As Albert Einstein once observed, “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” For an egghead, Einstein possessed uncommon common sense. Look no farther than the Nutmeg State for proof.
A Wednesday afternoon discussion among education officials in Cheshire on safely reopening the state’s public schools descended into vitriol and chaos, as a small but unruly mob used profanity and intimidation tactics against Cheshire schools staff, superintendent Jeff Solan and state Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire.
The goon squad eventually turned its anger toward Gov. Ned Lamont, who was also present and had signed an executive order earlier this summer requiring students and school district employees to mask up until Sept. 30 to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus when school starts this week.
You would have thought Lamont had ordered the children of these parents to jump into a vat of boiling oil. The profanity and disrespect directed at public officials for trying to protect adults and children from harm was simply stunning.
Several unruly parents attempted to shout down the speakers at Highland Elementary School. A burly bearded man, looking at the speakers, chanted, “You guys are criminals – every single one of you!” Another father joined in the fun while holding his innocent baby aloft.
At one point in the Republican American video below, a girl sitting on her mother’s lap who looked to be seven or eight years old covered her ears – as if to say, “Not only are you people too loud, but you’re making fools of yourself.”
A belligerent woman got into Linehan’s face and shouted insults at the lawmaker as she walked out of the building. The same woman and the bearded man accosted Lamont as he, too, attempted to exit the building. When a trooper tried to protect Lamont by raising his arm, the bearded man screamed, “Don’t you ***king touch me!” Another man likened Lamont’s order to “Nazi Germany.”
The disrespect and implied threats directed at the governor and his State Police security detail as they walked out of the building were ugly and shocking. Thankfully, Lamont and his bodyguards remained calm, rather than escalating the situation by overreacting.
It is not exactly clear what this gang of knuckleheads was trying to accomplish. Obviously, Lamont was not going to change his order based on an encounter with a seething collection of maskless misfits.
More than anything, what the disrupters did – I can’t bring myself to call them protesters – appeared to be an effort to blow off some steam. On its face, there is nothing wrong with unburdening oneself of anger, but the vitriolic public outburst served no purpose but to embarrass the parents and reflect poorly on their cause and on the state generally.
First of all, they are simply wrong then they insist that masks harm children. A Hartford Courant analysis deconstructed that notion last week and observed that “the unmask movement is long on rhetoric but short on facts. From issues ranging from personal freedom to the effectiveness of masks, experts and scientists rebuffed many of the claims that continue to gain momentum on social media.”
Secondly, they’re setting an extremely poor example for their children. Political activism is an admirable habit. It should not include shouting, rudeness, profanity and a profound disrespect for institutions through which we effect the kind of change the anti-maskers are aiming for. This kind of in-your-face protest has no place in the realm of public discourse.
Sadly, the episode is a reflection of the times in which we live. Old-timers such as yours truly like to joke about how each successive generation of young people has devolved into self-indulgent slackers.
The reality is that the parents can be much worse. In the last 30 years alone, I’ve witnessed countless adults who have given parenting a bad name. Too many of them can’t even behave at their children’s soccer games. Parents have been known to charge into schools and noisily blame the teachers for the fact that their uncooperative child refuses to learn anything.
Special education attorney Christina Ghio, who makes her living challenging the decisions of school boards and advocating for irate parents in Connecticut, was nonetheless appalled and wisely wrote on Twitter in the first of a series of four tweets:
I’ve watched the videos of @GovNedLamont’s Education and Public Health Roundtable @TownofCheshire. The images of parents screaming at public officials, sometimes while holding or standing with young children, have been tough to watch. 1/4 — Christina Ghio (@ctchildlaw) August 26, 2021
Shockingly, state Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, had kind words for the Cheshire mob, calling Lamont an “authoritarian” and “King Ned,” and writing on Facebook: “God bless these parents for fighting for their freedoms, their rights as parents, and the rest of us who reassert our rights as free citizens – not subjects.”
Contributing op-ed columnist Terry Cowgill lives in Lakeville, blogs at PolitiConn and is managing editor of The Berkshire Edge in Great Barrington, Mass. Follow him on Twitter @terrycowgill or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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