With A Rebel Yell
Goofus is always going to be Goofus, but don’t be surprised if Gallant comes out as genderqueer:
Highlights Magazine is known among parents and kids for its “Goofus and Gallant” features and seek and find pictures. But when one reader asked Highlights about including LGBT families in their magazine, the company quickly found itself the target of fierce online criticism.
Well. Clearly, the editors of Highlights are neo-Falwellian gorgons. They got monstered by progressive parents on Facebook. Read the whole news account. Then read the editors base apology:
In the last several days, Highlights for Children has received many comments and questions about representing LGBTQ families in our magazines. In our initial response, our words weren’t reflective of our values, intentions or our position, and we apologize. We want to assure you that we have read every message and are listening carefully.
For those of you who know us—who read Highlights magazine as a child or have given it to a child—you know we have a long history of promoting inclusion and sensitivity. How to do this better and in a way that resonates with today’s kids is an ongoing dialogue in our editorial meetings—and has been for 70 years. Our mission never changes: To help kids become their best selves—curious, creative, confident, and caring. But we are constantly evolving. It may seem to some that we are evolving too slowly.
We want to reiterate that we believe all families matter. We know that there are many ways to build a family, and that love is the essential “ingredient.” This conversation has helped us see that we can be more reflective of all kinds of families in our publications. We are committed to doing so as we plan future issues.
As difficult as these past few days have been, we are always grateful for reader feedback.
We all know where this is going, don’t we? If “we believe that parents know best” isn’t expressive of the values of the magazine’s editors, there’s only one place it can go. And so, goodbye Highlights for Children, another innocent victim of the PC mob. Because an anodyne and beloved children’s magazine that doesn’t immediately accept an extremely radical redefinition of family that has taken place over the last 15 years must be punished.
One of my readers, on hearing this news, said, “Why do people have to care so much about everything? A little apathy would go a long way.”
The fate of Highlights is a very small occurrence in this great big world, but it’s a telling thing. It is insane that even Highlights For Children gets bullied into this, and that the editors would capitulate so quickly. This revolution won’t leave anybody alone. If you think you’re going to get away without having to fight, you’re dreaming. They will not leave you alone. There is no neutral ground. You must affirm.
If you do not intend to capitulate, you had better prepare to be hated, and you had better learn to regard that hatred as a blessing. Or you’re not going to make it. Back in the year 2000, I wrote in the Weekly Standard a piece about what GLSEN was doing in Massachusetts, with the backing of the state, and the implicit blessing of the Boston media. Excerpts:
Frustrated by official indifference, Whiteman secretly took his tape recorder along to the 10th annual conference of the Boston chapter of GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, at Tufts University on March 25. GLSEN (pronounced “glisten”) is a national organization whose purpose is to train teachers and students and develop programs to, in the words of its Boston chapter leader, “challenge the anti-gay, hetero-centric culture that still prevails in our schools.”
The state-sanctioned conference, which was open to the public but attended chiefly by students, administrators, and teachers, undercut the official GLSEN line — that their work is aimed only at making schools safer by teaching tolerance and respect.
The event, backed by the state’s largest teachers’ union, included such workshops as “Ask the Transsexuals,” “Early Childhood Educators: How to Decide Whether to Come Out at Work or Not,” “The Struggles and Triumphs of Including Homosexuality in a Middle School Curriculum” (with suggestions for including gay issues when teaching the Holocaust), “From Lesbos to Stonewall: Incorporating Sexuality into a World History Curriculum,” and “Creating a Safe and Inclusive Community in Elementary Schools,” in which the “Rationale for integrating glbt [gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender] issues in the early elementary years will be presented.”
Whiteman sat in on a “youth only, ages 14-21” workshop called “What They Didn’t Tell You About Queer Sex & Sexuality in Health Class.” If “they” didn’t tell you about this stuff, it’s probably because “they” worried they’d be sent to jail.
The raucous session was led by Massachusetts Department of Education employees Margot Abels and Julie Netherland, and Michael Gaucher, an AIDS educator from the Massachusetts public health agency. Gaucher opened the session by asking the teens how they know whether or not they’ve had sex. Someone asked whether oral sex was really sex.
“If that’s not sex, then the number of times I’ve had sex has dramatically decreased, from a mountain to a valley, baby!” squealed Gaucher. He then coaxed a reluctant young participant to talk about which orifices need to be filled for sex to have occurred: “Don’t be shy, honey, you can do it.”
Later, the three adults took written questions from the kids. One inquired about “fisting,” a sex practice in which one inserts his hand and forearm into the rectum of his partner. The helpful and enthusiastic Gaucher demonstrated the proper hand position for this act. Abels described fisting as “an experience of letting somebody into your body that you want to be that close and intimate with,” and praised it for putting one “into an exploratory mode.”
Gaucher urged the teens to consult their “really hip” Gay/Straight Alliance adviser for hints on how to come on to a potential sex partner. The trio went on to explain that lesbians could indeed experience sexual bliss through rubbing their clitorises together, and Gaucher told the kids that male ejaculate is rumored to taste “sweeter if people eat celery.” On and on like this the session went.
Camenker and Whiteman transcribed the tape and wrote a lengthy report for Massachusetts News, a conservative monthly. Then they announced that copies of the recorded sessions would be made available to state legislators and the local media. GLSEN threatened to sue them for violating Massachusetts’ wiretap laws and invading the privacy of the minors present at one workshop.
The tapes went out anyway and became a talk radio sensation. On May 19, state education chief David Driscoll canned Abels and Netherland and terminated Gaucher’s contract. But Driscoll also insisted that the controversial workshop was an aberration that shouldn’t be allowed to derail the entire program. Abels fumed to the press that the education department had known perfectly well what she had been doing for years and hadn’t cared until the tapes had surfaced. Camenker, ironically, agreed.
Read the whole thing. The entire Massachusetts establishment turned on these parents. It was a disgrace — but it was effective. Now the whole country is dealing with it — and as the Highlights episode shows, they’ve got a lot of parents on their side. Within a year or two, Highlights is going to face enormous pressure to, um, highlight transgendered tots. Do you doubt it?
At some point, people, you just have to quit caring what others think, and do what you know is right, regardless of the consequences. There is a lot of strength in just not giving a rip anymore. Over the weekend, I read an advance copy of Anthony Esolen’s forthcoming (Jan 2017) book Out Of The Ashes: A Layman’s Guide to Rebuilding Our Culture. It’s a full-throated, big-hearted call to arms, both uncompromising and irresistible. This book is the St. Crispin’s Day speech of the Benedict Option. Look at these excerpts from the introduction:
Let’s get straight to the point. We no longer live in a culturally Christian state. We do not live in a robust pagan state, such as Rome was during the Pax Romana. We live in a sickly sub-pagan state, or metastate, a monstrous thing, all-meddlesome, all-ambitious. The natural virtues are scorned. Temperance is for prigs, prudence for sticks in the mud who worry about people who don’t yet exist. A man who fathers six children upon three women and now wants to turn himself into a “woman” attracted to other women—he is praised for his courage. Justice means that a handful of narrowly educated and egotistical judges get to overturn human culture and biology, at their caprice.
We are not in partibus infidelibus. We are in partibus insanibus.
What shall we do now? The answer is both daunting and liberating. We do everything. That doesn’t mean that I do everything, or that you do everything. Suppose you find yourself in a bombed out city. There are all kinds of things to do, and all of them have to be done. Some needs are more pressing than others, and some things can be done only after other things are in order. But everywhere you turn, there’s work to do. You have to find clean water. You have to find food. You have to tend to the wounded and bury the dead. You have to erect shelters. You have to see which of the few buildings left standing are actually safe. You have to demolish those that are ruined beyond repair. You have to organize work teams. Someone has to prepare the meals. Someone has to keep the children out of trouble. In such a situation, it’s almost absurd to ask whether it’s more important to build a latrine than to gather together some undamaged books. All of it has to be done. So you do what you can do—the work that is ready to your hand.
Recover the human things.
You remember them? The things that human beings used to do. They are not to be underestimated. Let’s not pretend here. We’ve all lost a great deal of what once made up whatever sweetness that human life had to offer. People used to dress becomingly, play cards, talk to others, take long walks, sing songs, play ball, grow peas and beans, strum on the guitar, drop in on friends, and have friends to drop in on. Boys used to ask girls to do innocent things with them, like go bowling, or attend a concert, or dance. There’s an idea—learn how to dance again. The world, besides being quite mad, is now an unspeakably drab, tawdry, and lonely place. Build outposts of normality. It will take time. Begin.
Pray like the pilgrim you are.
That goes without saying. If you pray for ten minutes a day, pray for fifteen. But pray with a clearer aim. Remember that you are going somewhere. Its name, in one sense, is the grave. The whole world is in mad denial of that plain fact. It turns to the garish and obscene, lest it have to consider the quiet grassy mound and the stone with a few words on it. Be different. You are on the way. Take heart, and don the hat of the pilgrim. Do not be like those who have no hope. Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place. Will you have to repent of having sometimes gotten on the carousel of the world? Repent of it then. Begin.
Whatever you do, do it as if everything depends on just that.
It does, after all. Let no one say to you, “What difference does it make if you sing beautiful hymns at Mass?” That’s the way the world thinks. For the world, despite all its pretense of love for every individual, considers men to be mere stuff, an accumulation or amalgamation. Do not believe it. The next person you greet may be on the verge of sainthood or damnation. Every moral choice we make repeats the drama of Eden. No one can do everything. Everyone can do something. Begin.
I encourage you to pre-order Out Of the Ashes, along with Archbishop Chaput’s book Stranger in a Strange Land, out in February. It follows the same themes. And don’t forget The Benedict Option, coming out in March. Something big is happening now. A band of brothers and sisters are saying, “Enough! No more. We are not going to shore up this corrupt and decadent imperium any longer. We are going to live as free and upright men and women, and we don’t give a damn what you think of us.”
Twenty years ago, the Catholic law professor Russell Hittinger wrote, regarding the Supreme Court’s increasing radicalism on social questions like abortion:
It is late in the day, and our options have dwindled. Either right-minded citizens will have to disobey orders or perhaps relinquish offices of public authority, or the new constitutional rulers will have to be challenged and reformed. The first option leads inevitably either to withdrawal from politics or to civil disobedience. Since there is still a window of opportunity with regard to the second option, it would seem to be the responsible course.
… There is a real possibility that the moral and religious motivations of some citizens will become not only actionable at public law, through constitutional suits challenging legislation informed by such motives, but also actionable at private law. Unless the elected representatives of the people can compel the Court to refrain from invalidating political activity merely on the basis of the citizens’ moral or religious motivation, the task of reform is blocked. Should that continue, the option remaining to right reason is the one traditionally used against despotic rule: civil disobedience.
Twenty years have passed, and we are at that point. Who knows what form civil disobedience will take in the future. For now, it requires a conscious, deliberate, and progressive secession from the imperium, a defection in place, a refusal to cooperate with its aims.
The rebels are going to be ordinary people, especially parents, who cease to care about appearing respectable in the eyes of the world. Some priests and pastors will join; most will continue to go along to get along. Some colleges, high schools, and teachers will join; most will conform. A lot of orthodox Christians who sympathize will mire themselves in trying to fight this war by
giving money to the usual Washington activists and Christianity, Inc. suspects saddling up the cavalry horses, because it’s familiar. This too is a kind of conformity.
None of this work will be easy. But it is going to be necessary. It already is.
A reader sent me something kind of incredible. It’s a passage from the late Neil Postman’s 1994 book The Disappearance of Childhood, which I’d read years ago, and still have on my bookshelf, but did not consult when I was writing The Benedict Option. I wish I had. Here’s a passage from the conclusion; the boldfaced highlights are by the reader:
But, as with all resistance, there is a price to pay. Specifically, resistance entails conceiving of parenting as an act of rebellion against American culture. For example, for parents merely to remain married is itself an act of disobedience and an insult to the spirit of a throwaway culture in which continuity has little value. It is also at least ninety percent un-American to remain in close proximity to one’s extended family so that children can experience, daily, the meaning of kinship and the value of deference and responsibility to elders. Similarly, to insist that one’s children learn the discipline of delayed gratification, or modesty in sexuality, or self-restraint in manners, language, and style is to place oneself in opposition to almost every social trend. Even further, to ensure that one’s children work hard at becoming literate is extraordinarily time-consuming and even expensive. But most rebellious of all is the attempt to control the media’s access to one’s children. There are, in fact, two ways to do this. The first is to limit the amount of exposure children have to media. The second is to monitor carefully what they are exposed to, and to provide them with a continuously running critique of the themes and values of the media’s content. Both are very difficult to do and require a level of attention that most parents are not prepared to give to child-rearing.
Nonetheless, there are parents who are committed to doing all of these things, who are in effect defying the directives of their culture. Such parents are not only helping their children to have a childhood but are, at the same time, creating a sort of intellectual elite. Certainly in the short run the children who grow up in such homes will, as adults, be much favored by business, the professions, and the media themselves. What can we say of the long run? Only this: Those parents who resist the spirit of the age will contribute to what might be called the Monastery Effect, for they will help to keep alive a humane tradition. It is not conceivable that our culture will forget that it needs children. But it is halfway toward forgetting that children need childhood. Those who insist on remembering shall perform a noble service.
The Monastery Effect. The Benedict Option. Who could have guessed that a contrarian secular Jewish leftie who taught at NYU would have prefigured the Benedict Option by almost a quarter century?
I mean, look, when they queer the Timbertoes, all bets are off, amirite?