At one of my wife’s business conferences, I found myself seated at dinner across from a nice white-haired old lady who had raised her family in Lexington, Massachusetts. Looking for a topic of conversation, I asked, “Have you kept up with this business about David Parker?”
“Have I!” she exclaimed. “My daughter is a community activist, and she’s been telling me all about it. Do you know that that Parker moved to Lexington two years ago and just waited for the right time so the right-wing religious types could push their agenda on Lexington’s public schools?”
I hope I didn’t drop my jaw.
“But that’s not true,” I said, starting the discussion (which stayed most polite) along today’s familiar path: a story versus the facts. Against stories, I have begun to think, facts scarcely stand a chance anymore.
HERE ARE THE FACTS about David Parker. He went to the office of Estabrook Elementary School principal Joni Jay on April 27 this year to object to his five-year-old son’s having been exposed to material that described same-sex couples as one of several normal family groupings. As Wendy McElroy writes on the Fox News website, “By law, Massachusetts’s schools must notify parents before discussing sexuality with children.” Parker and his wife had not been notified, despite having exchanged many e-mails with the principal on the subject.
Somebody, it is unclear who, probably Lexington superintendent of schools William J. Hurley, called the Lexington police. The police arrested Parker on a trespass charge. Parker spent the night in jail.
A demonstration, with a police permit, was held in support of Parker on September 6. It attracted people from beyond Lexington, the issue having been publicized thoroughly on conservative websites. (The newspapers and TV stations almost completely ignored it at first.) An organized crowd of counter-demonstrators also showed up. When TV trucks appeared, some nasty confrontations developed, apparently started by the counter-demonstrators (many of them also from outside Lexington, and also attracted by Web postings).
By then, the fable had taken hold of Parker as a mole for a right-wing religious juggernaut determined to take over Lexington’s public schools. Alternatively, he was a martyr to the “homosexual agenda.” In fact, Parker did not object to material about same-sex families being in public school curricula. Personally, he and his wife, though they are Christians who have renewed their faith, do not proselytize, nor even describe their religious views, though invited to do so. He speaks carefully, rationally, in a sophisticated manner.
He just wanted to be notified of same-sex family material in the daily lesson.
Never mind. It all got buried by stories.
STORIES STICK. They catch on in the culture. They share some of the satisfying charm of a popular song’s “hook,” a joke’s key line, or a radio ad jingle. They tell well. They repeat well. They employ imagery and leitmotif (“Scalito,” “gravitas”). Anybody can tell them. Everybody does.
At the Squaw Valley Writer’s Conference back in the mid-eighties, I said, in a roundtable discussion, that, if I could have a career like any writer’s, it would be William Buckley. I had just read Overdrive and had impressed by how happily Buckley charged through his life and career.
When the general pooh-poohing died down, another participant piped up to say that a friend of hers had met Buckley at a conference back East, and “He had the worst case of dandruff of anybody you’ve ever seen.”
Some years later, while Benjamin Netanyahu was Prime Minister of Israel, a friend of ours announced solemnly in conversation that “You’d better watch out for that guy. He’s a real serious abuser of women.”
I have heard nothing in the decades since about either WFB’s scalp or Mr. Netanyahu’s relations with the opposite sex. Those stories stuck less well, and proliferated less well, than some others. But they are the same in kind, substance, and technique as…well, as the one Frank Rich of the New York Times wrote in his column and defended on Meet the Press on October 23.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online