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    Ann Rostow: From Bad to Worse

    By Ann Rostow–

    From Bad to Worse

    I confess there was a time when I enjoyed watching GOP politicians like Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence position themselves to run for president in 2024 in defiance of Trump. Anything that undercuts Trump is a pleasure to savor, and while that is still true, the governor of Florida has now sunk to Trumpian levels. His no-mask Covid policies were bad enough, but his lavish embrace of anti-GLBT legislation is sickening to watch. And after Disney’s CEO finally came out strongly against the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law a week or so ago, DeSantis called for one of the company’s state tax incentives to be revoked—a combination of immaturity and macho bluster that once seemed exclusive to Trump himself. 

    Trump did a great deal of damage to the GLBT community, in part by allowing evangelical factions led by people like Pence and Pompeo to infuse his administration with antigay and anti-trans policies, and also to a large extent by letting Mitch McConnell fill the federal bench with far-right radicals. He was passive, however. Not a particular Christian himself, he allowed us to be thrown under this bus and that train for the benefit of his White Protestant base, who liked that sort of thing. Now, we have men like DeSantis, and Texans like (governor) Abbot and (attorney general) Paxton, who seemingly thrive on homophobia, leading the charge against us. 

    While Texas is teaching conservative states how to criminalize treatments for transgender teens and young adults, Florida is inspiring its brother Red States to campaign for “parental rights,” in public education, by banning progressive kids’ books and prohibiting discussion of gender and sexual orientation to elementary students. Under many circumstances, the law also forces teachers and staff to report gay and trans students of any age to their parents.  

    And what’s wrong with letting parents introduce their children to delicate subjects? Nothing at all, of course. But by effectively prohibiting any reference to GLBT people, the law means kids will effectively be force fed a 1950s era image of family life. No one has to announce that two mothers or two fathers is a bad thing for that message to be sent loud and clear by silence itself.

    Elementary school kids are not “taught” about sex or sexual orientation. But it’s referenced every time they hear about moms and dads. And kids aren’t stupid. Speaking to a reporter from the Daily Beast, one Florida second-grader with lesbian parents said he overheard teachers talking about the new bill.

    “It’s something they’re not supposed to be talking about because when they’re talking about ‘Don’t Say Gay,’ they’re technically talking about gay,” said Sawyer Robbins astutely. 

    When Sawyer heard about the “stupid” bill, he told the reporter, “The first thing I thought of was something that happened not long ago. I was telling my friend about my parents before this was a thing and he didn’t know what lesbian meant. So, I told him what it meant. I told him, ’It means when a girl marries a girl.’ He said, ‘That’s weird.’ I said, ‘It’s not their fault they fall in love.’”

    “But now if [a friend] doesn’t know what it is, I can’t tell him. I can’t even have the same conversation we were having because [of] the Don’t Say Gay bill.”

    In fact, the law wouldn’t apply to Sawyer himself, only to his teachers. But he gets the picture, even at eight years old. As his sister’s teacher explained to her class, “Gay only means happy now.”

    Jesus Wouldn’t Pass Out Bracelets

    When I am about to judge something that involves the GLBT community or the Democratic Party. I first try to imagine what I would think if the Christian Right or the Republicans were in the same position. And vice versa.

    So how about the substitute teacher in Ohio who was just fired for handing out pride bracelets to his students? He wasn’t canned for announcing he was gay or for answering a generic gay question in class. Nor was he part of a school celebration of Pride, or a Day of Silence. And it seems he didn’t just make the bracelets available, say to GLBT or allied students in the class. He passed them out. I’d be pissed if my child came home with a “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelet, so I’m sure any uber Christian parents out there were annoyed when Junior came home with rainbows on his wrist.

    The teacher admitted that he “did technically, violate a policy,” to wit a policy that prohibits teachers from discussing personal political or religious views with the class. Oh, and teachers are also not allowed to distribute bracelets. So, what the hell, man? Incidents like these are promptly elaborated into legislative arguments about progressives who seek to indoctrinate children against their parents’ will. This doesn’t help us. We’re not looking to transform all the kids into GLBT activists. We’re looking to teach them to think for themselves, to teach them about the world they live in, and to help them envision the future they want to create. 

    Readers, I just broke my writing code and deleted a large section of ranting and railing, preaching to the choir and basically just boring us all to death with unoriginal tirades. I’m making slow progress today, and I kept stopping to reread what I’ve already written with dissatisfaction. Now that I’ve dropped a big chunk, I’m even further behind on my deadline than I was before, and I don’t even have a refreshingly new and fun topic to clear our path ahead. Instead, we must persevere through the dense thicket of anti-GLBT politics and nasty Republican posturing. Say it ain’t so!

    Bits and Pieces

    Speaking of the dense thicket, I could tell you about the Justice Department’s letter to state attorney generals, warning them to keep clear of discriminatory anti-transgender legal antics. A nice move by Kristen Clarke, head of the Civil Rights division, but will anything come of it? 

    And the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a $120,000 jury award for transman Jesse Vroegh, who transitioned on the job and was relegated to a remote bathroom at the Mitchellville prison where he worked as a nurse. The high court also gave his lawyers a tidy sum, which I would look up for you if I had the energy and thought it was important—neither of which is the case. 

    Or perhaps you would like to hear about the Chick-fil-A lawsuit, an absurd case launched against San Antonio by conservatives after Alamo City refused to offer the notoriously bigoted fast-food chain a space at the airport. After the authorities rejected Chick-fil-A, the hapless state legislature passed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, a new law that forbids local governments from taking adverse action against a person for religious reasons. (Because these bozos have nothing better to do than to carom like pinballs from one pointless political ding-dong to the next whenever a suitable story pops into their narrow frame of reference.)

    The San Antonio Family Association then sued the city under this new law, even though the chicken franchise was rejected months before the law was passed. In fact, as is obvious from the ludicrous nickname, the airport decision is what inspired the law to begin with. Oh, and not only did San Antonio reject Chick-fil-A due to its antigay reputation, but they also did so because its restaurants are inconveniently not open on Sundays. 

    The Texas Supreme Court, not exactly a bastion of liberalism, sent the case back to lower court to decide a couple of technical issues and to assess the argument by the plaintiffs that even though the restaurant was refused a concession prior to the law’s passage, the offense is “ongoing” as long as Chick-fil-A is not given a store at the airport. This despite the fact that the airport eventually said Chick-fil-A could reapply, but the chicken eatery declined the offer. Forgive me if I don’t delve further into the court’s considerations, but I think we’ve given this story enough ink. 

    Bad Monkey

    Do you remember the North Carolina dog from last week who was sent to the animal shelter because his owner thought he was gay? Fezco, who was observed humping another male dog, was immediately adopted by a gay male couple, and renamed Oscar Wilde. 

    Meanwhile, as I was reading about Oscar Wilde, nee Fezco, I saw a link to a (December 2021) story from India, where a band of monkeys had reportedly been dropping dozens of dogs and puppies off tall buildings after a dog killed a baby monkey. I checked Snopes and learned that indeed, several dogs have been killed by these monkeys, but it’s not clear that the monkeys were acting out of anti-canine revenge. Some dogs in the village had been dragged up to the roof of tall buildings, but they had then generally died of starvation. It’s possible that the monkeys were looking for bugs on the dogs, took them to rooftops for inspection and left them there without food or water. All in all, it’s a depressing account.

    And finally, I’ve complained about this before, but it just happened again. I was scrolling around, bottom feeding on oddball headlines and links, when I encountered a close-up photograph of grotesque fingers with massive fungus encrusted beneath the nails! There should be censorship laws against these kinds of disgusting images popping up without warning. No one, I repeat no one, has thick slabs of fungus underneath their fingernails. The photo was deliberately generated to sell something. I ran away before I saw the product but I assume it was a nail fungus remedy. Nail fungus is usually manifested by yellowing or brittle nails (I just checked this) so there was no need for such an excessive presentation. Am I alone in my disgust?

    Truth or Consequences

    As I mentioned at the top, I enjoy reveling in Trump misfortunes, so I have been eagerly reading about the dismal failure of Truth Social, Trump’s incompetent effort to create a far-right version of Twitter. First of all, he hired Devon Nunes, the dairy farmer turned Congressman who has absolutely zero experience in high tech corporate management. Then he apparently hired two people from his Apprentice reality show as executives. I’m not sure what their story was. And these guys managed to hire two tech guys who were both arch conservatives as well, although they have both just quit.

    The service was rolled out in late February, but it has yet to work. It’s not accessible to android phones, only Apple phones and iPads. It’s frequently down, and many users can’t even sign up without winding up on an endless wait list. Trump himself has only sent one “Truth,” and the rest of the content consists of bots and nonsense. Everyone hates it, and by “everyone” I‘m referring to MAGA people who usually love everything with a Trump connection. Trump himself is reportedly pissed off at everyone involved, and refuses to use it until everything is fixed, which sounds like never. 

    The best part is that the service was supposed to be funded by an overarching Trump venture called the Trump Media and Technology Group. This company decided to go public through a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), a trendy vehicle that begins its life as a shell company, goes public and then merges with some other business operation. Strict rules dictate that a SPAC may not find a partner until after it goes public. 

    This SPAC, however, called Digital World Acquisition Corp., held not so secret talks with Trump Media people well in advance of setting up this whole deal and is now under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which may well shut it down. Meanwhile, a bunch of dumb MAGA bros and others greedily bought up shares in Digital World, even though all those shares are about to be diluted in an institutional stock plan that will give most of the profits to Trump and his buddies. Either that, or they will be worthless, which would also leave Trump Media high and dry with no cash whatsoever. One of these days, this man’s stupidity has to bring him down.

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on April 7, 2022