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The Audacity of Audacity: The “Groundhog Day” of Republican Extremism

Dealing with social radicals in the Republican party is beginning to feel like the movie Groundhog Day. It’s the same depressing thing every damn day.

Each day brings another outrageous statement about women, sex, rape, marriage or pregnancy that, each day, the rest of the GOP wants to reassure us is a weird outlier. They insist these comments are chronic misstatements, unfairly misconstrued, and not representative of Republican beliefs.

The latest comes from Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who said in a debate Tuesday: “I just struggled with it myself for a long time. But I came to realize: Life is that gift from God that I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” 

Romney and a few but not by any means all of the GOP say that this doesn’t represent their views.

But people in any given party can only say so many “extreme” things a day before, by definition, they simply stop being extreme. 

By now we’ve surpassed that point, and the quota of “excusable extremism” has been filled.

More disturbing than the comment itself was Mourdock’s attempt to clarify it. He stated that he finds rape abhorrent (does this place him in the liberal faction of his political universe?!) and that anyone who would “misconstrue” his comments to the contrary that either he or God supported rape was “absurd and sick.”

Actually, Mr. Mourdock, no one is “misconstruing” your comment as an endorsement of rape. That’s a red herring, designed to reassure female voters that your policy cruelty is rendered innocuous by your personal compassion.

Instead, your statement is alarming because it evinces no understanding, curiosity, or respect for women’s lives, bodies, subjectivity, and rights in its rush to defend a zygote at any cost.

And it’s disturbing because it exhibits no discomfort with the idea that your personal interpretation of  “God’s will” is a basis upon which to legislate women’s lives and even their feelings—even on matters as horrific as rape, and as profound as motherhood.

Your impassioned reassurance that you find violent physical assault and injury to be a bad thing—and similar comments by Akin and others that they’re not meanies but good people who have individual sympathy for individual women—is irrelevant to the issue at hand, insulting, and utterly non-exculpatory.

The comments by Mourdock and the rest keep coming. The “I have compassion” ploy isn’t working.

It’s not working because Mourdock and the rest are saying what they mean. That’s the elegant, Ockham’s razor explanation. Furthermore, what they’re saying has a political pattern, consistency and logic that reveals its roots in Republican thought. All of these comments trivialize, dismiss, or downplay the violence of rape. This bolsters and rationalizes a social conservative view that under no circumstances whatsoever should abortion be legal.

Trivializing or simply refusing to see the harm of rape, or subordinating that harm to the more sacred protection of the blastula, or attempting to chalk it up as God’s will and make lemonade out of lemons isn’t some whacky, offensive comment. It supports a view of abortion that’s in the GOP mainstream, as evidenced by the party’s platform language.

I’m sorry that these figures keep popping up like a game of whack-a-mole. Push Todd Akin down in Missouri and up pops Mourdock in Indiana. Hit Georgia state representative Terry England and you get Republican Senate candidate Tom Smith in Pennsylvania.  

The extremists of the GOP are calling, and they want their party back. Maybe they want to cash in their chips for all the mobilization and support they’ve given to Republican candidates who came a-courting for their votes for decades.

That’s why these “crazy” folks pop up, every damn day. Because they’re not crazy—or alone.

A “pulpit freedom” movement supports political endorsements, against IRS rules, in churches and mega-churches. The church-state line is fragile and this is what taking the party from moderates looks like: fundamentalists have faith-based, intransigent, anti-humanist, and anti-secularist views of sex, marriage, and embryos, and they want the rest of us to follow them and love them, too. I think that’s called theocracy.

Live today! Unfiltered lessons of a female entrepreneur

Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think, live at 1pm EDT today.

Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Two-thirds of parents say technology makes parenting harder

Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.

Sex & Relationships
  • Today's parents believe parenting is harder now than 20 years ago.
  • A Pew Research Center survey found this belief stems from the new challenges and worries brought by technology.
  • With some schools going remote next year, many parents will need to adjust expectations and re-learn that measured screen usage won't harm their children.

Parents and guardians have always endured a tough road. They are the providers of an entire human being's subsistence. They keep that person feed, clothed, and bathe; They help them learn and invest in their enrichment and experiences; They also help them navigate social life in their early years, and they do all this with limited time and resources, while simultaneously balancing their own lives and careers.

Add to that a barrage of advice and reminders that they can always spend more money, dedicate more time, or flat-out do better, and it's no wonder that psychologists worry about parental burnout.

But is parenting harder today than it was, say, 20 years ago? The Pew Research Center asked more than 3,600 parents this question, and a majority (66 percent) believe the answer is yes. While some classic complaints made the list—a lack of discipline, a disrespectful generation, and the changing moral landscape—the most common reason cited was the impact of digital technology and social media.

A mixed response to technology

children using desktop computer

Parents worry that their children spend too much time in front of screens while also recognizing technologies educational benefits.

(Photo: Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

This parental concern stems not only from the ubiquity of screens in children's lives, but the well-publicized relationship between screen time and child development. Headlines abound citing the pernicious effects screen time has on cognitive and language development. Professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, issue warnings that too much screen time can lead to sleep problems, lower grades, weight problems, mood problems, poor self-image, and the fear of missing out—to name a few!

According to Pew's research, parents—which Pew defines as an adult or guardian with at least one child under their care, though they may also have adult children—have taken these warnings to heart. While 84 percent of those surveyed are confident they know how much screen time is appropriate, 71 percent worry their child spends too much time in front of screens.

To counter this worry, most parents take the measured approach of setting limits on the length of time children can access screens. Others limit which technologies children have access to. A majority of parents (71 percent) view smartphones as potentially harmful to children. They believe the devices impair learning effective social skills, developing healthy friendships, or being creative. As a result, about the same percentage of parents believe children should be at least 12 years old before owning a smartphone or using social media.

But a deeper concern than screen time seems to be what content those screens can access. An overwhelming 98 percent of those surveyed say parents and guardians shouldered the responsibility of protecting children from inappropriate online content. Far less put the responsibility on tech companies (78 percent) or the government (65 percent).

Parents of young children say they check the websites and apps their children use and set parental controls to restrict access. A minority of parents admit to looking at call and text records, tracking their child's location with GPS, or following their child on social media.

Yet, parents also recognize the value of digital technology or, at least, have acquiesced to its omnipresence. The poster child for this dichotomy is YouTube, with its one billion hours played daily, many before children's eyes. Seventy-three percent of parents with young children are concerned that their child will encounter inappropriate content on the platform, and 46 percent say they already have. Yet, 80 percent still let their children watch videos, many letting them do so daily. Some reasons cited are that they can learn new things or be exposed to different cultures. The number one cited reason, however, is to keep children entertained.

For the Pew Research Center's complete report, check out "Parenting Children in the Age of Screens."

Screens, parents, and pandemics

Perhaps most troubling, Pew's survey was conducted in early March. That's before novel coronavirus spread wildly across the United States. Before shelter-in-place laws. Before schools shuttered their doors. Before desperate parents, who suddenly found themselves their child's only social and educational outlet, needed a digital lifeline to help them cope.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led many parents to rely on e-learning platforms and YouTube to supplement their children's education—or just let the kids enjoy their umpteenth viewing of "Moana" so they can eke out a bit more work. With that increase in screen time comes a corresponding increase in guilt, anxiety, and frustration.

But are these concerns overblown?

As Jenny Radesky, M.D., a pediatrician and expert on children and the media at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, told the New York Times, parents don't always need to view screen time as a negative. "Even the phrase 'screen time' itself is problematic. It reduces the debate to a black and white issue, when the reality is much more nuanced," Radesky said.

Radesky helped the American Academy of Pediatrics craft its statement about screen time use during the pandemic. While the AAP urges parents to preserve offline experiences and maintain limits, the organization acknowledges that children's media use will, by necessity, increase. To make it a supportive experience, the statement recommends parents make a plan with their children, be selective of the quality of media, and use social media to maintain connections together. It also encourages parents to adjust their expectations and notice their own technology use.

"We are trying to prevent parents from feeling like they are not meeting some sort of standard," Radesky said. "There is no science behind this right now. If you are looking for specific time limits, then I would say: Don't be on it all day."

This is good advice for parents, now and after the pandemic. While studies show that excessive screen time is deleterious, others show no harm from measured, metered use. For every fear that screens make our kids stupid, there's a study showing the kids are all right. If we maintain realistic standards and learn to weigh quality and quantity within those standards, maybe parenting in the digital age won't seem so darn difficult.

How meditation can change your life and mind

Reaching beyond the stereotypes of meditation and embracing the science of mindfulness.

  • There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what mindfulness is and what meditation can do for those who practice it. In this video, professors, neuroscientists, psychologists, composers, authors, and a former Buddhist monk share their experiences, explain the science behind meditation, and discuss the benefits of learning to be in the moment.
  • "Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience," explains psychologist Daniel Goleman. The science shows that long-term meditators have higher levels of gamma waves in their brains even when they are not meditating. The effect of this altered response is yet unknown, though it shows that there are lasting cognitive effects.
  • "I think we're looking at meditation as the next big public health revolution," says ABC News anchor Dan Harris. "Meditation is going to join the pantheon of no-brainers like exercise, brushing your teeth and taking the meds that your doctor prescribes to you." Closing out the video is a guided meditation experience led by author Damien Echols that can be practiced anywhere and repeated as many times as you'd like.
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