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Leave room for innocence

The culture war rages on.

All the media noise and performative outrage over Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill – which was recently passed by that state’s legislators and signed into law by Gov. Ron Desantis – is clear evidence of that.

Somebody dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and that designation quickly went viral as it was endlessly parroted throughout the echo chambers on social media and various news outlets.

It must be stated, however, that the word “gay” does not appear even once in the new law’s language. As I understand it, the law just prohibits educators in Florida from teaching lessons on the specific topics of sexual orientation and gender identity to young children in kindergarten up through third grade.

So, given all the hubbub, I’m wondering if a lot of these outraged people are just not aware of what’s in the law and are freaking out based on what they’ve heard or read in a kind of mass kneejerk reaction. That, I would guess, is probably the case with many – and that might have something to do with the fact that some media entities have been covering the story without any mention of the law’s actual language or the age group to which it applies.

And while I can’t claim any certain knowledge of anyone else’s motives, it certainly seems that this law is being knowingly and intentionally misrepresented to frame it as a hateful, bigoted attack on people in the LGBTQ+ community – and I suspect that (at least in part) comes from a politically-rooted desire to pin some dirt on Desantis.

Interestingly, the whole thing has spawned a big ugly squabble between Desantis and Disney, Florida’s largest single employer. Disney is pushing hard for the bill to be repealed, and the governor is threatening to strip the global entertainment giant of its longstanding special status, which allows it to operate its iconic Orlando theme park as a kind of self-governing ministate within a state.

But what I’m wondering is this: Who the heck really wants a bunch of confusing, age-inappropriate, hypersexualized psychobabble to be taught to kindergarten kids anyway?

I would venture that the majority of Americans (particularly parents with young children) would view such instruction as highly inappropriate for kids that age – and as a blatant infringement of the basic rights and responsibilities of parents in general.

But, apparently, Disney is just fine with it. According to a leaked corporate training video, Disney employees are no longer allowed to say “ladies and gentlemen” or “boys and girls” when dealing with the public in a companywide push toward gender-neutral language. And apparently more openly gay and trans characters and storylines focused on LGTBQ+ themes are in the works for future Disney productions.

Of course, Disney has no problem doing business in countries where homosexuality and transgenderism are criminalized with severe penalties, even death in some cases. You don’t hear their PR reps saying much about any of the laws and practices in those places. I guess Disney’s deeply felt corporate convictions stop at the U.S. border.

The strange and disturbing reality is that there are people (including some educators) who really do want things like transgenderism, gender fluidity, and various flavors of sexual orientation taught to very young children, regardless of whether their parents approve or not. And just taking their word for it from what they actually say and write, they absolutely believe that doing so is good and virtuous and will help create a better, more equitable, diverse, and inclusive world. And many of them don’t even hesitate to denounce any pushback against their agenda as bigoted and evil.

Now, I would dare say that these people are a relatively small minority, but they make an awful lot of noise. And they have definitely figured out how to exploit the current social environment of fear – the fear of being called things like homophobic and transphobic and having your life destroyed by angry mobs of internet trolls – all with the stated objective of pushing through radical, transformative change in American culture and society.

And these people really seem to think that the will and sovereignty of parents regarding their own children should take a backseat to some woke utopian dream about how they believe the world ought to be.

As for myself, I’m not too scared of being cancelled or called names, and I’m not ashamed to say that I hold to old-school, Biblical beliefs regarding gender and sexuality. But I don’t consider myself qualified to go around condemning other people for what they believe, how they chose to identify themselves, or what they do in private, and I’m certainly not in favor of my beliefs being shoved down anyone else’s throat or imposed on their children.

We live in a very ideologically diverse nation with a lot of different people who believe a lot of different things, and, in a democracy like ours, we have to work this stuff out through elections, legislation, court proceedings, and the exercise of constitutional rights like free speech.

And if the duly elected legislators and governor of a state declare that certain things can’t be taught in certain grades in publicly funded schools, then that is what it is. If that state’s residents don’t like it, then they can express their displeasure at the ballot box and/or engage in peaceful protests. And if there are questions of constitutionality, the courts can deal with that.

At the end of the day, these and many other cultural, moral, legal, and political disputes are not likely to be resolved anytime soon, and this country is going to keep arguing and bickering with itself over dang near everything. That, I suspect, is just an inevitable side effect of giving people the freedom to speak their minds and pursue their own ideas of happiness.

But when it comes to children, I think we need to be careful about projecting all our adult issues and agendas onto them and burdening them with complex concepts they’re not really equipped to handle. We grownups can argue all this stuff out till the cows come home and go back out again (and we probably will), but, please, let’s try to leave some room for the basic innocence of children and for kids to just be kids while they can.

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