The floor of the Pa. House of Representatives (Capital-Star photo).
For those of us who are concerned about the futures of our children and grandchildren, these are scary times. The “Freedom caucuses” spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, in Washington D.C., and state Reps. Dawn Keefer, R-York, and Barb Gleim, R-Cumberland, here in Pennsylvania, should give us pause.
This far-right group is pushing for the freedom/power to control teachers’ classroom curricula and women’s bodies, stigmatize students who are different, ban books, limit voting, and shut down the minds of our children.
Under the guise of “parental rights,” and age-appropriate curricula, they continue to attack our teachers and schools, weaponizing our schools and school boards for political gain. And these extremists are pushing for bans on truthful history, social emotional learning, accurate health information and more.
Will environmental education be next, with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax being banned?
We can’t count on our state legislators to be kind or compassionate to our children.
A Lancaster County state senator is seeking support for a Pennsylvania version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill that will ban teachers from talking about LGBTQ+ issues. In the House, Gleim is seeking support for a previously vetoed bill banning transgender girls from women’s sports.
The cruelty of these bills really hits home for many of us, but every parent in PA should be concerned. All children deserve to feel welcomed and included in their schools.
According to Susan Roller, who leads the 10th District Network, the basic argument of Perry’s far right freedom/chaos caucus comes down to a very narrow-minded, inhumane economic perspective, rooted in profit and wealth.
Liz Reilly, also a 10th District member, views Perry and the Freedom Caucus as insurrectionists and obstructionists:
“There are many people very concerned that the Freedom Caucus is not about freedom. If they follow Scott Perry’s lead, this could mainly be about obstructing and voting against the interests of their own constituents,” Reilly has said.
What we need is much more organized resistance to these autocratic schemes from all citizens and from all representatives who actually care about the people they are elected to serve.
This is no time to sit back and let the worst happen, as it has before. The dangers ahead include budget cuts to programs that support our underserved children, like education, food stamps or child tax credits vital to struggling families.
Any parent can tell you that you don’t balance the budget on the necks of your children who need to be fed, housed and cared for. You find other ways. Make no mistake about it.
The party that is pushing to balance the budget, at the expense of middle and working-class families–the 99 percent– is the party that gave the massive tax breaks to the uber wealthy .05 to 1%
The “Freedom” caucus calls the vital government investments in our children, youth and adults “handouts” and “socialism” instead of necessities for the educated healthy society vital for a strong democracy to survive.
There is nothing in their bills for 99 percent of the American people, and the danger of letting them take control is very real. So let’s talk about another way.
How about having a truly fair tax system, where everyone pays their fair share? The 1950’s Eisenhower years are a good example, with money for massive infrastructure investment available from a tax system that included proportional contributions by billionaires and corporations.
How about focusing on vital investments in the education and mental health of our youth to prepare them for a thriving democracy and giving those who are struggling the support they desperately need?
How about investing in all of our families so no child is hungry, homeless, abused or desperate, and all youth see a future with promise?
Our elected representatives need to work to heal our economic and cultural divides instead of deepening them. And we as citizens—all of us—need to hold them accountable so they truly represent our values—not their undemocratic ones.
We are too good a society to let the worst happen because of the misguided will of fringe groups like the “Freedom” Caucus or other radical groups that power-hungry autocrats have spawned.
Opinion contributor Jill Sunday Bartoli writes from Carlisle, Pa. Her work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.
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