Friday, April 29, 2005

Artificial Outrage 

Here's a case that completely smacks of being a put-up job, engineered by a hate group disguised as a political action organization. First, the spun version from the website of Article 8, an anti-same-sex marriage group out of Massachusetts:
Lexington, Mass., father of 6-year-old arrested, spends night in jail over objections to homosexual curriculum in son's kindergarten class.

Had demanded that school inform him and allow child to opt-out; superintendent refused.

Father brought to court Thursday in handcuffs, scolded by judge. Had been refused opportunity to call a lawyer, so did not have legal counsel at hearing!!
Oh my god, the outrage! He just complains about his son being converted to homosexuality and gets arrested, held incommunicado overnight, etc. Except, this isn't what happened at all. If you go to the news story linked from the Article 8 site (and how many of the outraged faithful will bother to do that?) you get a very different story. And what's with the missing pronouns in the Article 8 version, anyway? But, let's compare fiction and reality...
Parker said he met with school officials to gain those assurances and then refused to leave until he got them. Parker stayed at Estabrook School for more than two hours, according to Superintendent William J. Hurley, as officials and Lexington police urged him to leave. Finally, they arrested him for trespassing.

Parker, who refused to bail himself out of jail Wednesday night, said he spent the night in custody to prove a point.
So... he's not arrested for complaining, he's arrested for trespassing, after being given ample opportunity to walk away without being charged. And then, when he could have posted bail and gone home, he again refuses so he can now trumpet the "they held me overnight!" bullshit. Well, of course they held you overnight, moron. That's what they do when you can't or won't make bail.

Now, on to the source of their original complaint:
Parker and his wife, Tonia, 34, who was also in court yesterday, said the dispute arose because they asked school officials to notify them about classroom discussions about same-sex marriage and what they called other adult themes. They also wanted the option to exclude their boy, now 6, from those talks.
So far, so good. Yes, it does seem like the parents had expressed problems with certain subject matter and requested notice, then didn't get that notice from the evil school. Well, seems like it, until you read further down the article...
The bag of books promoting diversity is sent home with one student at a time, said Rachel F. Cortez, copresident of the Estabrook parent-teacher association and a member of the school's Anti-Bias Committee.

Parents received notice about the book bag at the beginning of the year and the date that it was scheduled to be sent home with their child. The bag's contents also were put on display at a back-to-school night earlier in the school year, she said, and parents are not required to have their child bring it home.

''The kids don't have to take them [the materials] home," she said. ''Parents can either opt out entirely or use whatever materials they want."
Hm. So, at the beginning of the school year -- which I assume was last September -- the offending materials were put on display, and parents were given a choice. And that's entirely fair and how it should work. If you don't want your child exposed to it, tell us and they won't be.

The Parkers did this, back in January, writing to the school. The school responded promptly, offering to set up a meeting with the Parkers. You can read the email exchanges here, where you might notice something interesting. After the school offers to arrange a meeting, there's nearly a two-month gap in the exchange. I have no idea whether this was Article 8's doing or is an actual gap in the exchange, but either way it's not good for the parents. The school tried, and there was silence from January 18th until March 4th, at which point the parents start getting curt and snippy in their mails. Short, short version of the matter at this point: the state of Massachusetts does require parental notification:
Governor Mitt Romney, an opponent of same-sex marriage, said: ''Schools under our parental-notification law are required to inform parents . . . of matters relating to human sexuality that may be taught in the classroom and to allow that child to be out of the classroom for that period of the education." [Boston Globe]
However, the definition of "human sexuality" seems to differ between the school and the parents. Here's the controversial, nasty sex book...

And, as the school finally replies to the Parkers (by which point you can tell the administration has pegged these people as major asshats determined to create trouble where there is none):
We have a unit that deals with Human Growth and Development in 5th grade and parents are notified about that. I have confirmed with our Assistant Superintendent and our Director of Health Education that discussion of differing families, including gay-headed families, is not included in the parental notification policy.
Kind of straightforward, isn't it? They're not teaching six year olds "this is how Jennie's two mommies used a turkey baster to put donated sperm in Mommy 1's vagina to make a baby." They're teaching, "not every family has a mommy and a daddy and a child." And what are the parents thinking, anyway? As the school principal had pointed out in a prior email:
What I can't control is what students may say to one another, as we do have children in our school who have parents who are same sex partners. These issues may come up in talk on the playground, during show and tell, when a student shares a picture about what the family did over the weekend, or when their parents come in to the classroom to volunteer or for a party.
And that's the key here. The Parkers are actually trying to do more damage to their child by shielding him from reality. Keeping the book from their kid does more than shield him from the (ooooh -- scary!) idea that there are same-sex headed families out there. What about single parent familes? Foster families? Blended familes with step-siblings? What about a grandparent raising the children after a divorce or death? What about mixed-raced families, adopted families, interfaith families? In short, what about the huge, huge number of families that don't fit the Parkers' narrow norm of one mother, one father, 2.5 healthy white children?

Also of note: neither article cites a single other example of parents complaining about this issue. Now, granted, the Boston Globe may not have tried to dig this information up. However, you would assume that Article 8 would want to get comments from every possible offended parent that they could. This convinces me more than ever that the Parkers were groomed from the beginning to make an issue of this; they are the visible face of Article 8's astroturf campaign to screw around with the schools and dictate what everyone else can or should learn. Well, if the Parkers don't like the public school curriculum, they can just go get fucked and stick their son in a nice, insulated, oppressive, private, religious school.

Which is what they apparently want to turn the rest of the school system into. But here's a very telling bit from their email exchange, and the red flag that they are being used and manipulated in this entire case. All of the earlier email exchanges, and the first emails of March 4th, end with innocuous sign-offs; sincerely, thank you, whatever. And then, once the parents start making terse, dictatorial statements to the school, the sign-offs and entire tone of the emails change. From their next-to-last email, one that looks like it was dictated to them by a political action committee, with comments:
This includes material given to [our son] to covertly transport into our household (i.e.- diversity book bag). [If your five year old is sneaking things that big into the house, you're really not paying attention.] Such doctrine is against our Christian family beliefs. We will be notified when there are plans to have homosexual material discussed with the students - when [our son] is present - so that we can take action to ensure his spiritual safety. [Quick. Call the Exorcist. Yet another example of Christians actually calling their own god and faith quite weak. Why else the need for protection?] You are not permitted to infringe upon our religious beliefs and parental rights or obviate our freedom of choice, to exclude our son from material that would expose him to beliefs contrary to the Word of God in our Christian faith. [How's that for contradictory sentence construction? Comma splice, biatches -- "you are not permitted to... exclude our son..."? And which word of god is that? Is Mrs. Parker mixing wool and cotton in her outfits, hm?] Our parental rights and Christian belief system will be respected in this diversity-oriented, anti-biased school community. ["As long as we don't have to respect anyone else's" being the implication; i.e., what's good for us isn't good for anyone else, nyah nyah.] We know other parents, of various faiths and values, that endorse this position. [Names? Quotes? Signatures on a petition? Or just bullshit?] This is not solely a Christian assertion of rights.["Except that we won't allow any non-Christians to have rights, dammit."]

May God bless everyone who reads this to be shown his Love and truth of his Word.

In Christ,
Dave and Tonia Parker
Translation: you will not take the blinders off of our son and actually teach him anything, but instead of us taking action to shield him, we're going to bitch and whine until you reduce everyone else to our bland level.

Anyway, by this point in the saga, Article 8's assertions have pretty much blown up, and it's entirely clear that the Parkers are nothing more than the means by which Article 8 is trying to screw with the schools. I think the principal's reply to the above quoted email says it all. Here's the whole thing:
Date: Monday, March 28, 2005
Subject: Re: David and Tonia Parker's Parental Rights Assertion

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Parker,

I just wanted to let you know that I did receive this email.


Joni Jay
Principal, Estabrook School
Translation: "Go fuck yourselves, you wingnuts." Kudos to Joni Jay for that.

The ultimate irony of all this? Hey, I've known plenty of kids who grew up in repressive, religious households, where they were shielded from the nasty world from the beginning, not allowed to even know that anything other than their little "We love Jesus, yes we do" reality was out there. And this kind of parenting always, always comes back to bite the parents in the ass. 'Cause most of the kids I knew who grew up in diverse, open-minded households turned out to be okay adults. They made it through the nasty teenage years, and then went on to lives where it didn't much matter to them what other people did, as long as they could do their own thing. Some of them did wind up becoming religious, some didn't. But none of them wound up fucked up.

However, back to the kids who grew up repressed? Somewhere around the end of middle school, they all started to go a little nuts and extreme. When they found out about the real world, their happy illusions of home shattered. They also learned, quickly and completely, that their parents could not be trusted because of the lies. These are the kids who started using drugs early and often, who had as much casual sex as they could, and who also turned out to be both hypocritical and deceptive. Or, in other words, the Parkers better be ready for a surprise, because in about eight or nine years time, their little preciousssss is going to turn into a holy terror who is going to tell them to their face (and by his actions) that their entire belief system is complete and utter bullshit. Odds are pretty good, too, that he's going to wind up either gay or at least rampantly bisexual, and take every chance he can to fuck everyone he can, just because he grew up being told he can't and no one else should.

There's the ultimate, ironic result of attempts by misguided groups like Article 8 to "protect" the children. The Parkers' son is being used, and he's the one who's going to suffer for it down the line. Though the Parkers would vehemently deny it, their son's future sexual orientation has already been programmed, and they can't change it. What they can do is make him hate himself because he knows he's different (if that's the case), or make him hate people who are different. Or... they can let him know now that there are different kinds of people in the world. If they took the Christian lesson (which showboat "Christians" never do), they would teach him that they will love him forever, no matter how he turns out, because he is their son.

But, of course, people like the Parkers aren't really capable of love. And, by their actions, they're proving that they're pretty bad parents to boot. If they can't trust their own child to learn about the world, and then come to them to discuss "right" and "wrong," how are they ever going to trust him as he grows up? They aren't, because they're never going to let him grow up, just as they themselves haven't grown up. And so the Parkers and people like them try to huddle in a safe little cocoon, pretending that the real world doesn't exist.

What are they afraid of? Everything. But that gives them no right to protect the rest of us from their demons -- because adults don't need to be protected from illusions.

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