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By Madeline Perez

Is the sequel always better than the original? Well, this is part two, babycakes, so even if you’re new here I’d strap in—it’s about to be a wild ride. And by wild ride, I mean depressing and informative.  When we last left off, I was talking about how conservatives utilize women as convenient victims when arguing against the rights of trans people. More broadly, I established how right-wing figureheads have been using vague concepts (like morals/society/“the west”), as well as women and children, as victims to excuse rallying against the existence of minority groups.

As I’ve previously mentioned, it’s hard to attack someone’s freedoms when they’re not hurting anyone, but conservatards have this unquenchable need to target people who deviate from their “romanticization of the 50s” norm, namely queer people and immigrants. You may have also heard arguments against concepts like unmasculine men, sexually active women, and ethnic cultures that are, in their propagandistic messaging, “destroying society.” Society, in this case, being a very convenient victim in which “level of destruction” can’t be proven or measured. But people can’t just say “I’m uncomfortable with people living different lives than me, even though it in no way affects me.” What kind of argument is that? So they make up grand statements about how “gay people as a concept hurt children, actually.” Now you have a proper made-up victim who can’t adequately speak up for themselves to disagree with you and, more importantly, provides your audience, who is intuitively uncomfortable, an argument that they believe excuses their feelings.

Speaking of “gay people as a concept hurt children,” it is now I turn the argument over to the “Parental Rights in Education” bill— the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as it’s colloquially known—which was signed into Floridian law last March. If you’re not familiar, the bill essentially says “some things” which, much like the trident of the devil, has three separate and duly malicious prongs:

1. Bans discussion or instruction of anything LGBT until 3rd grade.

2. Allows parents to sue the school district over teachings they disagree with.

3. Requires school districts to report information to parents on a student’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being, which some have interpreted as mandatory reporting on whether students are exhibiting sexual orientation or gender questioning.

         Now this bill has garnered a lot of controversy, and it’s clear why. For all the perceived attacks on free speech republicunts whine about, it seems pretty sus that they have no qualms when a female teacher mentioning in passing “My wife” (possibly in a Borat voice) could be illegal. Many queer teachers have felt specifically attacked as they recognize that family photos on a desk or even their existence in the workplace could be threatened. It’s also extremely harmful to gay kids to have to grow up with everyone pretending gay people don’t exist. No, I will not elaborate on this extremely common-sense point.

         As far as the second prong goes, parental ability to sue the school district over teachings they don’t align with is part of a broader mission to not only prevent their children from learning about LGBT existence but of the history of race in America. Bills like these have been urging school libraries nationwide to preemptively remove books that mention queer people or ethnic minority cultures to avoid controversy and lawsuits. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom recorded 330 incidents of in-school book banning in the three-month span from September to November 2021—the highest rate of book censorship they have ever recorded since its founding in 1990.  On another note, some conservative mouthpieces have been arguing that school teachings on slavery and racism in America’s past can be “harmful for white children” (again, a very convenient false victim) and have been fighting tooth and nail to get curricula banned or softened to the point where the Trail of Tears becomes “Andrew Jackson and his friends go on a fun hike.”

         It needs no explanation why schools narcing out on a student’s clandestine sexual orientation or gender identity to their parents, especially in red towns, could cause them problems at home. For a bill designed to “protect children,” it kind of seems like they’re getting the short end of the stick. Just saying. It’s almost as if this bill has nothing to do with protecting children and a lot to do with parents not wanting children to think it’s acceptable to be gay. WAIT A SECOND.

         Masses of people have spoken out against the bill, correctly stating that it’s discriminatory toward queer students and teachers alike. And to that, Republican speakers need only to say one thing. “GROOMER!! GROOOOOMER! This PEDO wants us to teach SEX to CHILDREN to make their minds more GROOOOOMABLE!!!!” Groomer is, quite literally, their new favorite word. Firstly, since sex education before fifth grade was already banned in Florida, it’s clear that this bill has nothing to do with sex at all, despite republicans trying to call it the “anti-grooming bill.” Secondly, sex education is one of the most potent pre-emptive strategies you can use to prevent child grooming, but whatever. Thirdly, by using this language, they avoid making any real arguments (their favorite pastime) and try to solidify children as victims against queer teachers, which they pretend this argument is actually about (it’s not). The conversation is purposefully shifted, and anyone trying to defend the rights of gay teachers or students now has to focus on defending themselves from baseless pedophile allegations.

         At time of writing, Roe v. Wade was just overturned yesterday. For those of you capable of critical thought, you probably already know where this is headed. The argument against abortion rights aims to take away bodily autonomy rights of sexually active women, using embryos and fetuses as convenient victims for their case. The conservative lawmakers trying to outright ban abortion under any circumstance care more about punishing pre-marital sexual activity than preventing abortions, which is evidenced by their attempts to outlaw contraception and promote abstinence-only sex education—the two things that most directly increase unwanted pregnancies. “BUT WAIT” you scream, “Abortion is NOT a victimless crime! It’s murder!” Murder? You can’t possibly think the life of an embryo is equal to that of a person. “We don’t, but it’s the potential for a person. It’s alive.” I’ll give you that one. It is alive and has the potential for personhood. But any cell is alive. And any viable meeting of an egg and sperm cell is a potential person. Is it murder when you bust into the petrified sock you keep under your bed? When a girl has her period? What about the millions of cryopreserved embryos left over and discarded after successful In-vitro-fertilizations? I guess any pair of wasted gametes is equivalent to killing a person. Everyone should be breeding as much as they can to prevent the existential deaths of these potential people. Maybe it’s NOT having pre-marital sex that’s morally reprehensible!

         Coming up with false victims to prove non-existent points seems to be the only thing we see nowadays ever since conservatives stopped talking about the national debt for some reason. It goes back decades and comes in a myriad of interesting flavors. I remember not too long ago the Syrian refugee crisis was in full swing and Muslim hate was at what seemed like an all-time high. But Republicans can’t just say they don’t want brown people in the country—that’s racist! So what did they do? Despite the lack of evidence, they preyed on the prejudices of the public and victimized “western civilization” and young white women. “We shouldn’t accept refugees/middle eastern immigrants because they’ll colonize your hometown! They’ll also form rape gangs and say, ‘where da  white woman at?’ just like the funny guy in Blazing Saddles!” For someone who never saw this back in 2016, this probably sounds abhorrent and unbelievable, but somehow it was effective. Not too long after, assaults against Muslims in America climbed to the highest they had ever been (for the first time ever, higher than after the incidence of violent hate crimes after 9/11), and the president unconstitutionally banned people from the seven predominantly Muslim countries from not only immigrating to, but visiting the US. The third iteration of the ban, which later came to include immigrants from countries in Africa and Asia, was only recently overturned in 2021.

Common lies against immigrants today include the victimization of “the common man,” as immigrants “worsen the economy and take jobs away from the native-born population.” Of course, this has yet to be proven as studies continually find immigration to have a net benefit on the economy as adults enter the country already working age and create jobs by starting businesses and spending their incomes here, but sure—keep pretending you care about the economic prosperity of the lower and middle class. During Donald Trump’s 2017 address to Congress, he referenced a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report on the economic consequences of immigration. He reported that according to the National Academies, immigration costs American taxpayers billions of dollars per year.  In reality, as the National Academies later corrected, this was objectively false, and the report found that immigration has an overall positive effect on the economy. Now, I know you’re probably desensitized to hearing “blah blah blah, Donald Trump lies,” but I want you to actually consider this for a moment. In order to propagate anti-immigration rhetoric, the president made up billions of fake dollars allegedly coming from taxpayers. This is false victimization of American citizens—targeting the one thing they care about above all else: their money. At the end of the day, many people feel threatened by the loss of their cultural homogeneity and are uncomfortable around those different from them, which leads them to not even care if Trump was lying here or not. All they need is an excuse, and it doesn’t have to be true, as long as they claim to believe it.

         This genre of argument has marred American history since its conception. It wasn’t too long ago that the lynching of black men was justified due to the false victimhood of white women. Anti-integration and interracial marriage laws were excused under the premise that proper societal conduct and the integrity of marriage would collapse. (Wait, have I heard this somewhere before?) These arguments will not stop until more people become apt at recognizing this behavior for what it is—an attack on the personal rights and freedoms of the American people. Don’t tread on us, bitch.

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