Posted Monday evening, March 26, 2018.
Matt Post, high school senior from Montgomery County, Maryland, speaking in front of the Capitol in Washington on National Walkout Day. Photo by Lorie Shaull via her Flickr stream.
"We've been told that we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask. Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws?---Florida State Representative Elizabeth Porter.
“How about kids, instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about maybe taking CPR classes or trying to deal with situations where there is a violent shooter and you can actually respond to that?”---former United States Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.---1 Corinthians 13:11.
“Their right to own an assault rifle does not outweigh our right to live. The adults have failed us. This is in our hands now, and if any elected official gets in our way, we will vote them out.” ---Sherwood High School senior and student representative on the Montgomery County Maryland School Board Matt Post.
I’ll get to Rick Santorum. I’m itching to. What he said on CNN’s State of the Union was peak Republican. Not because it was stupid. Not just because it was stupid. It wasn’t stupid, in fact. It was meaningless. Provocative bullshit to distract from what he really wanted to say but knows better than to say in public. Santorum didn’t really mean that if students want to save their lives and the lives of classmates and friends from mass murderers they should learn CPR instead of marching. He really meant: “If a mass murderer invades your school, it’s your problem. Don’t expect us to help. Definitely don’t expect us to care.” Which is the Republican answer to every social problem. Your problem, not ours. Solve it yourself. But it was actually what he went on to say that upped his bullshittery to peak Republican and ties it into what follows. So I’ll get back to him after I get this out of the way. This being the peak Republicanism expressed by Florida State Representative Elizabeth Porter during the legislature’s debate over the gun safety bill that, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, the Republican-controlled legislature passed and the Republican governor signed into law
After he met with students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and listened to their stories of that horrific day and heard their ideas about how to prevent future mass shootings and deal with gun violence on a national level, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade praised them as “future leaders.” During the debate in the legislature, Porter dismissed them as “children.”
She said a few other despicable things, as well:
"I've heard that all of a sudden the folks that have been proponents of teachers all these years are saying that teachers are now incompetent ... they're racist, they're bigoted, they're going to target black boys and brown boys. I don't think that's our teachers at all," Porter said.
Porter also criticized her colleagues who've said that lawmakers should listen to the Stoneman Douglas students who took buses to Tallahassee and lobbied for gun safety legislation.
"We've been told that we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask. Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws? Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says no homework?" Porter said. "No. The adults make the laws."
Ok. First. Nobody’s saying teachers are incompetent. People are saying that most teachers aren’t capable of handling a gun competently let alone of shooting it out with mass murderers armed with assault rifles invading their classrooms, guns blazing, and many of the people saying it are teachers themselves.
Moreover, they don’t have the time to devote to the training it would require to turn them into John Wick because...they have to teach.
Even more to the point, instead of wasting time and money to prepare them for something that’s unlikely to happen---by the National Center of Education Statistic’s count, there are 98,200 public schools and 34,600 private schools in the United States. One school shooting is one too many, but statistically the odds of one happening at any one particular school are next to nil.---that time and money and then some should be spent helping teachers deal with problems that come up every day in every classroom in every school.
As countless teachers have observed, it’s ludicrous to put a gun in a teacher’s desk drawer when what she really needs are pairs of scissors, glue sticks, and sheafs of construction paper to hand out to students whose parents can’t afford to supply them. And it’s actually an evil to deny kids a hot meal and let them struggle through the day hungry to teach them the lesson that there’s no such thing as a free lunch while “protecting” them from a danger they’re not in, as many Republicans who are for arming teachers have voted to do.
Teachers---and their students!---need smaller classes, new and better textbooks, technology upgrades, more classroom aides, more counselors for students with emotional, psychological, behavior, and other personal problems, accommodations for students with special needs, enrichment programs, and, oh, a raise would be nice.
But on the subject of competence…
Gun nuts like to imagine that time spent putting holes in paper targets and playing single shooter video games has made them as competent in a firefight as a Navy Seal. But this isn’t gun-nuttery. We all know the type. The co-worker or neighbor or relative who thinks minor competence in one limited area makes them geniuses in all areas. Porter strikes me as the type. You shouldn’t judge a person by their Wikipedia entry but she seems to have assumed she’s competent to sit in the state legislature based on her very limited and apparently undistinguished experience in business and local politics. And I can see her having been this way all her life, assigning herself to the head of every committee not because she wants to, mind you, but because she’s the only one who competent enough to handle it, and if she doesn’t do it, who will, no, no, you don’t have to thank her for it, just do what she says, and what’s the matter now, can’t you even follow a simple instruction, does she have to do everything herself?
She also strikes me as a typical Republican racist denying her racism by denying racism exists or if it does liberals are the real racists not her, and, anyway, it’s worse to accuse someone of being a racist than actually being a racist. But you can’t go by me. I’m a liberal so I’m probably a racist.
The reason Porter felt obliged to defend teachers from accusations of racism and bigotry deserves a post of its own. But a short version is that African American legislators expressed the not unjustified concern that when guns are drawn by the school marshals, they’ll more often be drawn on black students, particularly black high school boys, and they moved to have included diversity classes in the training programs for the school marshals. No, all teachers aren’t racists. But some are, possibly even in the same proportion as white people in every other walk of life. We live in a society in which young African Americans are automatically perceived as threats and are routinely presented that way in the news as well as in the movies and teachers live in that society with us and are as subject to its pressures and persuasions. We hope that teachers’ education and their heartfelt desire to help all their students make them more resistant, but the fact that black students are disproportionately identified as behavior problems, subject to swifter and harsher discipline measures, and relegated to the ranks of the “unsalvageable” suggests that our hope is just that, a hope too often disappointed.
All right, I’m writing fiction. Porter might not be a racist. She might not be a sanctimonious and vain mediocrity overly impressed by her own minimal competence. I wouldn’t know. But I am pretty sure she’s a dangerous authoritarian. She’s a Republican and in my experience Republicans tend to be conservatives and conservatives tend to be authoritarians. Studies back this up. Not that Porter has the power to exert her authority in a dangerous way herself or all by herself. But she isn’t all by herself. She’s one among too many. And authoritarians are a danger to democracy and to the safety and security and well-being of those they deem insufficiently respectful of authority.
Conservatives are defenders of the status quo. They may not like the way things are but they’re terrified of the way they might be if the status quo isn’t maintained. And they believe the best way to maintain the status quo is for everyone to keep to their place in line. So they believe it’s a good idea that anyone who steps out of line gets put back in it immediately and summarily and with as much force as can be mustered. They’re even for preemptively putting people back in line. If you look like a troublemaker to the authorities, the authorities have a duty to treat you like a troublemaker and make sure you don’t get a chance to make any trouble.
Authority is conferred, by the way, not earned. You’re automatically an authority just by being placed in a position of authority. Which makes sense. It’s a necessity, actually. But the mark of an authoritarian is the belief that the authority rests in the person and not the position. Defiance of authority becomes defiance of the authority figure. In this way, dissent, civil disobedience, asking a simple question is to the authoritarian a personal affront.
To Dwyane Wade, the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are future leaders. To Porter, they’re children who have gotten out of line and need to be put back in their place immediately.
Part and parcel with her being an authoritarian and a Republican, Porter is something else.
Someone unclear of the concept of democracy.
The leaders of the NeverAgain movement aren’t children. They’re 17 and 18. The ones who aren’t already voters soon will be.
Porter asked what she probably thought of as unanswerable rhetorical questions.
“Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws? Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says no homework?" Porter said. "No. The adults make the laws."
Yes, the adults make the laws. They make them on behalf of the adults who vote them into office. Porter is a lawmaker because she has her voters’ proxy. She has their permission. She’s working at their instruction. Essentially, then, they are telling her what laws they want made. It’s the the central understanding of our representative form of government that, through their representatives, the People make the laws. So, yes, children are making the laws, the ones who are in fact not children, along with all the other voting adults.
In this system, Porter isn’t an adult. She isn’t an authority. She’s an employee.
One more thing, before I get back to Rick Santorum.
Porter almost certainly hadn’t heard of Matt Post when she called the leaders of NeverAgain from Marjory Stoneman children. He’s not one of them. He’s not from Florida even. He’s from Maryland. And he came to the nation’s attention a week later, on National Walk Out Day. He made a speech on the steps of the Capitol that NBC News showed a clip from. Post was shown on saying:
“Their right to own an assault rifle does not outweigh our right to live. The adults have failed us. This is in our hands now, and if any elected official gets in our way, we will vote them out.”
Post a senior at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring in Montgomery County in Maryland. He is the student representative on the Montgomery County School Board. It’s an elected position. That makes Post a politician. It’s also a voting position. That makes Post for all intents and purposes a lawmaker.
Now. On to Rick Santorum. Another Republican unclear on the concept of representational democracy.
End of Part Three. Part Four will post sometime tomorrow.