by Roger Kimball
Destruction of the family has always been at the center of the collectivist project. In chapter two of The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels point out that the destruction of private property will never be complete until the “abolition [Aufhebung] of the family” is accomplished. The dream is perennial among snarling misanthropists. A couple of years ago, an interview in The Nation with a radical feminist explained that if you “want to dismantle capitalism” then you have to “abolish the family.”
It is worth keeping that in mind as the little drama of Merrick Garland versus the parents of America unfolds. I wrote about the attorney general’s absurd but troubling memorandum shortly after it was released on October 4. As all the world knows (but only some precincts of the world admit), Garland threatened to mobilize the entire police power of the state against parents. Why?
Because parents across the country have suddenly woken up to the wokeness haunting their schools and poisoning the minds of their children. The school boards, many of which are staffed by leftists, are pushing the Marxist ideology of critical race theory, virtue-signaling mask mandates, and forcing noisome gender identity politics on primary and secondary school students.
Most parents don’t like that. They pay for the schools. The school board (in theory) works for them, and they, the parents, have been vocal in making their displeasure known. A left-wing lobbying group called the National School Boards Association complained to the Biden Administration that “Public Schoolchildren, Public School Board Members, and Other Public School District Officials and Educators” were subjected to “Threats and Acts of Violence” by parents whose actions “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” Note the surreal accusation that schoolchildren were being harmed by “threats and acts of violence,” which, if you look at the actual instances adduced, turn out to be people arguing against the insinuation of radical, politically charged ideas into the the curriculum.
Garland’s response was to threaten to unleash the law enforcement apparatus of the state against parents by forging a “Partnership among federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement to address threats against school administrators, board members, teachers and staff.” What threats?
When I first wrote about this, I was unaware that Garland’s daughter Rebecca is married to Xan Tanner, the founder and president of Panorama, a multimillion-dollar company that sells CRT and related ESG materials to schools around the country. File that in the folder marked “optics” if not the one labeled “conflict of interest.”
Another thing I didn’t know when I first wrote about this story was that the pas-de-deux between the National School Boards Association and the attorney general was not fortuitous. On the contrary, as the always interesting “Neo” reports, it was more in the way of being a coordinated effort, what just a few years ago might have been denominated “collusion.” I’m not sure into which folder we ought to put that detail.
“In early September,” that letter reads, in part, “Biden Administration stakeholders held discussions regarding avenues for potential federal action against parents with a key Biden Domestic Policy Council official (Jane Doe #1) and White House staff (John Doe #1).”
Where to put “federal action against parents”?
The letter continues (I apologize for the bureaucratese):
Stakeholders also held discussions with senior department officials, including at least one political appointee in the department’s Civil Rights Division (Jane Doe #2). Jane Doe #1, John Doe #1, and others in the White House separately expressed concern regarding the potential partisan political impact of parent mobilization and organization around school issues in the upcoming midterm elections.
Upon information and belief, at the express direction of or with the express consent of Jane Doe #1, Jane Doe #2 and other Biden Administration officials developed a plan to use a letter from an outside group (“not the usual suspects”) as pretext for federal action to chill, deter, and discourage parents from exercising their constitutional rights and privileges.
Upon information and belief, in or about mid-September work began on development of what became the Attorney General’s Memorandum. Concerns expressed by department staff included (1) the absence of federal law enforcement nexus and authority, and (2) the constitutionally protected nature of parent protests. However, Jane Doe #2 made it clear this was a White House priority and a deliverable would be created.
On or about September 29, citing legal authorities including the Patriot Act, the “National School Boards Association” made public a letter demanding federal action against parents citing authorities including the Patriot Act . . . .
The Patriot Act? That would be the law enacted by George W. Bush following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in order “to protect innocent Americans from the deadly plans of terrorists dedicated to destroying America and our way of life.” But wait—aren’t we talking about angry parents who go to their local school board meetings to complain about the indoctrination of their children by Marxists who hate America, twisted apostles of sexual weirdness, and acolytes of the latest politically correct fashion statement regarding the mandated, Fauci-approved hysteria over COVID? What do parents who are concerned about the well-being of their children at the hands of the minions of a hostile state apparat have to do with terrorists? If you answered “nothing” go to the head of the class.
Not only are we witnessing an effort to criminalize dissent. We are also, as Mary Chastain notes at Legal Insurrection, witnessing another chapter in the attack on the family. “Actually,” she writes, “they want to figure out how to deal with parents who have the nerve to be involved in their child’s education.” The solution? Intimidate parents. Prosecute a few to spread the fear. Coordinate (illegally) the effort between the feds and local authorities to go after speech and attitudes that don’t pass muster with the wardens of wokeness.
Many of the people who deplore Garland’s almost comically heavy-handed exhibition of police power put it down to the dirty business of hyperpartisan, playing-for-keeps power politics. It is actually much worse than that.
What we are witnessing is no ordinary political fight but the dissolution of normal politics and their absorption into a consolidating neo-feudalist oligarchy. The family stands in the way of that consolidation, so it must be attacked and dismantled. One front in that battle is the poisoning of the next generation by the insinuation of Marxist ideology and sexual perversion into the curriculum. Habits of subservience can be inculcated through arbitrary dictates like mask mandates. Ordinary masks perform no medical function, but they do help tell us who is in charge. The family is the proximate target of this movement, and beyond that there is America itself.
The New York Times, true to form, has recently been pushing the idea that the American flag needs to be redesigned to be more politically correct. Ultimately, of course, the target is freedom itself. Individual freedom is always an impediment to totalitarian absolutism and conformity.
The one positive note in all of this is the possibility that enough people are angry enough to confront their would-be masters. General Mark Milley bragged that he, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented “the guys with the guns.” That was the same sentiment Joe Biden expressed when he said that if you wanted to challenge the government, you would need “F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.”
In fact you don’t need fighter jets or nukes, just steadfastness and commitment, both of which are contagious. Nicole Solas, a mother who has complained about her school board, has been harassed and even sued by the authorities. Go ahead, “arrest me,” she said on Twitter. “They wanted to publicly humiliate me,” she said. “They paid a PR firm to call me a racist in the national media. So they really wanted to ostracize me from my community.”
Garland is having multilevel law enforcement meetings as if parents truly are domestic terrorists, like the National School Boards Association said we were. And it’s scary because you’re starting to see how this fits into this broader political narrative where the federal government is really trying to purge ideological opponents . . .
So [in] this crazy time that we’re living in . . . you really learn who’s willing to put their boots on your neck, given the opportunity . . .
If they’re trying to chill our speech, then we need to talk louder and we need to talk more and we can’t let them chill our speech.
Which brings me to dominos. “I think parents need to be assured that you’re going to have more support than you think,” Solas remarked, “because it’s like a domino effect. When one parent speaks out, another parent feels like it’s safe for them to speak out. And you just need one person to start that.”
The sound you hear is the sound of the dominos beginning to fall, one after the next. I hope that their cascading collapse is coming soon enough and will be widespread enough to head off the larger, more devastating collapse that would likely ensue in the absence of that movement of catharsis.
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Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine’s Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art’s Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).
Photo “Chuck Schumer Meets with Judge Merrick Garland” by Senate Democrats. CC BY 2.0.