LGBTQ kids need protection from bullies and violence, not adults targeting and bullying them too

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I grew up in a struggling, post-industrial Ohio town in the 1990s where ignorance and intolerance often reigned. I stood up to bullies my whole life, and when put under physical threat, I fought them.

No bully can intimidate me, and so even though I was definitely a weird kid, I was also funnier, smarter, and stronger than them.

They tested me, in the ways that kids do, and learned to be respectful. They also knew I would not tolerate bullying of others, so if anyone picked on someone just for being different, we were going to have a problem.

Bullies are low, broken people; weak-minded and insecure.

But instead of being tough on themselves to grow into better human beings, they desperately try to mask their weakness and insecurity by acting tough to try to intimidate others.

It’s tragic to see in any child and sad to see in any teenager, but when bullying manifests in grown adults, it’s pathetic; an inexcusable and disgusting stunting of the mind.

When I was in high school 20 years ago, being LGBTQ put a big target on your back.

Our American culture of the time still largely kept LGBTQ people ostracized, shamed, mocked, humiliated, and “othered.”

Powerful, influential LGBTQ people in sports, music, film, and business often stayed hidden in the closet, preferring to torture themselves mentally by living a lie than risk the very real possibility of deadly physical violence.

Nothing made these horrifying stakes more clear to my young mind than Matthew Shepard being tied to a fence and beaten to death in 1998.

He was 21, only eight years older than I was at the time — thinking about what kind of monstrous world I would have to live in.

I grew up knowing how to be tough in a tough city, but I knew I could not come out while I lived there, or I would be fighting constantly, no matter what respect I had earned. I’ve never been scared of a fight, but rumbling with idiots every day to defend my right to peacefully exist is not my idea of a good time.

Once I got far enough away to feel safe, I came out and my life has been absolutely blessed and beautiful ever since. I’m very fortunate and grateful for that. I wish the same for all my LGBTQ sisters and brothers.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve watched America transform from that dark place of hate and intolerance to one of widespread LGBTQ toleration and acceptance, at least in our popular culture and some of our laws and cities.

I give credit to all enlightened citizens of good conscience, and each new generation, for largely discarding the loathsome societal shackles of the past to carve out a new path.

Unfortunately, many Americans remain in thrall to the weak, insecure, hateful bigots and bullies, who are trying to fear-monger our newfound cultural acceptance in a despicable attempt to once again dehumanize us, and erase our lives and experiences. Read more

Studies show gains against childhood hunger were lost after child tax credit ended

Feeding America and Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank host Hungry to Help Lesson Plan for students at an Ohio elementary school.(Photo by Duane Prokop/Getty Images for Feeding America)

An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in October confirmed previous research that food insecurity increased substantially after the expiration of federal monthly advanced child tax credits on Jan. 15, 2022.

The study looked at the period between January and July of this year in a series of national surveys, and found a nearly 25% increase in food insufficiency, impacting Black, Hispanic and Indigenous families the most.

The article published Oct. 21 in JAMA, “Association of the Expiration of Child Tax Credit Advance Payments With Food Insufficiency in US Households,” involved a cross-sectional study of repeated surveys from a nationally representative sample of 592,044 U.S. households.

“The findings of this study suggest that the loss of monthly (child tax credit) payments was associated with an increase in the prevalence of households with children in the U.S. reporting sometimes or often not having enough to eat, a condition associated with adverse health outcomes across the life span,” the article’s findings conclude.

The Advance Child Tax Credit (CTC) monthly payments from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) were administered to more than 35 million households with children in the U.S. between July and December 2021. Numbers from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show the credits benefited an estimated 2.37 million children in Ohio. [In North Carolina, the number was nearly 2.1 million.] The tax credits were associated with a substantial decrease in food insufficiency, the study said.

Under ARPA, three major changes to the credit were enacted for tax year 2021: an expansion of eligibility to include families earning very low or no income; a boost in credit amounts from a maximum credit of $2,000 per child per year previously to $3,000 per child aged 6 to 17 per year and $3,600 per child younger than 6 per year; and provision for half of the credit as an advanced monthly payment between July and December 2021.

As a result of these changes, an estimated 92% of families with children were eligible to receive $250 to $300 monthly per child between July and December 2021, the study said. National data show that parents report spending the monthly CTC payments on food, utilities, rent, clothing, and educational expenses, the article said.

These monthly payments expired in January 2022 after U.S. Congress failed to extend the policy. Read more

America is amusing itself to death and hack politicians are taking advantage

A Donald Trump supporter holds up a large “Q” sign ahead of a rally in 2018. “Q” represents QAnon, a conspiracy theory group. (Photo by Rick Loomis/Getty Images)

Explicit and implicit validation of election denialism is paving the path toward destruction

In 1985, Neil Postman’s crowning achievement, “Amusing Ourselves To Death,” provided the most prescient analysis and forecast of the current lobotimization of American public discourse.

Postman’s work drew a distinction between the Orwellian vision of a totalitarian government seizing individual rights and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” where freedom and rights were voluntarily sacrificed in favor of medicated bliss, or Soma, which Postman pointed to as an analogy for infotainment — media packaged as news or information but largely driven by sensationalism, propaganda, and entertainment value.

With its focus on clicks, views, likes, follows, ratings, and commercial feasibility, much audio-visual media does not necessarily involve, much less encourage, honest intellectual engagement or rational argument.

This becomes a danger to society, Postman said, when the conveyance of important information manifests as just another form of entertainment, or worse, propaganda.

Audio-visual media as entertainment alone is not dangerous, he said. But when the stakes are raised, when the direction of the nation is in play, infotainment is actively harmful.

America on the brink

In the 2022 Election, just like the 2020 Election, and, one can easily anticipate, the 2024 Election, enormous historical stakes are in play for the future direction of democracy v. autocratic authoritarianism in America.

The attempted normalization of election denialism is one of the most dangerous and insidious symptoms of America’s Constitutional Republic in democratic free fall. Read more

Ohio Republicans’ attempted erasure of a 10-year-old rape victim is incredibly sick and disturbed

Left to right: Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, and Republican U.S. Congressman Jim Jordan. Official photos.

The first and most important thing to recognize right now is that a heinous, violent crime was committed on a 10-year-old Ohio child, and thankfully justice has now found the alleged perpetrator.

A Columbus man was indicted last Wednesday in a case that made national and international headlines about a 10-year-old girl who had to travel to Indiana for an abortion after Ohio’s abortion ban went into effect following the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

The story is horrifying and tragic. She has experienced enormous trauma. My heart breaks for her, and I’m very grateful to all the hard-working professionals out there providing her and her family assistance in what must be a truly awful time.

Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his spokesman responded to the story by ignoring questions about whether children should be forced to have their rapists’ babies. Then DeWine allies contacted members of the press, asking how sure they were that the case of the pregnant 10-year-old even happened.

The Washington Post, the conservative Daily Caller and other media outlets published stories saying that the case was unverified. The Wall Street Journal Editorial page suggested the story was a “fanciful tale.” The National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty referred to the case as “a fictive abortion and a fictive rape.”

Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost went on Fox News Monday to raise further doubts. He said he works closely with law enforcement authorities and he’d gotten “not a whisper” about the case. “What I’m saying to you is there is not a damn scintilla of evidence,” he doubled-down to the Columbus Dispatch next on Tuesday.

Hamilton County Republican Party Chair Alex Triantafilou on Twitter called the case, “A garbage lie that a simple google search confirms is debunked.”

State Rep. Brian Stewart tweeted the Washington Post story saying he “wouldn’t trust an abortionist to tell me whether the sky is blue.”

Ohio U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan tweeted, “Another lie. Anyone surprised?

None of them had the patience to verify for themselves with certainty the truth of the matter before going public on a massive, self-serving scale. Jordan deleted his tweet.

Columbus police said in court they were referred the case by Franklin County Children Services on June 22. On Monday, July 11, Fox News host Jesse Waters and Ohio AG Dave Yost were on national television questioning whether this case was real.

The propaganda erasing this 10-year-old’s existence was so swift it spread out over right-wing social media like a blanket. Those advocating the truth of her story — privately already confirmed for some of us, and crushing to hear about — were subjected to wild-eyed mockery and ridicule.

It’s incredibly disturbing that the default position of so many sick and twisted people — including Ohio’s most prominent Republican elected officials — is to very vocally and very publicly question whether the rape and impregnation of a 10-year-old child ever happened. Read more

A Republic, if we can keep it: Now is not the time for despair, but renewed and relentless action

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Most of us have heard the tale: As Benjamin Franklin walked out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin is said to have responded, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

This Independence Day, many Americans feel betrayed and abandoned in the centuries-long struggle not only to preserve the American Republic, but to extend to all Americans the basic human rights and protections first afforded to only a few.

Human civilization has forever been locked in a battle between the will and needs of the people and the self-serving designs of reactionary authoritarians.

America has been no different, and the forces that would drag us back into servile subjugation for the advantages of a privileged few are working as hard as they ever have, gathering any victory, by hook or by crook.

They’ve often won short-term battles in the course of our history, before being smote down by the blood, sweat and tears of the people of progress.

The court of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney blessed chattel slavery with its Dred Scott decision in 1857, and the court of Chief Justice Melville W. Fuller endorsed segregation with Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. The U.S. Supreme Court has, in the past, supported white supremacist mobs, shot down child labor laws, axed minimum wage laws, and sanctioned union busting that notoriously then involved the open murder of workers and even the burning to death of women and children by National Guardsmen.

But the forces of progress won the Civil War and gave us the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. The forces of progress gave us the 19th Amendment, and enshrined child labor laws, worker rights, women’s rights, desegregation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and equal marriage rights.

Through centuries of strife and bloodshed, everyday Americans, pouring out their hearts and lives, won these victories. Now, some are being rolled back, and others are under grave threat.

Progress is not inevitable. It never has been, and never will be. The forces pulling us back toward tyranny and subjugation have always been with us, and always will be. Read more