I love my kids. I appreciate their unique qualities. I look for opportunities to help them succeed and develop their unique strengths– but I don’t always agree with everything they do. I love them enough to tell them when I am concerned about their choices– and to say ‘no’ when it matters. Healthy relationships do not require that we surrender our closely-held opinions or values. In fact, the ability to respect fundamental disagreements is a key indicator of both maturity and love! Unfortunately, some in today’s public arena demonstrate a significant lack of respect and civility by responding to civil disagreement as if it were an act of violence.
A recent official statement from the Idaho Republican Party objected to the use of “taxpayer funded resources to promote the sexualization of children by adult entertainers in a public park.” The statement was in response to a kids’ drag event scheduled as part of a gay pride event in a Boise city park. The statement went on to encourage concerned Idahoans to contact the sponsors of this event, which include publicly-funded institutions, and express disappointment. The statement specifically and repeatedly encourages citizens to maintain civility in their discussions and to be peaceable in their actions.
The response from Idaho Democrats, from the media, and from big corporations has been astonishing and disappointing. Regardless of what one believes about various lifestyles, the sexualization of children has, historically, been completely unacceptable. Yet, the Idaho Joint Democratic Caucus released a statement of their own, characterizing Republican concerns about sexualizing children as “false, dangerous claims” that “stoke violence,” and as “bullying tactics” by “extremists” that constitute an “attack.” In a similar vein, prominent newspaper editors responded to the Republican statement by completely ignoring the concerns about sexualizing children and, instead of addressing the substance of the statement, launched into character attacks and straw man arguments. Even prominent corporate sponsors of the gay pride event responded by characterizing Republican concerns as “extremist.”
Sexualizing children is unacceptable, regardless of who is doing it. The fact that the “kids’ event” was canceled in response to public pressure is hardly reassuring. The fact that the organizers involved minors in the first place remains a problem. And the fact that anyone would defend these actions, discount concerns, or respond by attacking those raising them is disturbing.
The very large mamma bear inside of me rejects the assertion that insisting on standards that protect children against sexual exploitation constitutes “hate and bigotry.” It is not lost on me that the measured Republican statement urging civil disagreement has been met by bombastic rhetoric attacking and condemning those seeking to protect Idaho children. I hope Idahoans are taking notice of the fact that those who purport to be champions of tolerance and diversity have zero tolerance, respect, or civility to extend to those who disagree with them.
The middle ground in the conversation around sexuality and children is evaporating. A movement that targets children with Drag Queen story hours and back-to-school drag shows and places them on stages as performers in sexually-themed events CANNOT hide behind the empty defense that this is just about the private decisions of mature adults. Regardless of what anyone may claim about these events, the picture of the young person shown on the volunteer page of the recent Boise drag event sucking on a large, genital-shaped, rainbow colored popsicle says it all. When tolerance becomes an excuse for sexual exploitation, our duty to succeeding generations demands that responsible corporations and citizens draw a line in the sand.