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I WITNESS: Raised by wolves

If I were a Republican raising children, I would not know where to turn for examples of moral rectitude, or kindness, or even rational thought.

I’ll admit it: My parents were strict. Very strict. I’ve received more than one spanking in my life, each one of them preceded by behavior that my parents considered unacceptable. I can tell you, frankly, that if I had ever cursed at my parents, or publicly embarrassed my family in any way, I would have been spitting out my teeth for a week.

My parents pointed to the president, whoever the president was, as a model of probity and good manners. While they never suggested that I might someday grow up to be president (they knew me well enough to understand, accurately, that I would never be presidential material), they used the presidency as an object lesson on how to navigate life’s hurdles and challenges with thoughtfulness, compassion, and grace.

That model extended to other public figures as well. They pointed to Bobby Kennedy as a mensch; they pointed to Shirley Chisolm as a mensch; they pointed to Martin Luther King as a mensch. The same was true of Mahatma Ghandi, a major mensch. Ditto Nelson Mandella and Golda Meir, who also merited their parental seal of approval. My parents thought of all of them as people of good character.

This leads me to wonder to what, and to whom, today’s American parents point when providing their children with models of good behavior. I feel especially sorry for Republican parents, who have pretty slim pickings from whom to choose.

If I were a Republican raising children, I would not know where to turn for examples of moral rectitude, or kindness, or even rational thought. Would I point to Marjorie Taylor Greene, running down the street with a microphone and a video camera, harassing and screaming at the survivor of a high school mass shooting? Jim Jordan and James Comer, waving around a KGB agent’s propaganda about the Biden “crime” family?

Would I point to Matt Gaetz, with his history of drug use and paying under-aged girls for sex? George Santos, who is unable to open his mouth without lying? Peter Navarro, who proudly announced his plot to subvert an election on national TV, but refused to speak to Congress about that very topic when he was issued a lawful subpoena? Steve Bannon, who advocates the violent overthrow of democracy and looks like he hasn’t bathed since 1978? How about Lauren Bobert groping her boyfriend in a public venue and then making a drunken scene when asked to leave? And by all means, let’s not forget an addled Rudy Giuliani, hair dye dripping down his face, spouting hogwash about dead Venezuelans and voting machines.

Perhaps most problematic is the object lesson provided by the Republican standard-bearer, Donald J. Trump, and his devoted fan base.

I think it betrays a lack of good upbringing to instruct your admirers to “beat the hell” out of people who disagree with you.

I think it is a sign of bad manners when, instead of using your words to express your feelings, you communicate, instead, by throwing plates of food against the wall.

It is certainly a sign of bad manners to falsify records, lie to lenders, refuse to pay the contractors you have engaged as your employees, and fire people by tweet.

Stiffing your creditors, even when ordered by a judge to pay them? A mark of poor upbringing.

Taking things that don’t belong to you and refusing to give them back? My parents used to refer to that as theft, and cautioned against it in the strongest of terms.

Screaming, ranting, cheating, and lying because you lost an electoral contest? I don’t know about you, but my parents warned me to be gracious in defeat; anything else would have been poor sportsmanship, and poor sportsmanship was, of course, a mark of bad character, as was paying someone else to take your college entrance exams for you, or cheating at golf.

I think most of us would agree that it betrays a lack of civility when a mob over-runs the United States Capitol, defecates in the rotunda, and tries to hang the vice president on their way to overthrowing the government. Didn’t their parents teach them to poop in the toilet? Didn’t their parents tell them that lynch mobs are not appropriate social companions? Didn’t their parents mention that trespassing and beating up policemen is the prelude to a prison sentence?

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

I recently watched a film of a Kansas GOP fundraiser in which participants were invited to punch, kick, and curse at an effigy of Joe Biden. These were not children; no, they were grown-ups who were raised by wolves. The same wolves must have also raised the person who painted a picture of a hog-tied Biden on his pickup truck.

Of course, all of this leads to some obvious questions: Is that the way you behave in front of your children? Do you poop in the foyer of their school when they lose a basketball game, and then erect a scaffold to hang the referee? When you are annoyed with the CEO of your company, do you make a piñata with his or her likeness, hang it in your office, and invite your coworkers to beat the stuffing out of it with a stick, or put a poster depicting your hog-tied supervisor on the wall above your desk? Do your children walk past the “F—k Biden” sign on your front lawn on their way to and from the school bus each day? Are they the same children who go to school and curse at their teachers because you’ve given tacit permission to be as crude and disrespectful as possible?

There is an old expression in Yiddish that I believe is the same in German: “Nicht vor dem Kind,” meaning, “Not in front of the child.”

I feel very sorry for Republican parents. They are hard-pressed for models of appropriate behavior among their leaders, or even among their fellow Republicans, whom they can use as exemplars of common decency. John McCaine is gone. Mitt Romney has had enough and is leaving Washington, as has Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney. The gradual exodus of Republican legislators with good manners and good character is growing into a stampede.

Slim pickings, indeed.

But do not despair—all is not lost. While not every elected Democrat or Independent is a model of appropriate behavior (Henry Cuellar and Bob Menendez come to mind, as do certain members of “the Squad”), they are the outliers of their parties. Most elected Democrats and Independents, whether you agree with their policy positions or not, appear to understand the basic principles of common courtesy.

You, too, can save your children from devolving into feral animals who have no respect for anyone or anything, including the rule of law.

You can join a different party.

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