Overview:

The Senate Republicans interviewing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson can't suddenly pretend to care about children, can they?

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The Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson are taking a hypocritical turn where Republicans are pretending to care about children and it’s pissing me off. Like, no. Just no.

Maybe this is just on my mind because I’m teaching an anthropology elective about the history and culture of sex education, wherein we’ve repeatedly seen just how much sex-ed policies are not about what benefits kids, but rather what makes adults comfortable. But I am now quite pissed off about how Senate Republicans are wielding the victims of child pornography like a cudgel against a qualified jurist, as though Republicans have always been the defenders of childhood. Which no, they have not.

As documented at The Hill, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley among others have been grilling Jackson about her supposedly lenient sentencing of child pornography cases.

Among other problems, Jackson protested that the Republicans did not take into account the recommendations of probation offices in these cases. So, they’re working from incomplete information.

Further, as documented in The Washington Post, Jackson clarified that prison sentences are just one component of the overall sentencing: “And then I impose a significant sentence and all of the additional restraints that are available in the law. These people are looking at 20, 30, 40 years of supervision. They can’t use their computers in a normal way for decades.” That, um, doesn’t sound super lenient to me.

In a list of cases compiled at FactCheck.org, it’s apparent that Jackson’s sentencing is consistent with other important factors, such as plea agreements sought by prosecutors. The evidence does not support the accusations that Jackson is being lenient or has no discretion; it shows that she was using her own judgment while doing her job, often within required constraints of the multiple factors that go into composing the criminal justice system.

Republicans wield the health and safety of children as a weapon in these situations, when in reality, they’re perfectly content to let children languish in unhealthy and unsafe situations.

But you know what really gets my goat? When Republicans wield the health and safety of children as a weapon in these situations, when in reality, they’re perfectly content to let children languish in unhealthy and unsafe situations.

The Republican party threatens school lunches for hungry children. Republicans have used children’s healthcare as a bargaining chip. Every single Republican voted against the monthly child allowance approved in 2021 (in the prior link, Robert Reich writes about this and other issues, asserting that Republicans can no longer claim to be the party of “family values” when they are so clearly anti-family).

And then of course there are all the bills that target kids who are different: Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill, Texas’s attacks on transgender children, the nation-wide push to ban Critical Race Theory (which is not being taught in schools anyway FFS) when in reality children of color already face many impacts of racism regardless of whether we talk about them or not.

Republicans don’t want kids to know how their bodies work, so they don’t support comprehensive sex education (which the UN among others has found improves health outcomes across the board).

Republicans don’t want kids to know history, so in states where they’re in control, book bans and educational gags are rising.

Child marriage is still legal in 44 U.S. states, and guess who’s often voting to keep it that way? Republicans (as detailed in this Politico piece, which is a really amazing but also long read).

I don’t have time to go into all the conservative-fueled moral panics that have claimed to care about children on the one hand, while the other hand continues to deprive them of basic rights and security⁠—from the “white slavery” panics of the early 1900s to Pizzagate just a few years ago⁠—but it’s a thing, trust me. A very disappointing thing.

What I’m seeing right now in the confirmation hearings just confirms this long history of Republicans/conservatives claiming to care about children when it’s convenient, when in reality, they want children to remain hungry, ignorant, and without access to health care. And that’s just the white kids: kids of color, queer kids, and so on, now they apparently deserve event worse, to be belittled and dehumanized at every turn.

So I don’t want to hear Republicans saying they care about children ever-a-fucking-gain until they change their policies and start supporting the actual lives of actual children in this country.

Jeana Jorgensen

FOXY FOLKORIST Studied folklore under Alan Dundes at the University of California, Berkeley, and went on to earn her PhD in folklore from Indiana University. She researches gender and sexuality in fairy...