At June’s First Friday observance, I stopped by the Delaware Republicans’ booth and explained that in the past I have held many of their party in high regard but as of late, I’ve found their adoption of the tagline “Got Freedom Yet” to be remarkably cynical and off-putting. I engaged in what I had hoped would be a rational discussion about the irony of that slogan, given that theirs is the party of restrictions concerning women’s reproductive rights and an increased series of attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.
We never got around to women’s rights, but I was assured that their party was not against same-sex marriage. However, they had other objections to the LGBTQ+ community centered on what they considered to be a constant barrage of sexual orientation and gender identity information being presented to school children.
I was told that our schools are exposing children to inappropriate reading materials and that the effects of that literature included an incident of a younger child being raped by two older students and that some mother was forcing her 5-year-old son to wear dresses. They also claimed that academic achievement in schools was declining due to time being spent on some kind of gay-oriented instruction instead of reading and math.
Their arguments made little sense and relied on rumor, questionable anecdotal “evidence,” and disapproval of library materials that deal with age-appropriate subject matter. These are often labeled “pornographic” by critics of books that deal with sexual orientation and/or gender identity. But the fact is that in Delaware City Schools, any parent objecting to their child being able to check out specific books from a school library can ask the school principal to notify the librarian. They would log the student’s name and the parent’s request, which would prevent the student from checking out that book.
But in this information age, students will read what they want to, and banning books can’t prevent them from gaining the knowledge they seek. The fact that our schools have become more diverse and inclusive doesn’t mean that our children are being “groomed” or “indoctrinated” or are becoming “confused” about their own personhoods. If knowledge about the sexual orientation and gender identity and expression of a handful of classmates could change the orientation of others, the entire world would be either gay or trans by now. Not happening? Maybe because common sense tells us these claims are idiotic.
So, when these ideologues ask, “Got freedom yet?” I am forced to wonder if they understand that freedom and fear are two separate things, and the one they are clinging to is a four-letter word.