Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Lexington Shouters Promise Redemption

Reality can be such a harsh companion and teacher. Perhaps it's best if Mad Dad and his buddies, shall we say the Fussy Foursome, avoid it as much as possible. Following their humiliating thumping in U.S. District Court a couple of weeks ago, their spokesdad, David Parker, had an aspirational hand-clasping on Article 8/MassResistance's weekly radio show.

Actually those were figurative hands. He was on phone. You can listen to the show here. Choose to stream or download the March 3/4 one.

Undeputized Listener

Normally we would expect Bud at MassResistance Watch to endure the pain for the moments of amusement. He must be off touching up his tan someplace warm. When he returns to posting, he'll have to advance a quarter of the way in or so to where Parker calls. Those comments and those of the week's host, Amy Mann, shine a light in the dark corners of their minds and offer a little insight to similar strident shouting.

The quixotic calls to victory, Parker's hyperbolic depictions of his court loss, and the judicial interpretations by both Parker and Mann will strike many as strange, as they did me. Those brought to mind the early 80's Harry Nilsson album The Point! Specifically, the hero and his dog meet up with the Rock Man, who explains subjective reality:
And Oblio told the Rock Man that they had been banished and asked him if this was the Pointless Forest. And the Rock Man said, "Say there's nothing pointless about this gig ... the thing is . . . you see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear - dig. Did you ever see Paris?" - Oblio said, "No". "Did you ever see New Dehli?" - Oblio said "Well, no". "Well that's it - you see what you want to see and you hear what you want to hear", said the Rock Man and with that the Rock Man fell soundly asleep leaving Oblio and Arrow once again all alone.
The subjective reality in this schools case is simultaneously amusing and perplexing. Apparently U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf is not a Rock Man authority figure for the Fussy Foursome or MassResistance. They soldier on and in so doing offer a lesson about those who freely misunderstand the role of personal religion in larger society.

Appeal Fantasies

Allegedly, there shall be an appeal -- the notice is on file with the courts. Parker was all fluff and bluster about that on the talk show.

I don't see much of a shot to get any court at the U.S. District level or higher to hear an appeal. Judge Wolf's 38-page ruling dismissing the suit cites its allegations and assertions' failings at the federal level, in points of law, related laws and cases, and in general cutting off avenues of appeal. You can take my record on this for what it's worth; I nailed the decision, but I was unsure whether it would be outright dismissal or after trial.

Oddly enough, in her own Nilsson moment, Mann went on about how she was at the hearing and expected a very different outcome. She said the judge's questions made her think the foursome had a good shot. In contrast, I found that Wolf telegraphed his ruling very clearly, even indicating that parents could not dictate curriculum, that they had both opportunity and obligation to install their morals in their children, and that the two families should seek their customized education outside the public schools. Apparently even after reading the ruling, Mann sees what she wants to see.

Oral Drama

Parker was at his most florid in denouncing the ruling, which he called "seditious." He said that it was a "modern day lynching of parental rights." Telling the Fussy Foursome to seek an educational niche to satisfy them was "highbrow arrogance" to Parker.

These points are where this all remains relevant to larger society. The often-repeated claims of conservatives in general and the foursome in particular are that a conflict between an allegedly religious based belief and a publicly funded agency most accommodate the former. They seem to have missed a few centuries of clarification of the impacts of the first amendment.

In the case of the Fussy Foursome, this took the form of claims that the schools violated two rights in the amendments to the U.S. Constitution -- first (religion) and fourth (privacy) -- by even mentioning that society has two-dad or two-mom families in a state where that is legal or that some people prefer same-sex partners. This, by Parker's vision, attacks the "sacred right of parents" to be the "primary source" of moral upbringing for their children.

That is precisely where they and others who try those arguments run afoul of Judge Wolf, law, case law and the reality of most of us. Whether they consider that moral upbringing their "sacred right" is not relevant in public policy. Moreover, the passing and occasional diversity lesson in school is not the primary moral education the children have, unless the parents are total slackers and irresponsible. By example as well as formal and informal religious or other moral education does indeed fall to parents, plus godparents, religious educators and others the parents designate.

Parker was at his best though when he went solo on depicting his gay neighbors and fellow parents of kids in the school system. He said, for example, "where you have homosexual parents beating their chests in the schools, saying, 'We have gay families, we have lesbian families,' and then what they're saying is, 'Now we need we need to talk about our families."'

Ah, chest-beating lesbians...what an image.

Irrational Historical Allusion

Parker even pulls one of the moldiest chestnuts from his tattered bag -- taxation without representation. In his case, he claims to have moved to the pricey, high-property-tax Lexington for the single purpose of great schools. Now he finds that if he can't get the schools to teach what he wants or rather not teach what he doesn't want, he's being robbed. "This is taxation without representation in its purest form!" he exclaimed during the show. "And people fought and died over that!"

To those of us on planet Earth, the Fussy Foursome got its representation. They just didn't get the result they demanded. Parker in particular got a series of meetings, he spoke to folk up and down, from other parents to teachers and to the principal, the school superintendent and even police chief. He was well represented and firmly denied.

They certainly didn't ignore him. They just gave him a big L for his forhead.

On taxation, let's not talk about the disproportionate share of state funds that go to infrastructure in low-density areas like Lexington or federal taxes that pay for unnecessary wars, let's stay local. So, these characters claim they are due obeisance to their demands for their share of school taxes. Get a grip!

The hyperventilating screams and claims of oppression can befuddle marriage-equality and civil-rights advocates alike. When the wingers act out, it is useful to keep Nilsson's Rock Man in mind. They will surely see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. The rest of us don't have to buy into any of it.

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Anonymous said...

I note that David Parker has commented here before, but seems to be absent of late. In case he still peruses your site, and to counter his reasoning for supporting his case based on his interpretation of the first, here's a comment by Brooklyn federal judge, Nina Gershon, made in 1999, when she rejected an effort to outlaw a Long Island college's course on sex, saying religious groups should not dictate curriculum on public campuses. "In fact, the relief sought by the plaintiffs would itself result in a violation of the Establishment Clause. Allowing religious groups to dictate the curriculum of a public college would have a direct and obvious effect of endorsing those groups' religious views."

massmarrier said...

Very pertinent...thank you.

I do go on about this because it is important just in those terms. Those who seem to think that the world, including schools, government agencies, the courts, and even their neighbors must accommodate their demands, are unclear on the establishment clause. Rather, they suggest the government can't do anything to hinder them.

Wolf could have been somewhat stronger in his statements, but he was specific enough to be clear.