- April 2023
In response to the official silencing by Republicans of transgender state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, protesters staged a boisterous but violence-free demonstration at the Montana Statehouse on Monday. At one point, Zephyr hoisted a microphone toward her supporters in the gallery. Later that day, right-wing lawmakers said her action amounted to "encouraging an insurrection."
Who would've thought the rugged state of Montana would breed such delicate violets?
This pearl-clutching is orchestrated. According to the Associated Press, this was the third time in the past five weeks that Republicans around the country have sought to compare "disruptive but nonviolent protests at state capitols to insurrections."
An insurrection is defined as a violent uprising against a government, so these Republicans are antagonizing not just Democrats, not just legal scholars, but English teachers everywhere.
Why redefine the word? To downplay the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, after which Donald Trump was impeached for "incitement of insurrection." Conservatives want to claim the events in Montana were comparable to that dark day, and if you believe that, I have a bill of sale for Glacier National Park with your name on it.
Also, by shrieking "insurrection," lawmakers can avoid debating transgender rights in Montana, and gun control in Tennessee.
Furthermore, to repeat a loaded term ad nauseam is to make it lose both its meaning and power. And using this term demonizes Democrats as violent and extreme.
Republicans plan to get a lot of mileage out of bastardizing the meaning of one word. I'm just glad my AP English teacher isn't alive to see this. They should be, too.
- March 2021
A Republican state representative in Tennessee has introduced a bill that would forbid the use of any instructional materials in schools "that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender issues or lifestyle."
This goal of making queer people invisible could backfire. After all, high schools wouldn't be allowed to perform "The Importance of Being Earnest," "The Skin of Our Teeth" or "Into the Woods." It would be a strange American lit class that omitted Walt Whitman. Or Edna St. Vincent Millay or James Baldwin or Truman Capote or Alice Walker or Willa Cather or Richard Blanco or John Cheever.
An anthropology class without Margaret Mead? Ancient history without Plato, Socrates or Alexander the Great? African-American history without George Washington Carver, Langston Hughes or the March on Washington? Art history without Michelangelo? American government without the Department of Transportation?
If this bill becomes law, Tennessee youngsters will be left with nothing to study but the Bay of Pigs and algebra.
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