Truth isn’t always stranger than fiction. Sometimes, the facts just run obscenely ahead of one’s darkest fantasies.
Consider the matter of Kevin Jennings, the Obama administration’s positively Orwellian choice to head the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
Even the worst pessimists watching Washington, D.C., these days could not have predicted that the ostensible goal of keeping America’s children “safe” in school would come to this. A homosexual activist with a vigorous public record of loathing the religious right — including in words that cannot be repeated in a family newspaper — he is also the founder of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the single most effective activist group working to sexualize the next generation of America’s children at ever-younger ages.
By “sexualize,” to be specific, I mean what anyone in GLSEN would approve: the proposition that teaching children from kindergarten on up about sex, especially the varieties of homosexual sex, is a good and empowering and liberating thing for kids. Like the consequences of telling kids not to put beans in their noses, the constant bombardment with such sexual material cannot help but put ideas in impressionable minds.
Yet such bombardment is this Education Department official’s life work. Whether in his activism or in his books like “Telling Tales Out of School: Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals Revisit Their School Days,” Jenning’s work has consistently aimed at two objectives: forcing not only the normalization but also the celebration of homosexuality on captive public school children from the baby-tooth set on up; and creating an atmosphere in which any children whose parents and churches teach them otherwise are afraid to say so.
So, how does this recounting of Mr. Jennings’ record make you feel?
If the answer is that you are angry about it — and I imagine many people will be — then welcome to the latest deadly sin.
As a matter of doctrine, anger isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. In the heyday of Kumbaya theology — a few decades ago — some progressive-minded theologians began arguing against tradition that any sort of ire amounts to a sin.
St. Thomas Aquinas, however, took a different view. He, and most other subsequent theologians, distinguished between “righteous” anger — say, at injustice and oppression — and non-righteous feelings of vengeance or wrath.
The absence of that righteous anger is conspicuous in Washington, as the Jennings appointment among others goes to show. Yes, some social conservatives raised hell about these and other attempts to put far-left religion-bashing nominees into place — or tried to. But they are out of sync with the mood of the capital and the nation itself.
Everyone’s seeing red
Misunderstanding anger explains a great deal of what ails this society. We exhibit way too much of the wrong kind, and way too little of the right.
As for that wrong kind of anger, we’re drowning in it. Talk-radio hosts and television populists are angry. Bloggers are angry. Gay rights activists are angry. Atheists are really, really angry. And pro-abortion people, those grim would-be reapers of other people’s cradles, are perhaps the angriest of all — a fact that is as obvious as it is unremarked in the general press.
Yet where once were isolated boutique manifestations of anger, today the country seems an endless strip mall of it. Our new president’s chief talent may be to exploit the worst kind of angry populism while projecting the illusion of floating above it. A financial crisis? Prosecute Wall Street! The Iraq War was controversial? String up the war criminals!
As Peter Wood wrote in “A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now” (Encounter Books, $25.95), this “new anger” is “all around us all the time, invisible to the eye though we breathe it in like air pollution.”
Of course, the Internet makes the dissemination of bile ever easier. But the electronic media fuel anger in another way, too. The more we know, the more furious we get, because we modern men and women grasp how little we really know.
We are angry, in the end, because the closer we get to acting like gods, the more obvious it is that we are not such beings. Google can’t save us from our mortality. We are, all of us, always, just one chronic illness or one mortal misfortune away from eternity.
Meanwhile, bloated with the wrong kind of anger, we stint on the kind that might actually do some good: “Everything turns away / Quite leisurely from the disaster,” as W.H. Auden observed in a poem on Pieter Breughel’s painting “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.”
And so it is in Washington as the founder of GLSEN continues to bring his sexually charged messages to the public schools. Many people saw something incredible — an activist who wrote the forward to “Queering Elementary Education,” which details “the importance of including (homo)sexualities in elementary schools,” now put in charge of the well-being of children.
And instead of getting angry in the right way, many simply moved on.
Mary Eberstadt is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, contributing writer to First Things and author of “The Loser Letters: A Comic Tale of Life, Death, and Atheism,” forthcoming from Ignatius Press. This column was adapted from a series that originally appeared on The Catholic Thing (www.thecatholicthing.org).
Five steps to calming down (sidebar)
Ronda Chervin, author of “Taming the Lion Within: 5 Steps From Anger to Peace” (Simon Peter Press, $12.95) and a philosophy professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., offers these tips for people looking to nip their anger in the bud.
- Be grateful for everything good in your life.
- Imagine hearing a tape of all your thoughts, words and deeds for one day.
- Make a praise list, especially for children.
- Become aware of what your gloom and nagging do to the atmosphere around you.
- Rejoice in the little things. What gift did God give you today?
Good and Bad Forms of Anger (sidebar)
Anger in and of itself is not necessarily immoral. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:
“‘To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit,’ but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution ‘to correct vices and maintain justice.’ If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. The Lord says, ‘Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment’” (No. 2302).