The kryptonite that bought Prop 8

via creative commons license from courosa on flickr

via creative commons license from courosa on flickr

Freeze-frame in memory from my daughter’s infancy:

She’s rolling around on the floor several feet away. I’m talking with someone on the couch. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a tall lamp post begin to fall in a trajectory towards my daughter’s head. I leap up from the couch and my body flies horizontally, lingering in mid-air to barely intercept the lamp post before it makes contact with her head. Then everything returns to normal, I’m back on the couch, and we resume our conversation.

In fact, what was happening behind the scenes was that my body was transforming from mild-mannered “parent” into cape-clad superhero, faster than the speeding lamp post that threatened my child. Parents in particular are instinctually familiar with this state, but I have learned that these powers used in service of good are also highly vulnerable to purposeful deception when the safety of kids is involved.

In Behind the numbers of Prop. 8 today in the LA Times, David Fleischer takes us through the revealing study of just how effectively the awesome power of parental instincts was exploited to move a half a million parents to pass Prop 8 in California:

The Yes on 8 campaign targeted parents in its TV ads. “Mom! Guess what I learned in school today!” were the cheery-frightening first words of the supporters’ most-broadcast ad. They emerged from the mouth of a young girl who had supposedly just learned that she could marry a female when she grew up.

Among the array of untrue ideas that parents could easily take away: that impressionable kids would be indoctrinated; that they would learn about gay sex; that they would be more likely to become gay; and that they might choose to be gay. California voters, depending on where they lived in the state, were exposed to the Yes on 8 ads 20 to 40 times.

This deception is the kryptonite that bought Prop 8. It’s important to note that these parents are far from evil. They are not motivated by hatred, as Fleischer points out most crucially:

Another misconception was that those who voted for Proposition 8 were motivated by hate. This does not describe most of the 687,000 who changed their minds in the closing weeks. After all, they supported same-sex marriage before the opposition peeled them away. Yes, they turned out to be susceptible to an appeal based on anti-gay prejudice. But they were frightened by misinformation.

Although it is is not news to folks close to the campaign that we lost because of these school scare tactics, it’s good to see it validated in today’s report. Yet while the No On Prop 8 campaign reacted as if stunned by the explosion of kryptonite, and the other side knew all too well we didn’t have time after the ad-bombs to recoup in the dwindling days of the election, we’ve all had no excuse to not see this coming again. In fact, the exact same ads were used with success to beat gay marriage just last year in Maine.

The blame is not on the parents who are only doing what they are instinctually conditioned to do. Likewise, the solution lies not in further trickery and deception. To truly help parents continue to do what they do best is to expose these scare tactics for what they are, but sadly, the element of fear remains a top-seller in our world. I have asked myself how to neutralize this element every single day post Prop 8.

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Save Our Schools: March 4 Day of Action

Under a bright blue sky, I joined my daughter and her elementary school, Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, in a walkout today to protest the planned massive and catastrophic budget cuts to an already fairly impoverished city school district. Over the next few days we expect many of the people who work at her school to receive pink slips. District-wide, over 900 people expect to be notified that they will be laid off.

People are marching around the country today to bring attention to the crisis in educational funding of all kinds — but in our community, the kids said it best.

We rallied in the schoolyard before we marched through the neighborhood. I spoke to some of the teachers and staff, who expressed not so much a (very real) fear for their own jobs as much as pride, admiration, and support for the kids. “It’s not about the adults; it’s about the kids that are going to be affected in the long run… We’re losing good teachers… which means we’re losing our children, the future,” said Coach Glenn Castro.

Save our Schools - Love, Lucy

Save our Schools – Love, Lucy

The kids had all made signs — my girl’s said “Save our schools; love, lucy.”  Others demanded to “Prioritize education” or begged “Please don’t take our teachers away.”Principal Christina Velasco banged the drum to the chorus of “Save our Schools” as we marched up Castro street, blocking traffic and getting a lot of cheers from the community. At Castro and Market Ms. Velasco led the group into a passionate sit-in:

“Today as you sit you’re sitting for your education — for your future. We need to let everyone know that it’s not ok that they’re cutting money and those cuts affect you.”

Some kids got up during the sit-in to address the crowd — and I can attest that there’s no passion quite like the passion of our community’s children. Andre said “Our teachers are our future and I don’t want to lose ANY of them!” People in the crowd were in tears as another student got up to talk about how he didn’t want to lose his teachers. “I don’t want to end up on the streets like other people,” he said.

These kids truly are our leaders. The truth they speak is pure and strong — and urgent. Are we listening?

Save Our Schools - Love, Your Future

Save Our Schools – Love, Your Future

Starving Our Future — Jamie Oliver at TED


I wish for everyone to help create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.
– Jamie Oliver, TED2010

Wie ihr es immer dreht und wie ihr’s immer schiebt
Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral.
Erst muß es möglich sein auch armen Leuten
Vom großen Brotlaib sich ihr Teil zu schneiden.
– Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera, 1928

TED prize-winner Jamie Oliver is mad about American obesity, and shared it freely with the audience at TED yesterday:

At one point in this impassioned talk largely about (re-)teaching kids about food, he shows a clip of school children who are totally baffled by these objects — common vegetables — that Oliver has brought into their class.

The problem is there are no food-knowledgeable people in the school system, he says, and he cites that if we really investigated what we fed kids at school, we’d find every government in the world guilty of child abuse.

Amongst his chronicles of the many terrible health affects of our country’s mainstream food, Oliver also offers hope — because this is a curable issue. “If I could come up here today with a cure for AIDS or cancer, you’d be fighting and scrambling to get to me. All this bad news is preventable — very very preventable.”

Real tangible change can be had, he says, from junk to fresh food: “six and a half grand per school — that’s all it takes.”

What is $6500 to the $6K ticket-holders in the TED audience? (With all respect to TED that we can watch the proceedings for free online).

Now — what is $6500 to schools faced immediately with $113 million dollars in cuts? It’s more than a luxury — it’s an impossibility.

And what is a school without well-nourished bodies and the minds they could support? We do nothing less than starve our future by malnourishing our children.

It’s a dizzying rollercoaster ride — from Oliver’s deadly iteration of the current situation to the hope that this is curable — to the tragedy of a rich nation preventing to fulfill this hope, and somehow, back to the hope that this is solvable. “It’s the future; it’s the only way,” says Oliver.