By Andrew Malekoff
I doubled back through my notes and re-watched the video. I wanted to be certain that what I was witnessing was not the product of artificial intelligence, but an actual elected U.S. representative making contemptible public claims about what constitutes motherhood.
During an April 26 hearing of the Subcommittee for the Coronavirus Pandemic regarding school reopening guidance, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) asked witness Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, if she was a mom
Weingarten, who is married to Sharon Kleinbaum, rabbi of the world’s largest LGBTQ synagogue, answered Greene by stating that although she was not a biological mother, she was stepmother to her partner’s two daughters.
Greene responded: “The problem is people like you need to admit that you’re just a political activist, not a teacher, not a mother and not a medical doctor.”
Not a mother?
After listening to Greene’s characterization of motherhood, Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and an adopted child himself, tweeted to Greene: “…not a biological mother…? Well @RepMTG, the woman who adopted me, cared for me, raised me, loved me, inspired me, disciplined me, educated me and at 95 still smiles when I walk in the room didn’t need biology to be my mother.”
“In 2019, 120,869 children were adopted in the United States,” according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. “This is a 9 percent increase (9,726) from the 111,143 children adopted in 2015.” Moreover, the Step Family Foundation reported that more than half of U.S. families are remarried or recoupled, which represents a significant number of children with adoptive and stepmothers, which Greene has summarily invalidated.
Her scurrilous charge against Weingarten only serves to emphasize Greene’s innate cruelty, which has become the coin of the realm for MAGA extremists under the consistent role modeling of Donald Trump.
As journalist Adam Serwer framed it: “Cruelty is the point.”
For instance, on April 27 during a campaign stop at a Manchester, N.H., diner, Trump embraced Jan. 6 defendant Micki Larson-Olson, a QAnon adherent who served prison time for her role in the Capitol attack.
Lars-Olson said she “would like a front seat of Mike Pence being executed” for treason, NBC News reported on April 28.
Following her close encounter with the ex-president, Lars-Olson said, as reported in the April 28 Daily Beast newsletter, “If I were to imagine what it would be like to hug Jesus Christ—not that I’m saying President Trump is Jesus Christ—but just you know, if I was to imagine what it would be like to hug Jesus Christ, that’s what it felt like for me.”
She went on to say that every lawmaker who voted to certify the 2020 election should be executed.
These might seem like dissimilar illustrations, but they are all part of a piece that can be taken as a whole or disassembled. No matter, the pieces fit together. They fit in any form, because cruelty is the point.
It only takes a slight shift of gears and locations to see the spreading contagion of cruelty that is Trump’s legacy as he has been facing rape and defamation charges in a civil trial in Manhattan federal court.
In his belligerent cross examination of Trump accuser E. Jean Carroll, attorney Joe Tacopina asked her if she screamed during the alleged sexual assault. Carroll schooled him that all rape victims do not react in the same way or in the way others might expect them to act, regardless of convenient misogynist myths to the contrary.
“When you’re fighting and being sexually assaulted and raped, because you are not a screamer, as you describe it, you wouldn’t scream?” asked Tacopina, as the New York Times reported May 2
“You can’t beat up on me for not screaming,” Carroll replied. One of the reasons women don’t come forward, she said, “is because they are always asked, ‘Why didn’t you scream?’”
Of course, Tacopina already knows that. But it doesn’t comport with what is typically expected of a rape victim. Pursuing this line of questioning is a way of revictimizing the accuser. Cruelty is the point, trauma extended and compounded.
In recent years, much has been said about the staggering rise of incivility in America. The usual – chronic discourteousness, disrespectful language in public, encroaching on others’ boundaries, reckless driving, and so on.
Greene and Trump’s behaviors are characteristic of MAGA extremism and have advanced well beyond incivility to crass indecency and dehumanization, infecting the American bloodstream in order to optimize polarization and reach the ultimate goal: authoritarian rule.
They do what they do effortlessly. Never a sign of conscience or shame. None whatsoever. Only unbridled recklessness and cruelty, resting on a sinking foundation of cotton candy.
And, still, there is little objection by members of the Republican Party. “The muscle memory of Republican cowardice never ends,” remarked Charlie Sykes, editor-in-chief of the website the Bulwark.
If we are “in a battle for the soul of America,” as President Biden has asserted, “we’re in the middle of a moral struggle over who we are as a nation,” stressed New York Times columnist David Brooks.
Perhaps nothing captures what we are up against in that struggle more than Marjorie Taylor Greene arbitrating what constitutes motherhood in 2023.
Happy Mothers’ Day!