Bookman: Marjorie Taylor Greene ascends in GOP because of stupidity, not in spite of it

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) gives a thumbs down during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress on February 07, 2023. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Marjorie Taylor Greene is an idiot, and idiots, as a rule, aren’t interesting people. They aren’t interesting because their idiocy overshadows all other aspects of their personality.

Greene is more an exemplar of that rule than an exception to it.

Nonetheless, in their wisdom, the voters in Georgia’s 14th Congressional District have elected Greene as their U.S. representative, and it’s probably necessary to point out that they’ve now done it twice. They made that choice in 2020 – in both a contested primary and a general election — then last fall they confirmed it, rejecting a qualified, competent challenger by almost a two-to-one margin.

Very well. More than 775,000 people live in the 14th District, and if they have concluded that Greene is the best person to represent that district’s interests and values, if they think she’s the best and brightest they have to offer the country, then they have the right to make that choice. As just one of 435 members of Congress, what harm could she do, right?

But here’s where Greene does begin to get interesting, not in her own right but in what her existence and prominence tells us about our political culture. In her brief time in the public eye, Greene has uttered a long string of absurdities that rank among the dumbest things ever said by an elected official in our nation’s history, from alleging that Jews used space lasers to start California forest fires so they could buy the land cheaply to her most recent campaign calling for a “national divorce,” with red states separating from blue states. Read more

“Don’t say gay” legislation: A threat to the embodied classroom

I am a Black lesbian woman with 20 years teaching experience. However, when I began my teaching career at a predominantly Haitian high school, I was not out to my students. I wasn’t closeted either. As a 22-year-old novice instructor, I believed sharing my private life to my 17- and 18-year-old students would disrupt the power dynamics I thought maintained student respect and class order. Additionally, having just come out to myself and my folks five years prior to entering the classroom, coupled with not having had queer-identified role modeling teachers when I was in school, I had not yet grasped the language with which to name and understand myself.

Inadvertently conditioned, I was complicit in “not saying gay” before the bill was mandated. In other words, my Black lesbian woman’s body entered the public classroom split—a readied participant in a hidden curriculum intended to duplicate oppression.

I failed to give my students a wholistic education that could encourage them to identify and know themselves in relationship to the world, and to myself, which may have secured a humanity in them that countered America’s racist, homophobic past and present.

I should’ve been open about my sexuality—especially when LGBTQ-identified 10th and 12th grade students would lag behind the dismissal bell to glean advice from me about their relationships, talk to me about their homophobic parents, or confide in me their promises of running away from home. I should’ve been open, so that in community with me, they’d find their own safe, brave openings – so they’d have a role model. But I wasn’t open, and my hiding spilled into my lack of source materials and instruction.

I had no books I could lend them, no people I could reference, no theories from which I could instruct and hold an honest, open conversation. As a result, my LGBTQ+ students were—like Martin Luther King describes in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech—out here on a “lonely island . . . in the midst of a vast ocean.” And though Black and queer folk are un-drowned, the Americans who endeavored to cast us away then are making waves intended to wipe us out now.

DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill has made its way to North Carolina through Senate Bill 49, titled, “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” which was passed earlier this month. The revision includes a prohibition of gender identity and sexuality instruction in grades K-4. However, considering sex education usually occurs in 5th grade, and of the 39 state curricula that do include sex education, only ten of them include sexual orientation—while “five states allow only negative information to be shared about homosexuality and place a positive emphasis on heterosexuality”. Senate Bill 49 is not a ban on curriculum and textbook material, but an erasure of the queer teacher and student voice.

To forbid teachers and students from discussing gender and sexual identity in the classroom is to suggest that they, that we, are not subjects in history worth reading, knowing, and cultivating relationship; it’s an absolute annihilation of human beings—a fostering of hate in the classroom. The classroom is a site of resistance where teachers and students have regular opportunity to engage loving-kindness as well as mutual respect and understanding, thereby we have to counter the forces whose initiatives aim to use academic institutions to splinter our country.

Conceding to omit classroom discourse on any one identity is a resistance to America’s humanity.


Dr. Kendra N. Bryant is an Associate Professor of English and Composition Director at North Carolina A&T State University.

NC schools are struggling to survive while rich people and corporations keep getting tax cuts

In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly started cutting taxes (mostly for big corporations and wealthy people). Most years since have seen lawmakers continue to divert public funds from things like schools, childcare, broadband, water quality, and public safety, to the pockets of out-of-state corporations and the wealthy few. These cuts also put more of the burden on middle- and low-income taxpayers while letting their richer neighbors off the hook. This post is part of a series bringing light to how tax cuts have failed to deliver promised benefits while undermining our ability to pay for things North Carolinians need.

Do you wake up wondering if you’re going to be late to work because the school bus didn’t show up on time … again?

Or when your kid is going to have a full-time, permanent, teacher?

Or why your child comes home crying because they’re not getting what they need to overcome a learning, language, or social barrier?

Or when the A/C in the school gym is going to get fixed?

Or, or, or…

If so, you’re not alone. Things in our schools really are getting worse, and it’s directly because of policy choices being made in Raleigh.

Wave after wave of tax cuts have diverted public dollars into the pockets of wealthy people and corporations, all while the General Assembly has refused to give schools the funding they need to find and keep teachers, bus drivers, janitors, counselors, and other people it takes to nurture our children. At the start of this school year, there were more than 5,500 vacant teaching positions in North Carolina, and less than 500 of those spots had been filled within the first 40 days of the school year.

It didn’t used to be this way. Read more

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: People are passionate about puddin’

There are two foods Southerners are powerfully passionate about: barbecue and banana pudding. Let’s go ahead and stipulate Eastern North Carolina vinegar and red pepper-sauced barbecue is best and move on now to … wait… where did half of y’all go?

Oh, well. On to banana pudding, which is honestly on my mind most of the time but especially today because of a story in The New York Times lauding the truly awful version sold at New York’s iconic Magnolia Bakery.

After reading the story I decided to join the comments thread LIKE A CRAZY PERSON. I wasn’t coming from a place of ignorance. I’ve eaten the banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery and it is, well, abysmal. Holding up that doorstop of a puddin’ with minimal bananas and maximal clog as an example? Nuh-uh.  (To be fair, which I just hate, the story was primarily promoting the “power of instant pudding mix.” I’ve certainly tossed a box of pudding mix into a cake mix for loft and flavor so I’m not a complete snob.)

But banana pudding? Just no. A homemade custard is required. I’d sooner put sugar on my grits or utter the phrase: “If you can’t find Duke’s, just use Miracle Whip.” (That last the ranting of a lunatic I’m sure you would agree.)

Something about swooning over that instant pudding-using Magnolia Bakery banana pudding went all over me. Not only do they use instant pudding mix but also a can of sweetened condensed milk. This sent me to my fainting couch (What? You don’t have one?) where I experienced legit vapors. The cloying sweetness of boxed pudding AND condensed milk. Hard pass.

The comments flooded in after my post which advised, as calmly and charitably as I could, to always use the recipe on the Nilla wafers box but be sure to double the custard amount and always top with real meringue. This ensures perfection every time.

As it turned out, hundreds and possibly by now thousands of folks had Very Strong Opinions about banana pudding. Many of them were dead wrong and all we can do is pray for ‘em.

Some readers were surprised at the, er, intense nature of the thread. These people are probably the kind of folks who say things like “I don’t vote for the party; I vote for the candidate!”

I’m more aligned with folks like “Marylou…” who wrote: “This stuff is actual garbage. My granny makes it way better.”

As with any comments section, there was the obligatory above-it-all’er. “Wow. Comments about pudding can sure get mean. I hope people get as angry about some other stories in the news today.”

Hope that Superior Dance didn’t throw your back out “Jennifer…”  You’ve brought a slotted spoon to a knife fight. We need these petty public squabbles to give us the illusion of control. This was the same weekend there was a weird balloon in the sky taking pictures of us in our underwear. Also, some fool just said you should use Chessmen instead of vanilla wafers so, basically, shots fired.

Another said: “Fix it however you like it and enjoy it with a smile!” Weirdo, am I right?

But I was all in with “Teensy…” who wrote: “Nana puddin’ (extra points for correct spellings) should include homemade custard…layered between banana slices and wafers and…baked with meringue on top. Otherwise, it’s something you eat from a school cafeteria.” “Artcandy…” called Magnolia’s version “dreadful and shameful” and ultimately as disappointing as banana pudding found at any 7-Eleven…”

Yes, Queens.

Of course, like all popular threads, it didn’t take long for the “what are you doing on here” bots to jarringly announce “I made “millions by following these simple steps” or “I had to know what’s happening to my partner cause he has changed…”

Bots always spoil the puddin’.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].  

Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Maps are back and I’m not happy about it

I thought it was charming when millennials embraced vinyl albums making turntables, amps and waist-high speakers cool again.

Same when Gens X, Y and Z demonstrated a fondness for fondue, bell bottoms, lava lamps and shag rugs.

But now the kids have gone too far. The map is back. Yeah, the kind you can never fold back to its original accordion crispness no matter how hard you try. Even the classic road atlas is back, the one that always managed to have the one road you needed covered by staples.

No, just no.

Tech isn’t perfect, of course. One time, Siri led me down a long dirt road when I was already late for a speaking gig, leaving me to back out of a field of hog corn to course-correct.

Google maps, which for some reason offers voice directions only half the time, has replaced my old Mapquest addiction, which involved printing out the directions from your home to your destination in meticulous detail. It took me a few years to figure out I knew how to get out of my own neighborhood (steps 1-8) and didn’t have to print that part.

Did the young desk clerk snicker when I asked where I could print out my Mapquest directons? Yes. Yes, he did.

My Mapquest addiction died the moment GPS tech got me safely through Charlotte, N.C., where every street, it seems, contains the word “Sharon.” (No one knows who she is or why she’s such a big deal. I’ve asked.) Looking at my sweaty Mapquest printout while trying to drive wasn’t entirely safe. Instead, Google’s calm and commanding voice led me through the maze, never saying “go north” (as if I would know what that meant) but simply “turn right.”

And now I’m supposed to go back to a paper map? According to The Wall Street Journal, map sales are booming, up 123 percent in 2022 over the previous year. AAA (remember Triptiks?) can barely keep them in stock.

The return to maps is driven by younger folks who prefer traveling off the beaten track and exploring remote areas, which just tells me none of them have actually seen “The Blair Witch Project.”

They are “searching for a bigger picture,” not just following the soulless dictates of Siri, etc., said the Journal.

Like most Southerners, I’m oddly adept at giving directions although the recipients often appear confused.

When I lived in the country, I’d be asked for “directions to the main highway.”

“That’s easy,” I’d say. “You go about a mile til the road forks, and you’ll see a tobacco barn that’s just about falling in on your right. I remember priming tobacco to be cured in that old barn but nowadays most tobacco is grown overseas, which makes me wonder how the average 7th grader pays for their new school clothes anymore. What? Oh, yeah. So, you take a left and go about a mile and you’ll see a brick church on the left. A lot of members have moved or died so there’s only three people in the choir anymore, so they just wear their high school graduation gowns to save money and I don’t think most people really care. Go past the church and take a left just before you get to my cousin’s house with all the cats in the yard. He’s also got a two-headed calf, but we don’t tell just everybody that. How will you know it’s my cousin’s house? Well do you know of anywhere else with a two-headed calf? Go about five miles, there used to be a sign for the main highway, but somebody drove into it a few years back so you need to look down on the ground when you think you might be getting close…”

Now isn’t that more fun than reading a dumb ol’ map?

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at [email protected].