By Bill Tubbs | –
( Iowa Capital Dispatch) – Two years ago in my column in the North Scott Press, I introduced “Signs that the Apocalypse is Upon Us,” to call attention to items which, though they are actually happening, are so surreal that it seems the end of time must be near.
Gov. Kim Reynolds and Moms for Liberty gave us such a moment recently. I wish I were making this up, but sadly, no, the governor, appealing to the prejudices of certain moms, said the Legislature should pass a law banning a book in every school if it is found unfit in any school. This is needed, she said, “to restore sanity, to make sure our schools are a place of learning and not indoctrination.”
She criticized public schools for “demonizing our country.”
The governor was serious, even as the effect of her proposal would be that one overzealous group in one district could cause a book to be banned statewide – to heck with the First Amendment and local control. Note that committees of educators, students, ordinary citizens and administrators already exist in local districts to make those decisions.
Reynolds’ Orwelllian idea is surreal. I thought we lived in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The only liberty these groups – and apparently the governor – are interested in is their own; not yours or mine, just theirs.
You can’t be for liberty if you’re banning books.
Fearfully, they speak
Not surprisingly, the books that Moms for Liberty find objectionable deal with sexual awakening and coming of age for gay, lesbian and questioning youth. The objectors state, correctly, that these subjects are better dealt with by parents. Tragically, though, too often, parents who find the materials objectionable are either ill-equipped or unwilling to have those conversations.
The latter may seem presumptuous from a country editor, but my experience as a parent of a lesbian daughter and co-founder with my wife, Linda, of the local PFLAG chapter 20 years ago, inform me otherwise. (The PFLAG chapter is not holding meetings, but members have funded a scholarship at North Scott. Applicants submit an essay on “Why Inclusion Matters.”)
On many occasions at PFLAG meetings (Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays), we listened as youth, conflicted about their sexual identity, fearfully poured out their hearts about problems they were having with parents who refused to accept that their child might be among the gay and lesbian population – a certain minority in every period since the dawn of time – including in higher mammals who are not thought capable of making moral choices.
Helping kids at school
The lucky ones had parents who were open-minded enough to consider the possibilities – and that having a gay or lesbian son or daughter is not the end of the world. (Actually, it’s quite normal.) But if those positive, constructive conversations cannot happen in the home, then where?
It is into this vacuum that trained educators are prepared to listen and lend a helping hand, without judgment; and, I assert, save lives, because gay and trans youth without family support are twice as likely to be at risk for suicide.
In our PFLAG meetings, we met and dialogued with gay and trans individuals who underscored this point. They feared judgment and exclusion from parents, but often found acceptance and understanding from a public school teacher or counselor.
Significantly, the books that Moms for Liberty and the governor would remove from the shelves are among the helpful resources provided by the teacher or counselor.
A settled issue
The late Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong wrote extensively on this subject. His insights, including analysis of scripture – what it says and doesn’t say about homosexuality – provided a way forward with integrity. He observed that in all of human history, never has a prejudice been raised to the level of public discussion and debate, and gone backward.
Specifically, with regard to homosexuality, 14 years ago he declared inclusion a settled issue. “The battle is over. The victory has been won. There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of the struggle will be,” he wrote in 2009. “It is time to move on.”
Heroes, victims and villains
The bishop did observe, however, that there would be a backlash, and added, “What’s left to be determined is who will be the heroes, the victims and the villains.”
Indeed, we have seen them all, from heroes like the North Scott students who write persuasively for inclusion in their PFLAG scholarship essays, to the victims like Matthew Shepard, the teenager who was tortured and left to die in the Wyoming prairie, to the villains who would turn the calendar back.
Based on recent statements, I put Moms for Liberty and Reynolds in the latter category, but hold hope that they, too, can change: that parents and schools will be able to give youth the help they need; that a new birth of freedom will win our hearts and sweep our state; that legislators will not rush to judgment; schools like North Scott will retain the local control that is rightly theirs, and collectively, we will renew our commitment to First Amendment principles for all, not just some.
For the sake of the child, and actually, all of us, our future as free people, that is my fervent prayer.
This column is republished from the North Scott Press.