I went to Moms for Liberty’s Joyful Warrior Summit. 


In the last few years I hear parents from many different backgrounds talking about our national burden of incivility; talking about the fact that when we disagree, we can’t just talk. As a physician, I see this distressing trend in my own profession. Medical professionals disagree. Even before Covid, there was medical disagreement when famous athletes collapsed. But back in 1993, there was no social media for speculative keyboard warriors; there was little name-calling and no career canceling. Back then we recognized that medical professionals failing to discuss disagreements leads to a halting of the scientific process and distrust of the medical profession. Sadly, it’s not just my profession. 

Many news pieces leading up to the summit contained the words, ‘hate group” after every mention of Moms for Liberty. 

It didn’t square with me that moms that I had met, moms who saw eye to eye with much of the M4L mission, moms who simply craved involvement with their kids’ lives and education could all be casually labeled as haters by the press. Not only was I curious as to what I would find, I felt almost protective of moms who would be attracting what was gearing up to be epic protests

One of the first women I met was a bright and earnest black mother with a Masters of Education from an Ivy League University. 

In her previous job, she served as a residence hall director at a Christian school that has a boarding program. While on site, she was having a conversation with another employee, during which she expressed the thought that some of the increase in transgender students could be because of social contagion. A 15-year-old female student reported her to the school administration. The administration fired her and kicked her out of her on-campus apartment, leaving her almost no time to make arrangements for housing. She was accused of being racist against Asians despite having once been married to an Asian man and sharing three children with him.

Sadly, this was not her only bad experience when it came to gender issues. Before she was fired, she had accepted a position as program coordinator at a STEM summer camp for high schoolers that rents out dorms at universities. This single mom of three needed the money given that she was burning through savings staying at an Airbnb in a rough area. During the preparation for the students’ arrival, she was advised that a male student “identifies as female” and therefore was to be housed in a dorm room with a girl. They were to share a bathroom and sleep together behind a closed door for ten nights. When she asked clarifying questions about how the safety of the female student would be protected, the response was condescending. No concerns raised about the girl’s feelings or safety were entertained. She resigned. 

As she explained: “Losing the earnings of the summer camp hurt. If that girl were harmed, the burden on my conscience, and losing my license as a result would hurt a lot more. I couldn’t see a way to both protect a child, protect myself from litigation and work at the camp. As a state-mandated reporter, I felt obligated to call and file a complaint with the state’s reporting service. The agent who took my report assured me that I was right to call, but she wasn’t sure legally how to proceed to protect the female student.

Her words haunt me: “I’m left scared to work with students at all. I am gripped with fear of being made homeless again, losing my income, losing my health insurance, and having my name smeared. I’m scared of reprisals from the people who fired me, even though I didn’t do anything wrong.” The public ought to take notice that the same fears are echoed by the medical community. Incivility is leading to name-calling and career canceling, and is also leading to fear in two fields with shortages; education and medicine

My new friend stepped onto the street that night to be called a “racist.” Again. This time by protesters outside of the Moms for Liberty event. She wasn’t the only one. 

The next morning, Tia Bess, outreach director for Moms for Liberty, introduced Governor DeSantis. She described her autistic son, whose education was hurt by the early shutdowns. She told the audience that the previous night she had been called a racist by protesters. “Do I look like a racist, y’all?” she asked the crowd. (Bess is black.)

She and I spoke later. She told me how her son was now thriving beyond all expectations. She has gone on record as wanting to include outreach for Moms for Liberty in areas like “the ZIP codes I grew up in.” Bess will do this. She is an inspiration; she grew up knowing homelessness. 

Getting called a racist was a fairly couth tactic among protesters. From what I witnessed at the Moms for Liberty Summit, it was the protesters—not the attendees—who were trying to stir up trouble. Here are a few other things I saw: 

  • A street was vandalized with graffiti sprayed on a crosswalk that read “F*** off Nazi Moms!” 
  • Protesters carrying signs that read: “Your husbands are on grindr” and  “F*** moms for liberty.” 
  • Protesters threatening to take a young mother’s infant.
  • Protesters starting a chant: “anal sex, anal sex.”
  • Pictures of genitals painted on the street.

Inside, moms and dads, teachers, construction workers, business owners, attorneys, nurses, and others I met were busy talking about erasing learning loss and solutions to the mental health crisis. I could not find people who expressed “anti” LGBTQ sentiment. I could not find people who were “othering” those jeering them and calling them names. I found parents who wanted to decide for their own children when and what they learned about the topic of sexual education. I found parents who didn’t want their innocent children blamed for history. They wanted their children to remain innocent. 

And after returning home, I was glad to find it wasn’t just me. Some area reporters seemed to find the same things.  

I was glad to find out that the protests fizzled out. Maybe, if more of us can find others with whom we might disagree and just talk, maybe we can break down the incivility; and we can call a ceasefire on canceling and name-calling. Maybe we can understand one another, mom to mom, and get about the crucial task of raising our children, guiding their development, and ensuring their future opportunities are bright.