social engineering causes minority, gay and trans kids feel bad about themselves, and he must stop.

I am really not sure what “woke” means, but if it means I see right through these spineless bigots and racists, then I guess I am woke. Maybe it’s time for us all to woke up.

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CHRISTIAN NATIONALISM

The Death of Separation of Church & State

Let’s focus on facts. After retirement I moved to Florida for the weather, not for the politics and viewpoints of many of my neighbors. I like living eight miles from the Gulf of Mexico, but normal conversations in this state can be frustratingly divided and unproductive. Here’s where I’ll bring in Thomas Jefferson.

I have always believed that Jefferson was a closet atheist, careful never to reveal his hand. If you follow his discussions, writings and letters, you will see that he was at best a skeptic, but also a highly intelligent farmer, inventor and writer. He was not good with money, so it’s safe to assume he was never a slave to math. Sir Thomas also had a strong memory of what happened in Europe when religious zealots got ahold of power and governments.

Germans, who were forced to decide between baptizing their babies or living free within their creeds and beliefs, left for America. What remains are the Amish and Mennonites of our communities. In Great Britain, all-powerful kings and queens were given command over the Church of England, and Catholics were harassed and persecuted. Millions of Brits moved to North America, drawn by the promise of our First Amendment.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The down and dirty interpretation is the government cannot prohibit the “establishment” of any religion. This was severely tested when the Internal Revenue Service fought the Church of Scientology’s tax-free status. After decades of legal battles, the US government gave up and granted them a charter. So, if a bunch of people get together and say they are a church, there is nothing Congress can do to stop them. The state cannot prohibit people practicing their beliefs, but nowhere is it decreed that the government has to fund or tolerate illegal activities within the confines of a religion.

In its early days, the Church of the Latter Day Saints codified the practice of polygamy, which  is now outlawed in the Church. None of its faithful can practice plural marriage and remain a member. It was indeed a miracle when Gabriel appeared and ordered the head of the church to end the policy of men having multiple wives.

The reason Jefferson promoted the separation of church and state was simple and brilliant. To manage a population of vastly divergent views, beliefs and cultures, it was important for the government to operate above the mandates and myths of many groups. A nudist colony was certainly allowed to exist, so long as it didn’t hurt anyone who had no desire to be part of the cult.

If I don’t like something in America, I can protest with other likeminded souls. We are protected by the First Amendment as well: “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Although peaceful protest can escalate into property damage, disruptive melees and sometimes bodily harm, we still have the right to protest and petition for what we believe is right. For example, I don’t want my tax dollars to be handed over to dogmatic and religious institutions that suspend the Bible over my head.

Here in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis cares only about the power he derives from his “base,” whatever that is. He takes no advice from liberals, libertarians or librarians. If banning a book will get him a vote, he’ll do it. If he can bend a law or voting district to get reelected, he’ll do it. He never thinks about the millions of people who don’t agree with him, so there was no surprise when he took over the board of the New College of Florida, the state’s public liberal arts college. He’s now moving it toward becoming an academically rigorous but religious institution. This was part of his quest to prove to the far-RIGHT he is one of them. You can see the story here.

I believe that a constitutional scholar could argue that the actions of DeSantis are in violation of the US Constitution. By turning over the management of this state-funded higher education institution to religious zealots from Hillsdale College in Michigan, state taxpayer dollars will be used to convert the liberal arts school to a religious institution. In the end, the New College of Florida will be destroyed and get absorbed into the state’s educational myopic vision of one man. If they disagree with you, eliminate them.

The deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Pastafarianism

Everyone and anyone should be free to believe what they want and worship any God or bowl of pasta they want, but please don’t justify taking my money to build what you envision as a Judeo-Christian notion and nation. We are best when we allow people to be free, productive and focused on important things.

What makes me most angry is those people who say their mission is a more moral and focused educational system, but they are taking it by force and misinformation. Below you’ll see a letter I wrote to Hillsdale College after receiving a letter asking for contributions. In my estimation, they are nothing less than outside agitators and 21st Century carpetbaggers wanting to get rich on large lies and heresy. They want you to believe what they believe and they will do anything they can to rope you in you. Be careful.

LETTER TO HILLSDALE COLLEGE

First, thank you for the copy of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States of America. I give them out to friends and neighbors who don’t quite understand what was declared and enshrined there.

Next, I would be remiss if I didn’t speak up and express my feelings and thoughts about your school and solicitation at this time.

Your opening pitch is false. You have no idea what the majority of democratically inspired citizens believe about America and the educational system.

Fact #1: Critical Race Theory, as developed and described by Derrick Bell and then studied by many experts over the years, has never been taught in public schools in America. Institutions, organizations and politicians, like yourself, are responsible for perpetuating this myth. If only you would take the time to read, study and understand what Mr. Bell was saying, you might see that passing laws and policies against “critical race studies” proves Bell was right. White lawmakers have consciously, or subconsciously, moved forward to construct laws that thwart the rights of minorities. What would Jesus say?

Fact #2: The US Constitution, as originally written, codified slavery and kept women out of the political process by prohibiting them from voting. We should teach this in our schools and, as your pitch indicates, you want to bring the document and its power into the classroom. Remember, only white men who were landowners could vote in this country and slavery was lawful for more than a century. As someone whose kin came to the Americas in the late 1600s, I am not proud of them owning slaves and fully recognize that FREE LABOR made this country great.

Fact #3: Religion and religious institutions like yours have been hijacked by FAR-RIGHT zealots and political operatives who want you to help them raise money and corral voters. You are corrupting the mission of Jesus and John the Baptist by pitting humans against other humans. You are the dividing force making it harder to discuss fundamental issues in America. You have cast a net over education, religion, poverty, gay rights, marriage rights, and even science itself. The separation between church and state was one of the reasons millions of people came to this land in the first place. It’s time for you to release the non-religious parts of your quest for power back into the pond of diversity that is the United States.

Your request for money is based on the fact that Hillsdale receives no federal educational funds. This is true because your institution has been accused of discrimination. Your marketing blatantly claims a desire to end diversity. Really? Again, what would Jesus say?

Please remove my name from your database and please stop bothering Floridians. A majority of the people here in Sarasota who really care about education are frustrated and infuriated by the hostile takeover of the New College of Florida. Your goal to convert the school to a dogmatic front for your political aspirations is a sin.

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BANNING BOOKS NEVER WORKS

Why would “educators” ever support censorship?

Do you remember the phrase “Banned in Boston?” Why wouldn’t the city first settled by the Puritans be nervous about art, literature and language which surely could corrupt America? When the Catholics arrived there from Ireland, things were just as bad. The idea that the Pope in the Vatican could control the viewpoint of people in America, even plagued John F. Kennedy’s run for President.

The phrase “banned in Boston” was used to describe a literary work, song, motion picture or play which had been prohibited from distribution or exhibition in Boston, Massachusetts. City officials had wide authority to forbid works they claimed presented “objectionable” content or sexual language. They even outlawed the $5 bill of the 1896 “Educational” series of banknotes that featured partially nude allegorical figures. Now here’s a funny twist. Things banned in Boston were available as something special everywhere else. When it’s banned, people want to see it.

A news story hit last week saying the McMinn County School Board in Tennessee had banned books, some of them written by Pulitzer Prize winners, I immediately thought about Germany in the 1930s and Russia in the 1950s barring books telling a truth that differed from that of the people in power. Right after they banned the books in Germany, they started to round up the Jews and put them on trains.

I know some moderates will probably say I am overreacting, but my pointed concern is we are facing a conflict of reality right at our doorstep. The right-wing nutjobs keep telling us that the lefties and socialists are coming to take America away, but it’s clearly the opposite.

Radical Traitor Michael Flynn

I was concerned when I learned that Michael Flynn, disgraced former general, convicted felon and Trump pardon beneficiary, moved into the next town over from mine. Now it seems that Michael and his equally poisoned brother are opening a storefront to mobilize locals to keep Donald Trump’s Big-Lie alive. As CNN reported, “The Army is now acknowledging that Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, the brother of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, was in the room for one of the key January 6 phone calls in which D.C. government and US Capitol Police were asking for National Guard troops to quell the unfolding violence at the US Capitol.” I’m not at all sure why the guy should have even been there but, clearly, it reeks the same odor that flowed from the Nazi party in the 1930s.

There are some real emotional topics driving the far-right propaganda. First, they have this idea that Democrats are not capitalists, which is a lie. Socialism might be their devil to defeat, but they simply don’t understand how America works. Then they have this thing about Black people gaining too much power and “taking things over.” Okay, but I have yet to meet a single person from the right who can tell me what critical race theory is, let alone explain why the basic truths of America’s past would be bad for anyone to know.

CRT isn’t taught in 98% of the universities and colleges in America, and it’s certainly not comprehensible for any kid without a college degree. That’s why it’s not taught in public or private schools. I’ll sum up CRT in one sentence. The United States of America, either knowingly or unknowingly passed laws that held African Americans back. To this very day we have a bundle of barricades weighing against Black voters, starting with the Jim Crow laws, such as IQ tests for voting, fees for voting and reducing the number of polling locations. Then there’s gerrymandering, reducing the power of Black communities. Finally, we are passing laws that prevent the teaching of certain subjects in American history. We have a problem.

When a Tennessee school board voted unanimously to ban the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Maus, which details the horrors of the Holocaust, the white school board majorities included those of the Jewish faith in this whitewashing of history. In their quest to remove intellectual pain and concern from teaching, they are going to guarantee we raise dumb kids who will believe there is no racism, cops are always right and the federal government is evil. Since we already have a fundamental problem, just imagine how this could expand in the next couple of decades. We teach the Civil War in our schools so please explain why we should not teach about what Germany did to the Jews in World War II?

Probably more than six million people of the Jewish faith were murdered by the Nazis and there were more than six hundred thousand Americans killed during the Civil War. Both of those death tolls are greater than those of the Covid crisis. If you want kids to understand the value of life you must show them, sometimes graphically, how fast life can be taken away. If you want our next generation to think we’ve cured all the ills, then the question of how we did so will be raised. Someday our kids will rip off the wallpaper to see what you’ve been hiding from them on the surface beneath.

Sure, take Maus off the shelves, but now there will be lots of people who get the book and share it with their kids. If something is banned in Tennessee, many smart kids will find the work, read it and get smarter. You just gave the subject matter of the Holocaust a special place with those goth-oriented intellectuals living right under your nose. Are you going to ban smart kids from your schools, or better, take those kids you want to protect and put them in private schools where they will learn that the rich run the world?

BTW, the big headline in Slate.com proves it: Sales of Maus Soar After a Tennessee School Board Banned the Book.

Our society is doomed if we are going to stop teaching certain subjects just because, well, they’re not important, anymore. Imagine a time when totally unqualified people who buy into the Pollyanna propaganda step up to teach children Big Lies. Boy, that would be terrible.

Not everyone in Tennessee is stupid. Al Gore hails from that state and he received a great education on climate change. So, should we strike that subject from our curricula and not give a damn about what we leave for our kids?

Banning books is bad but it’s even worse when people get away with that shit. Someone must stop them.

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