This is my mom, Williamina McDiarmid Wollin (say that one three times fast – I dare you) who died in 2006. She was originally from Scotland and Yorkshire, someone who was very active in our community, League of Women Voters, a rebel feminist, nurse midwife, college professor, knitter, gardener, sewer and all around tough guy. She used to teach health, nutrition and child development at SUNY Cortland.
One of her foundation items was the concept of ‘the teachable moment’ – “It’s no good trying to put a baby on a potty over and over to try to convince them that depositing stuff in there is a good idea. Until a certain point, all that is going to happen is that you are the one being trained. The baby will rebel; you will have a nasty relationship with the child, and the child will associate you with forcing them to do things they do not want to do. Better to wait until they are older, when they can express to parents that they are feeling yucky and don’t want to feel yucky anymore, or that it’s something that they’ve seen their friends at play or preschool do and they think they can do it too.”
Having gotten three kids out of cloth diapers (I swear I had eczema for 7 years running for rinsing out diapers in the toilet) and through sleeping dry at night, I can tell you that my mom was absolutely right. Not that she was right about everything but in the case of ‘the teachable moment’, when babies, kids, and people are fundamentally ready to recognize something, make the decision to do something, and move forward, she had it right.
If she were alive today, to see what happened over the past week in terms of the American public’s response to Rush Limbaugh, I think she’d call it another ‘teachable moment.’ It’s not as if Limbaugh hasn’t been a complete and utter misogynistic asshole for years. It is not as if he has not been offensive and has not ‘personally attacked’ specific women before (and if my mom were alive at the time when Limbaugh referred to Michelle Obama as ‘uppity’, she’d have said, ‘And a good thing it is, too – we need more uppity women’). It’s not even that there have not been people who got pissed off about it. But nothing happened.
This time, though; people put together the lessons of the past year, of OWS, of the Arab Spring, and made some very important decisions:
1) As long as we behave as if Limbaugh is someone to be afraid of, then he wins and nothing changes.
2) Limbaugh is not afraid of US but the one thing that is valued is money, so attack the money.
3) The way to attack the money is to use the social and other media tools to get the outrage out AND give people venues to attack the money.
4) Keep attacking the money. The goal is NOT to have Limbaugh apologize;the goal is to cut off the money for his show. Clear Channel will only carry him as long as he makes money.
People were ready; teachable moment.