Republicans are desperately trying to convince voters across America that they are the party looking to "protect children."
Right now, a major part of that effort is their embrace of the self-described "joyful warriors" known as Moms for Liberty (M4L), an astroturf hate group run by some of the most vicious political operatives since Lee Atwater.
The evil that M4L represents has been acknowledged across the political spectrum: First, by the now-convicted Proud Boy seditionist Enrique Tarrio who calls them "Gestapo with Vaginas." Second, by Southern Poverty Law Center, which recently identified M4L as a far-right, anti-government extremist organization.
M4L is joyfully inflicting terror on the majority of American teachers, parents, librarians—and kids—who oppose their white-supremacist, anti-gay, fake-Christian agenda.
M4L's message is being amplified by right-wing and mainstream media that gladly parrot their lies about "parental control" and "pornography" in schools. And its message is being elevated by the support of leading candidates for the GOP's 2024 Presidential nomination.
In early September, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis—who has been joined at the hip with M4L from the start—preposterously named M4L co-founder Tina Descovich to the Florida Commission on Ethics. In June, Trump, DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy were among the high profile speakers at an M4L hatefest in Philadelphia, where Haley actually said out loud that she was proud to be an M4L "terrorist."
In Congress, where alleged child rapist Matt Gaetz is mulling his own run for Governor, Republicans are mimicking M4L's bigoted antics. Earlier this year, Marjorie Taylor Greene and the openly gay George Santos co-sponsored a bill to censor "sexually explicit" books that was, in fact, a thinly veiled attempt to ban books by LGBTQ+ authors or with LGBTQ+ characters. Theirs was the kind of law that's already in place in Florida, where one school district recently decided that following the law meant declaring it unsafe for children to simply be in the same room as any book containing an LGBTQ+ character.
But talk about protecting children is cheap. In reality, book bans and the new censorship laws being passed by DeSantis and others do the opposite of helping children navigate the reality of today's world.
Shielding children from "discomfort" about actual American history doesn't end racism. And, if groomers and pedophiles are everywhere, as people like M4L and MTG claim, shouldn't we be encouraging kids to read books that might help them understand the challenges of adolescence and the realities of sexual abuse?
DeSantis may claim he just wants to "let kids be kids." But in Florida, that means living in a world of school shootings, sex-trafficking Congressmen, the spread of scary diseases from Covid to leprosy, and the reality of increasingly destructive hurricanes, none of which DeSantis has taken serious action to prevent.
In fact, DeSantis and the entire Republican party are doing the opposite of "letting kids be kids"—they are actively committing crimes against them.
Here's just a partial list:
Racism and Bigotry
Many of today's school-kids are old enough to remember that Trump made racism a core part of the MAGA movement that now controls the GOP. To hammer the point home, he pardoned Joe Arpaio in August 2017, two weeks after white nationalists marched in Charlottesville and killed Heather Heyer.
Teenage LGBTQ+ students are likely aware that, once in office, Trump embraced wholeheartedly the GOP's anti-LGBTQ+ agenda, from judicial appointments to rolling back anti-discrimination policies in the workplace and the military.
Today's MAGA Republicans are not just promoting the idea that it's wrong to say "Black Lives Matter." They're going way further. In Florida schools, racist videos from PragerU (the fakest University since Trump) are now approved, while books for younger and older readers—from The ABC's of Black History by Rio Cortez to Beloved by Toni Morrison—are banned from classrooms and school libraries.
Meanwhile, much like the German fascists of the 1930s, today's Republicans are out to eradicate books by LGBTQ+ authors and about LGBTQ+ characters in ways that erase the identities—and deny the very existence—of the LGBTQ+ community in schools. This means falsely smearing as "pornography" everything from innocent picture books about babies and penguins to graphic novels for older students—such as Gender Queer and the illustrated Anne Frank's Diary.
Conclusion: By exposing children to so much racism and bigotry, Republicans are not just failing to protect them. They are creating an environment that leads to increased bullying and hostility, creates physical and mental stress, leads to behavioral problems in victims—and is frequently implicated in teen suicides.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 have been sexually victimized, with children being most vulnerable to child sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.
While it's true that the sexual abuse of children crosses parties, it's also true that you're far more likely to have heard about Donald Trump, Republican politicians and Christian church leaders molesting and raping children than about Drag Queens doing anything other than read stories to children (and parents).
Yet Republicans have made attacking Drag Queens—and popular and diverse Drag Queen Story Hour events—a centerpiece of their over-the-top attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, even as they tolerate a growing list of actual sexual predators within their own party.
Conclusion: Republicans are simply faking concern about child sexual abuse for political reasons, while doing nothing concrete to protect children from the active sexual predators within their own party—and the child abusers who continue to prey on young victims within Christian churches across the country.
What happens when a female victim of child sexual abuse becomes pregnant?
Having denied her access to the kind of books that might have taught her about sex, sexuality—or even how to protect herself from or report sexual abuse, the Republicans who helped create the circumstances for the crime, now want the child victim to see her pregnancy as an "opportunity."
Even if the child was raped by her own father or another family member, even if she is traumatized by that experience, and even if the pregnancy may cause life-threatening complications for the child-mother, extreme anti-choice Republicans say giving birth to the rapist's child is mandatory, "no exceptions."
By making fatherhood a guaranteed outcome of any pregnancy that results from child rape, it could even be argued that Republicans are creating an added incentive to commit the crime in the first place.
Conclusion: When it comes to child rape victims who become pregnant, the same Republicans who claim to support "parents' rights" and say they want to "let kids be kids," remove victims' parents from the decision—and hand all the control over a young girl's childhood to her rapist and a government that has made motherhood a mandate.
Perhaps you think it's wrong to accuse Republicans of incentivizing child rape. But you can't deny their consistent demonstrations of solidarity with mass murderers and school shooters.
To mark National Gun Violence Survivors Week in February 2023, gun-store-owning GOP Rep. Andy Clyde of Georgia handed out AR-15 lapel pins which were proudly sported by the likes of Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida (where 17 were killed in the Parkland school shooting in 2018) and George Santos of NY (where 10 people were killed in a racist mass shooting in Buffalo in 2022).
In Florida, despite the outcry after Parkland, Gov. DeSantis has now made it legal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit—sending a clear message to kids and their parents that their lives are worth less to him than the support of Second Amendment extremists and the NRA.
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has consistently loosened gun laws despite ongoing mass shootings in that state—including the Sutherland Springs church massacre in 2017 that killed 27, the Santa Fe high school shooting in 2018 that killed 10, and the El Paso Walmart shooting in 2019 that killed 23. Abbott made it legal to carry a gun without a permit in 2021, the year before an 18-year-old gunman used an AR-15 to massacre 19 children and two teachers at a school in Uvalde.
Conclusion: At a time when gun violence has become the leading cause of death for Americans aged 1-18, as children live in fear of gun violence everywhere from home to school to the mall to church and beyond, the GOP has decided that the daily danger of gun violence and the traumatic reality of active shooter drills at schools is just their way of "letting kids be kids."
Child poverty is known to have long-term detrimental effects on children's development and education—and contributes to worse physical and mental health in adulthood.
It's also expensive for the rest of us. In 2018, a study by the National Association of Social Workers found that U.S. child poverty cost the US economy more than $1 trillion each year, equivalent to more than 5% of GDP.
Black, American-Indian and Latino children are more likely to live in poverty than white and AAPI kids. And perhaps that's why the GOP is so willing to abandon them to poverty, despite the cost.
Under Biden, child poverty hit a historic low of 5.2% in 2021.
But it more than doubled to 12.4% in 2022 as Congressional Republicans blocked renewal of the expanded Child Tax Credit that had lifted millions out of poverty.
Conclusion: Republicans consistently reject the "Christian" imperative to help the poor, favoring a failed policy of tax cuts for corporations and the already-wealthy instead. Their rejection of successful Biden policies proven to actually "protect our children" is condemning millions of American kids to unnecessary hunger and deprivation—which, for most, will lead to a lifetime of setbacks and lost opportunities, diminishing America's future global competitiveness.
Republicans, led by Covid criminals Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott—and cheered on by the likes of Fox News and Elon Musk—have condemned hundreds of thousands of Americans to preventable deaths during the Covid pandemic.
Moms for Liberty got their start complaining about mask mandates in schools—helping the GOP set the stage for more disease spread, more variants, and more death.
In year two of the pandemic, even after Biden's successful vaccine rollout, Republicans caused a "MAGA Massacre" that saw Red State after Red State—in states that could have prevented mass death—leapfrog hard-hit early states like NY and California to become the leaders in US Covid deaths-per-capita.
Florida, where Ron DeSantis (for some inexplicable reason) brags about his handling of the pandemic, is now in the top 10 states for deaths per capita, with a death rate 59% higher than California's.
By insisting that children should be allowed to catch and spread Covid, the GOP helped ensure that millions of American kids are now growing up starved of the unconditional love of their now-dead grandparents.
Many of those children must live with the knowledge (or suspicion) that they were the ones who innocently brought the fatal infection to their own loved ones.
Meanwhile, the anti-vaxxer movement, emboldened by Trump and MAGA Republicans, has caused deaths way beyond Covid.
Trump himself bears responsibility for tens of thousands of flu deaths during his first flu season as President. And the anti-vaxxer movement continues to endanger children by allowing diseases like measles, chickenpox, and even polio to return to the United States.
Conclusion: The GOP's embrace of stupidity and its rejection of science continue to put children at risk of once-eliminated, still-deadly diseases. Millions of American children are growing up without the love of grandparents and other family members whose deaths from Covid-19 were hastened by GOP propaganda and policies.
If Republicans haven't already given kids enough to worry about, the planet's on fire.
Practically no child in America is immune from extreme weather events that are only getting worse. And kids who are still allowed to read books or learn science face the growing despair of watching a President with the boldest climate agenda in history being stymied at every turn by a so-called "Christian" party that would prefer to "own the libs" than save the very creation that God told them to look after.
As The New Republic wrote in June 2023: "Do-nothing Republicans are buttressed by their fossil fuel friends who have known for decades the climate and environmental risks of their vampiristic activities—and have kept on drilling anyway."
And if you thought this summer's wildfires and floods and hurricanes and heatwaves were bad, get ready for what Japanese researchers say is coming next:
Large amounts of microplastics are ingested or inhaled by humans and animals alike and have been detected in multiple organs such as lung, heart, blood, placenta, and feces. Ten million tons of these plastic bits end up in the ocean, released with the ocean spray, and find their way into the atmosphere. This implies that microplastics may have become an essential component of clouds, contaminating nearly everything we eat and drink via “plastic rainfall.”
Will "plastic rainfall" be what kills us all?
I don't know. But it doesn't sound good to me.
In the interest of "letting kids be kids," maybe don't tell your own kids this latest bit of research news just yet.
Conclusion: Maybe Artificial Intelligence will save us. Because Real Stupidity isn't helping. For all their talk of "Christianity," refusing the act on climate is the modern equivalent of Noah telling God to screw Himself because he refused to accept the Flood as a real emergency. Anyone who truly cares about our children's future should forever reject the GOP and the rightwing media who have denied science for decades in ways that, even now, continue to put all of human existence at risk.
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