Judy Blume has a movie out. I’ve not yet seen it, but good for her. Her Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing was the first book to elicit laughter from me. The movie, released late April, is based on her 1970 novel, Are Your There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Some uptight adults got it banned back then. Today, she’s being banned anew.
As we rush into Pride season and my 54th, Stonewall-coinciding birthday, it’s a time of year for me to take stock of where the world is and where I expected it to be. Who would’ve imagined that a quarter-way into the 21st Century, we’d be regressing so badly? That we’d still be banning Judy Blume? I’d long imagined we’d be in a much better place for this final patch of my life. I was so wrong.
If Hillary Clinton had taken the White House after President Obama, as she well should have by any normal measure, my golden years would be so much more pleasant. The country would likely still be on the right track. Not to say it’s entirely off-track now, though it feels like the caboose might’ve fallen off and each trestle we cross remains far too creaky for comfort.
Civilians flying through space. Domed cities at the bottom of the sea. Friendly androids. It all seemed possible. Aside from the possible, there was also the inevitable. For years, we’ve expected the human population to pass the 8 billion mark. November 2022, mission accomplished! Second, and closer to home, white Americans will lose their majority status. That hasn’t happened yet, but we’re getting close, expected by 2045.
The global population was the concerning point. America evolving into greater diversity was — and remains — a turning point for which I remain eager, though hanging on for another 20 years is a tall order.
But where common sense sees obvious concern for the number of mouths to feed, house, medicate, and entertain within what remains a closed ecosystem, it also has little regard for the colors of those mouths. Why would it matter?
Still, humans being humans, too many seem to think it matters plenty. Judging by the so-called “white supremacists” who would rather destroy our democracy than transgress their baseless fears, it’s going to be an issue. Then there’s super-rich Elon Musk, now firmly on the Dark Side, so very fearful of “population collapse.” Who also sees racism against white people. And against Asians, for good measure. So Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month!
Either we will manage our population, or nature will manage it for us. With race, nature doesn’t care. Race is more of a social construct, so purely a societal problem. It’s a “problem” entirely of our own creation. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg for all the things America’s right wing seems particularly frightened of at this point in our collective national journey. (I thought twice about mentioning icebergs, as they might be scared of those, too, but massive fields of ice breaking away from polar ice shelves doesn’t seem to trouble them at all.)
We on the left have our fears, sure. Economic collapse. Contagions. Climate change.
But the right wing has gone B-O-N-K-E-R-S. How bonkers? Banning Judy Blume bonkers.
May 17 marked the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. There’s a reason we call these forms of bigotry phobias. The Right lives in seeming dread of rainbows and queer people of any stripe.
Take Darcy Schoening. Please! She heads a Colorado chapter of Moms for Liberty. So, not an outlier, but a community organizer. CNN asked her about queer kids. Schoening, while seemingly energized and empowered, sounds like an unhinged person so consumed by her fears that she can’t be taken seriously.
In Schoening’s view, as reported by CNN, President Biden is in cahoots with teachers’ unions and others to actually create queer kids in an effort to…? To what, Darcy? What exactly? “So that conservative values are broken down, and that we can slowly erode away at constitutional rights.” Seriously, Darcy?
We “groomers” want to magically create queer kids to hamper Americans’ constitutional rights? Dear God, Darcy, can you hear yourself? The Colorado Log Cabin Republicans can certainly hear her, as they invited her to speak to their group in February. That’s arguably more embarrassing than scary.
The right wing has most clearly celebrated its fear with its guns. So many guns. As MAGA maven and Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert put it, “A recent report states that Americans own 46 percent of the world’s guns. I think we need to get our numbers up, boys and girls.” Cute quip! Nah. Merely an expression of someone who perceives the world through a lens of fear.
The Right has long been synonymous with fear. Fear of the other. Fear of immigrants. Fear of crime. Fear of color. Fear of ideas. Fear of change. Fear of progress. It’s their brand. So what’s different today? What’s different is that they seem more frightened by the moment, louder about their fears. When Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie posts a holiday photo of his family in front of the Christmas tree, armed to the hilt, he might think the expression is along the lines of, “Second Amendment freedom!” To a balanced person, it screams, “WE ARE TERRIFIED!”
You can’t reason with someone in a panic. There is very little political debate to be had here. In our crowded and diversifying world, they see the rest of us as threats to be dealt with.
We can’t outgun them, but we can show everyone the far more enjoyable world we would like to create. It’s a world where people are welcome, difference is celebrated, creativity is encouraged, and we learn all our history because we are not afraid of it. Frightened people can make a lot of noise, but we can always find something better to listen to.
“How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it,” Blume wrote in Tiger Eyes. And she’s right. It’s sentiments like hers that encourage me to feel sorry for America’s right wing, as powerful as they may be, rather than fear them. Under their MAGA hats, hiding behind a nonsensical definition of “liberty,” these are not “patriots.” They are the pitiable.
Will O’Bryan is a former Metro Weekly managing editor, living in D.C. with his husband. He is online at www.LifeInFlights.com.
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