Life, Liberty, Language

Depressing though it is, I have to give MAGA Republicans credit for their ability to (mis)use language–their talent for appropriating/twisting the usual meanings of words in ways that resonate with with Americans who–for whatever reason–don’t stop to unpack what is actually going on.

We’ve finally gotten to a place where most Americans do recognize that many of the people claiming to be “pro-life” are actually only pro-birth. To be genuinely pro-life would require support for feeding, clothing and educating the children who emerge from those wombs; it would require support for women’s health, and recognition that interventions needed to save pregnant women’s health and lives should be determined by doctors, not politicians.

And I won’t even address the inconsistencies of those “pro-life” zealots who favor the death penalty. (I once challenged a colleague who was pro-birth and pro-death penalty; his response was that criminals had “forfeited” their right to continue breathing…)

Now, of course, we have “Moms for Liberty.” Liberty is another one of those words that has taken a real beating from the crazed MAGA crowd; I was particularly fascinated by the lunatics who claimed that wearing a mask during a pandemic in order to protect their friends and neighbors from disease violated their rather peculiar definition of “liberty.” These were almost always the same people who want government to dictate women’s  reproduction and trans children’s choice of bathroom.

Let’s just say their definition of “liberty” is highly selective..

The most recent group to misuse the term is “Moms for Liberty,” and like most theocratic and autocratic folks, “Moms” misuse the terminology. Their real motto ought to be “Liberty for me but not for Thee.”

The Brookings Institution recently issued a report on those self-righteous moms. The report included the fact that the Indiana chapter had been in the news for featuring an Adolf Hitler quote in its newsletter.

That quote–which they hastily withdrew after considerable attention to it from local media–would seem to confirm the description of the group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which identifies Moms for Liberty as a “far-right organization that engages in anti-student inclusion activities and self-identifies as part of the modern parental rights movement. The group grew out of opposition to public health regulations for COVID-19, opposes LGBTQ+ and racially inclusive school curriculum, and has advocated books bans.”

Moms for Liberty is an antigovernment organization founded in 2021 by former Florida school board members, Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich. Current Sarasota County, Florida school board member, Bridget Ziegler, was also a co-founder. She has since left the group, leaving Justice and Descovich at the helm.

Moms for Liberty and its nationwide chapters combat what they consider the “woke indoctrination” of children by advocating for book bans in school libraries and endorsing candidates for public office that align with the group’s views. They also use their multiple social media platforms to target teachers and school officials, advocate for the abolition of the Department of Education, advance a conspiracy propaganda, and spread hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community.

SPLC followed that description with a list of quotes from members, and–assuming you can stomach the vitriol–you really have to read what the actual “moms for liberty” have to say. It’s incredibly hateful. They seem especially fixated on the notion that gender dysphoria exists, calling it a “mental illness,” but the animus extends far beyond gay children; one “mom for liberty” threatened to shoot a librarian. (I guess “liberty” doesn’t extend to our right to read books these fearless warriors disapprove of…)

SPLC reports that the “social media accounts and real-world activity of the national organization and its chapters” is filled with antigovernment and conspiracy propaganda, and especially with anti-LGBTQ and anti-gender identity diatribes. The group also opposes  inclusive curricula, and is firmly anti-public school. (In case you hadn’t noticed,  teachers’ unions are the devil’s handiwork…)

I began my professional life as a high-school English teacher, and I continue to believe that words have meanings–both connotations and definitions. Among the multitude of problems we face in our effort to create and maintain a government that functions properly and respects all of its increasingly diverse citizens, communication is key. And key to our ability to communicate is our use of accurate language.

I don’t know how “pro-life” people who don’t care about the lives of children once they’re born–or the lives of women experiencing dangerous pregnancies– define “pro life.”  I’m pretty sure “moms for liberty” haven’t the slightest notion what “liberty” actually means.

Along with everything else we need to do, Americans really need to reclaim the English language…


  1. It begins with radical church dogma. Throw in a couple decades of Newt Gingrich’s evil and language weaponization, and we have arrived at a sickening place of distortion. Why?

    Perhaps these misguided and one-issue people just need to be heard. And this is their only way of doing it. Moms for Liberty are a malignant tumor on the body DeSantis. Ironically, their misuse of the word woke speaks volumes for the shallowness of their thoughts. Pathetic.

  2. The credit due the MAGA Republicans and all other Republican factions is their ability to UNITE when it gets down to where the cheese binds. Their infighting will end on election days when they will vote for Republicans no matter who they are or what they stand for…or against. That is the source of their strength as a minority and the current dangerous situation as the minority of the their majority in the House of Representatives. They speak loud and clear in the American English language at the polls; those 7 MILLION who voted for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson in 2016 put the appointment of the president into the hands of the Electoral College at state levels. They believed by not voting for Clinton or Trump they were going to split the vote of the people; Hillary Clinton won that vote but lost it to the state level decision against her. My young neighbors were Bernie Sanders supporters along with me and a few others around us; when Hillary Clinton became the Democratic nominee (with the blatant assistance of Debbie Wasserman Schultz) they switched to Stein. I explained this to my neighbor a few weeks ago and she was astounded that they had not seen the reality of their choice. We will never know how many of those 7 MILLION actually were voting for Stein or Johnson, nether of whom were qualified to be president, and how many voted against Hillary or Trump. The states spoke MAGAese and here we are with a non-working Republican House and one Senator blocking all action in our entire government. The Republican lawmakers fully understand the dog whistle language which confuses the general public with their misnomers and Hitler quotes.

    Sheila stated she doesn’t recognize America today; neither do I and millions of others who are living in fear of a future they will not survive. The fact that we do understand the language isn’t helping us as long as the government is at a standstill in the hands of the MAGA, White Nationalist, Freedom Caucus, neo-Nazi Republican minority in control of the Legislative and Judicial branches of our government with President Biden representing the Executive branch. Watching Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries yesterday on “Meet The Press” as he struggled to get the sane message across that Joe Biden is NOT the holdup, nor is the Democratic faction of administration and Congress. They have repeatedly offered solutions to end the stalemate in the House, all solutions are within the current laws of Congress; one of their solutions is to DISCUSS THOSE LAWS. The government shutdown is creeping closer as no action is taken to prevent it. We are in deep shit in any language; shit by any other name smells the same.

  3. “Woke” is another term right-wing extremists have misappropriated and twisted far from it’s original source and intent. I’d even argue that the right’s current use is in fact a reflection of their racism, even if they have no idea that it originated as a reference to the Scottsboro Boys.

  4. I have always delighted in the process of writing – that the English language is sufficiently nuanced it can provide the exact expression of an idea. Those who delight in “word salads” fail to appreciate how accurate (and telling) our language can be. One of my often-told memories is sitting behind a pickup reading a bumper sticker that read: “If you ain’t country, you ain’t shit.”

  5. Worthy comments ~ ALL today. My only contribution can be to ask if our language has truly dissolved into a “Contradiction in Memes”.

  6. I believe that the English would say that their language was never really used in the USA. We speak American English. That gives us the freedom to misuse and abuse the language and blame it on the English.😁. Moms for Liberty are the real life version of a comedy company that called themselves “Ladies against women!”. Being Republican, though they understand that it’s not the content of their character that counts, but rather how they spin their message.

  7. And saddest of all, perhaps, is their capture and misappropriation of “freedom” as in deSanta’s “free state of Florida”. How do Black GOPers there live with that?

    So what’s left for the rest of us? They “own” life, liberty, freedom….maybe “pursuit of happiness”? Not likely – social media, entertainment, sports, celebrities’, soft/hard drugs already own that.

  8. Great post, and even greater responses. The MAGA crowd hates Democrats. Period.

    Remember, they call us “baby killers.” They also believe that only minorities vote for Democrats. A MAGA member told me, “I joined with the enemy.” I knew exactly what the bigot meant.

    Woke Democrats spend too much in ghast of the words and deeds of MAGA instead of shaping them as the enemy of the people. It doesn’t help that the Democrats let them off the hook for the 1/6 Insurrection. As Pelosi famously slipped, “We need a strong Republican Party.”

    Actually, no, we don’t. We must burn it to the ground and then blow the ashes into the street. Sadly, every time a militant faction like Antifa is birthed from the Democrat Party, out struts Obama to make a speech condemning their actions. It’s the same for striking workers. The Democrats order them back to work, and the lame union apparatus agrees.

    The D’s have become soft which leads to one failure after another.

  9. 50 years ago a colleague explained to me that “The integrity of the management is inversely proportional to the sanctity of the signage”.

    That maxim has been proven over and over again since I first heard it. “Moms for Liberty” is just the most recent example

  10. From Robert Reich today:

    Tragically, hate is a huge motivator. “The whole secret of politics is knowing who hates who,” wrote Kevin Phillips, the political analyst who died last week.

    I did not know Phillips well. We appeared together on various panels and forums over the years, so I heard a lot of his views about political strategy. I’m reluctant to speak ill of someone recently deceased, but it is important to understand Phillips’s legacy.

    His 1969 book, “The Emerging Republican Majority,” was for many decades the GOP’s blueprint for how to win over white voters unhappy with the Democratic Party’s embrace of civil rights in the 1960s.

    Phillips urged Republicans to link white voters’ racial anxieties to issues such as crime, federal spending, and voting rights, and make racially coded appeals such as “law and order.”

    It worked — helping to produce Richard M. Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972, Reagan’s in 1980 (aided by Reagan’s condemnation of “welfare queens”), George W. Bush’s 1986 victory (remember “Willie Horton”?), and GOP majorities for decades.

    Hate is a corrosive. It consumes and devours those who practice it.

    History shows that where hate is normalized, its poison seeps into the subsoil of a culture. It gruesomely distorts societies.

    Brutality, fear, and distrust transform otherwise rational human beings into close-minded fanatics. People no longer listen to the “other side.” They view them as threats, enemies.

    When hatred becomes entrenched, it can last generations. Haters pass their hatred and bigotry on to their children.

    Yet today, too many politicians, both here and abroad, are fueling hatred for their own selfish purposes.

    Real leaders stand up against hate. They reject bigotry. They denounce intolerance. They seek to bring people together rather than spur revenge and retribution.

  11. One thing I’ve never understood,
    From what I gather, pro-life are absolutely anti-abortion. But they are also anti-contraception. So, I guess I’m confused.

    Support some sort of moral restraint, and promote anti pregnancy programs! And not just for women, this includes the men who basically sling their Willies, willy-nilly, without a single coherent thought of the consequences of such behavior. These pinch hitters or sperm donors need to lose their human right to conceive children. More than a surprising amount of these individuals are predatory or serial impregnators. And that, should be considered criminal. They are responsible for so much misery and death, why shouldn’t it be criminal?

    In this day and age, it should be contraception contraception contraception! There is no law against contraception either scripturally or civily.

  12. Again, these aren’t Liberal failures, they are Liberal successes in the sense that they are the outcomes that American Liberals and their sponsors legislated to make happen. Four to six million excess deaths before the Covid pandemic hit, caused by the neoliberal healthcare system that Liberal Democrats created. Twelve and one-half million citizens likely to be permanently disabled by Long Covid due to the Biden administration’s Covid policies. If Liberals want to claim criminal stupidity, okay. That has been my theory for a long time.

  13. “…words have meanings-both connotations and definitions.” Yes, words have meanings and when misused have consequences! Of course, if your vocabulary is limited to 500 words or less, such as with the person who formally occupied the White House, the meaning behind such words when employed becomes distorted and used for appealing to lazy minds. Doubling troubling is that this person is challenged to use any word with contains more than two syllables in it.
    While “communication is key,” being able to communicate with people who align with far-right organizations is increasingly difficult, and perhaps even insurmountable, in attempting any type of civil discourse because these people are unwilling (or just unable) to marshal rational thoughts or put three sentences together in a row which make any sense. However, one has to keep trying. Actions speak louder than words.
    We must go high, where these folks go low with the find hope that our actions will touch their hearts and resonate with them.

  14. “…with a fond hope that our actions will touch their hearts and resonate with them.”

  15. I see lots of conclusions in Ian’s contribution today but no evidence to support them. In keeping with Sheila’s topic for the day, I hereby nominate for inclusion into Webster’s the new and alternative meaning of such “conclusions” to be the product of “spinsters.”

  16. the Indigo Girls, “Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable. And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.” Rinse, repeat….

  17. On my soapbox…

    There are two topics I wish the government would take more seriously. Population and Climate Change. If we continue to assault our own Food Web it is going to collapse and it will just cause more problems. I think Ecology education is important because of that. It’s not that anyone wants to be an alarmist. It’s just that they are concerned when they see the effects of human beings on this planet. Carl Sagan can be seen as early as the 1980’s talking about it. Even Pope Francis has chimed in on it. George Carlin talked about our problems before he died.

    I myself have picked up litter and been astounded about how much litter I can find in just a small area. We are like children that don’t know how to clean up and respect our global home. If we started funding environmental research and programs it would create jobs and it would allow us to have “greater knowledge” about how the earth really works. There is a TON of stuff we could be doing to protect the health of children’s future.

    I just went in a trip to NY where the grocery store charges 3.00 for bags. To try and encourage people to use less plastic bags. Some changes aren’t so hard to do and can have a large impact. They also have a recycling program where you get a deposit back for each can or bottle you return. Which would incentivize people to pick up some of the litter for a small cash reward.

    Growing up I’m so happy that my childhood was spent outside riding bikes and doing things like visiting friends in person and waterfalls. My face wasn’t so glued to a computer or tv screen.

  18. Ian,

    WAYTA? Your comment is a alternate reality. I realize memory is short, but not that short!

  19. Thank you, Vernon, for pointing ot Newt’s poisonous impact on the country. We are no done with that particular iteration of dirtbaggery, he will be involved with senator Scott’s re-election campaign, here in the womb of “Moms.”
    These women, by the way, are today’s version of Hitler’s Brown Shirts, working assiduously to remove liberty from the rest of us.

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