In Orwell's 'Junior Anti-Sex League,' A Premonition Of Moms For Liberty

George Orwell

George Orwell

Something tells me I have seen this movie before. Back in my own elementary school days, we read about Dick and Jane. Even at that tender age, it was clear to me that they were Protestants and Republicans, although I had only the foggiest idea what those things were.

Dick and Jane lived out in white bread America, where there were no corner taverns in which grandpa spent his afternoons, and nobody’s grandma spoke Yiddish or Italian in the home. People didn’t keep spittoons in the front room, and it all seemed kind of boring, actually.

On TV, there was something called the Army-McCarthy hearings where the nation was being saved from communist subversion, the white bread version of monsters under the bed, and that struck a child as pretty silly. Who believed in monsters?

So now we have this bunch called “Moms for Liberty,” yet another iteration of white bread America’s fear and hostility toward anything more unsettling than Leave it to Beaver. This time it’s queers under the bed, and the preposterous idea that the nation’s public-school librarians and grade school teachers are plotting the sexual subversion of small children.

(I think I was maybe ten when I first noticed that my teacher Miss Peach was kind of cute, but that’s another story.)

Back in the Seventies when a former Miss Oklahoma named Anita Bryant and the Rev. Jerry Falwell were running a similar scam, they used to say that because “homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children…they must recruit our children.” That’s not actually true, of course, but it sounded right to a lot of yokels.

But back to the Moms. I love how they call it “Liberty” when they’re demanding censorship and conformity. In Florida, where the group got started—a well-financed uprising about as spontaneous as a “DeSantis for President” committee—they resembled a coven of spokes-models auditioning for a spot on a Fox News couch. Trolling for the network’s core audience of angry old men.

(Me, I’m an old man with a crush on CNN’s Erin Burnett, whose courageous reporting from Ukraine has left me in awe.)

Florida’s authoritarian little governor passed a law forbidding K-3 teachers from talking about homosexuality, which why would they unless, of course, somebody in the class has two mommies. Then teacher’s put on the spot, but needn’t get clinical about it.

But I digress. Gov. Ron DeSantis has also passed laws pretty much forbidding even college professors from hinting that maybe Black Floridians haven’t always gotten a fair shake in the Sunshine and Slave Market State.

The Moms would probably call that “Liberty” too.

Fact is, sexual puritanism is a prominent feature of authoritarian movements everywhere—left and right. Indeed, Moms for Liberty greatly resembles Big Brother’s “Junior Anti-Sex League” from George Orwell’s prophetic novel 1984.

“Not love so much as eroticism was the enemy,” Orwell wrote. ”Sexual intercourse was to be looked on as a slightly disgusting minor operation, like having an enema.”

Winston and Julia’s love affair temporarily makes them feel free: “Desire was thoughtcrime…Their embrace had been a battle, the climax a victory. It was a blow struck against the Party. It was a political act.”

Then comes the voice from the hidden video screen in their rented hideaway in the slums: “You are the dead.”

Busted! It turned out that the landlord worked for the Thought Police. It’s off to Room 101 for the unfortunate lovers.

So anyway, here we go again. Out there in white bread America, pretty much the same superstitious ninnies who stay worked up about the End Times have begun besieging school boards and public libraries in search of sexual subversion. A recent Wall Street Journal article depicted Republican voters living on the edge of hysteria, with fully 80 percent telling pollsters that “the Democratic agenda, “if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it.”

No less an authority than Kevin Roberts, president of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, told Journal reporters that it’s almost too late: “We have lost our K-12 schools to radical-left activists. We’ve certainly lost our universities to the same, and other institutions,” including large businesses and even churches. “Everyday Americans,” he said, are being forced “to bend your knee to the rainbow flag.”

Oh, grow up. Faddishness aside, nobody but NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been punished for not bending his knee to a flag, and it sure as hell wasn’t a rainbow banner. But it’s all about control, the terrible fear that you, and people like you are losing prestige and power. When all you’re really being asked for is bit of sympathetic understanding toward a misunderstood group of fellow Americans who didn’t choose their desires any more than did you or I.

See, that’s what’s really scary to the authoritarian mind. Because people don’t choose their sexuality; it chooses them.

Gene Lyons is an award-winning author and syndicated columnist who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.. He is the author of several books and co-author (with Joe Conason) ofThe Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which was made into a documentary film in 2004.

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