(revised 8/14/2011 to correct the misattribution identified in the comments below. Apologies for the original error. hdb)
Kimberly Jo Simac is on a crusade.
The Tea Party candidate for the Wisconsin recall election in District 12, where incumbent Jim Holperin risks losing his State Senate seat on August 16, Simac raises horses and writes books. To date, she has written four books for children (with a fifth due out in early 2012), as part of her "I Can Be a Star" series that began, interestingly, with two books about hockey: When I Grow Up, I'm Going to Be a Hockey Star! ("For all who dream of playing hockey!") and its sequel, Girls Play Hockey Too! ("For girls who dream of playing hockey!"). The next three books in the series, though, take "being a star" to the next level, readying children for the (apparently likely) event that they will have to defend their country against threats to God's plan for America.
|Simac's books are sold here.|
But, alas, a child did not write this book, and as tempting as it is to expand this critique, Kim Simac's book doesn't really warrant a literary analysis, because it's not literature. It's propaganda.
The book, on the surface, seems an innocent enough celebration of patriotism. It's dedicated "To all who love America..." It opens and closes with reverent respect to the boy's grandpa, who "served for you and me. So that all of us here could have freedom guaranteed" (see what I mean about the rhyme?). The boy goes to school, admires the flag, recites the Pledge:
We say the "Pledge of Allegiance."
I hold my hand
over my heart.
"liberty and justice for all"
are one of the best parts.
He plays army with his friends ("I have to stand guard and be ready, should my enemies pay me a call") and says his prayers at night, asking God "to keep the world a happy place where all children can be safe to play."
But, completely devoid of plot, the book amounts to nothing more than catalog of reasons to fear for the safety of national security, and thinly veiled innuendo that all of the things of value in being American are threatened by some unnamed and mysterious forces. Call it jingoism lite.
In his favorite class, history, for example, our narrator learns
How soldiers gave their lives
to set others free.
How brave men changed
the world so God's
plan could be.
At the 4th of July parade, he stands on the curb, holding a balloon that says "God Bless America." His father informs him that "there may come a time when we may have to say... "This land belongs to you and me, and it might take a war to keep it that way!" The illustration for this page shows a family of at the breakfast table, watching television, the twin towers engulfed in smoke.
God's plan? Mysterious people trying to take our land? The need for war? All of the Tea Party rhetoric of American exceptionalism, isolationism, and anti-intellectualism is neatly woven into the fabric of this book and its illustrations, dangerously normalizing a perspective that ensures a new generation of blindly jingoistic thinking, fear and suspicion.
There's a famous expression that's usually attributed to the 1935 novel, It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis: "When fascism comes to America it wil be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." While this quote isn't actually in that text, it sums up the argument Lewis makes in his novel. For all their talk of limited government, Tea Party politics confirms precisely the sort of threat Lewis predicted: a religious agenda of irrational, reactionary politics with a decidedly anti-intellectual bent that severely limits individual freedoms in its attempt to forcibly impose and enforce the illusory "freedoms" it resolutely self-defines. A less-quoted line from Lewis' book exposes this threat even further:
I am convinced that everything that is worth while in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever.
This is the danger of not taking "innocent" books like Simac's seriously. Her crusade is comparing public schools to Nazis, and in October of 2010, she posted the following on her blog:is on record
The scary comparisons of the indoctrination tactics of our youth today and those of the Hitler Regime of past.
I am done raising my kids but if I was a young parent today I would take my kids out of the public school system today. At what point will we stop talking about the comparisons to what is occurring today and what actually happened by the regime of the Nazi's in the past?... Take the commercial that Glenn Beck showed from British Progressives that explains to little children that if they do not listen to their teachers recommendations on subjects such as carbon emissions, they could have their heads blown off. Add to that Kindergarten Sex Ed classes and I really wonder how it is American parents smile and kiss their children good bye every morning and in good conscience hand their most precious resource over to the hands of such questionable people.
"Such questionable people?" Nazi regime? These can't be the same people teaching the boy in the book that "God's plan" demands the military defense of America at any cost?
To be fair, let's listen to Simac's defense of this quote (and, ironically, its removal from her website):
"That posting was talking about how we need to be careful about how the world is changing. About how we need to be careful about what it is we are putting into our schools. And we are being careful. We do need to have parent involvement and to make sure that we all work together to make sure that our American values are protected, and defended. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that."
Our American values. There you have it. For Simac, and the Tea Party that supports her, it all boils down to "our American values." But what is implied here is that "our" values are not shared by all Americans, and - worse - that "others" (foreigners, teachers, minorities, Democrats, Hollywood types, Unitarian Universalists, etc) possess "values" which are a direct threat to their very way of life.
On the website advertising her book, American Soldiers is described as a book which "relays the importance of protecting America's freedoms and our fragile way of life." Our fragile way of life. Simac, and her Tea Party supporters, believe they are more patriotic than the rest of us. They believe they are more religious than the rest of us. They believe that God is on their side, and against the rest of us. They say things like "love it or leave it" to people who disagree with them on policy points. This is not a patriotic view. It is an insular, reactionary, divisive, and, ultimately, fallacious view that is dangerous to all of us, but particularly catastrophic to our children.
The fourth book in Simac's series, With a Rifle by My Side: A Second Amendment Lesson (2010), won the Christian Small Publishers Association's 2011 Book of the Year award for books ages 4-8. The fact that it won this award speaks volumes, considering the eligibility standards for the CSPA award:
Books must be Christian in nature, promote the Christian faith, and intended for the Christian marketplace. The Christian marketplace is defined as the marketplace that is served by CBA member retail stores (mainly individuals who maintain Catholic or Protestant beliefs and doctrines).
While it's somewhat of a relief to know that this book is not on the shelves of local libraries (and worth noting that the autographed Madison Public Libraries copy I received of American Soldier was donated by the Eagle River Rotary Club "In appreciation to those who have served to protect our great country"), I am still waiting for it to arrive via interlibrary loan and haven't had opportunity to review it yet. I look forward to receiving it, so that I can get some answers as to the mysterious connection Simac must make within its pages to connect gun ownership and use to "promoting the Christian faith," and learn how exactly she positions the second amendment within the parameters of "Catholic or Protestant beliefs and doctrines." My guess is that she does so by continuing the Manifest Destiny myth she promotes in American Soldier: God wants me to live in America. God wants me to have a gun. America is a Christian nation which must be protected from outsiders at all costs. But that's just speculation. I'll reserve judgment until I read the book. Maybe it's good. My hopes are not particularly high, though. Simac publishes her books through her own company because, in her words, "I couldn't find a publisher." There's good reason for that.
The fifth book in her series, When Life Began for Me, will be published in 2012. Simac describes the books as follows on The Great Northern Adventure Company website:
"When Life Began for Me" is a book about life and when it actually begins. This book will support the pro-life movement and work to teach young children that though we have a special day we were born on, each life actually begins at a much earlier time. Simac hopes to provide youngsters true knowledge about conception so that it may be drawn upon later in life.
Still think Simac's not pushing an agenda in her "literature"? If Simac thinks propaganda like this is the best way to reach children, it's no wonder she sees public schools as "Nazi" indoctrination camps. Indoctrination is the only "education" she understands.
Kim Simac sells Tea Party propaganda to children, pure and simple. She wraps it up in an American flag and calls it patriotism. Despite their friendly and childish veneer, her books breed fear, isolationism, xenophobia and encourage a profound misreading of the Founding Fathers' vision of a secular state where all have equal rights, freedoms and opportunities. Kim Simac does not believe in the separation of church and state. She does not believe in equal opportunity. She does not believe that all Americans are entitled to equal rights. She does not support the Wisconsin Idea of education as the pinnacle of our intellectual freedoms. She, like her Tea Party cohort, has hijacked the very idea of patriotism and corrupted it into a jingoistic mess of anti-American talking points, which she force-feeds on children through her propagandist books. Ironically, in an attempt to counter what she sees as a threat in public education and the loss of "values," Simac's books represent the very thing she fears.
American Soldier Proud and Free closes with the words "I believe America is something worth fighting for." It is my recommendation that parents who agree with this statement do not let their kids anywhere near Kim Simac's books unless they want to use them to teach kids a lesson about intolerance, distrust and fear-mongering. Kim Simac may be a Tea Party star at the moment, but her "You Can Be a Star" series is little more than a crusade to impose a very narrow, very restrictive, very un-American agenda on our children. And yet she ironically dedicates her book to "all who love America." If you're one of these people, and you live in Wisconsin's District 12, I highly recommend you vote for Jim Holperin on August 16.
Don't believe what you've read here? Or just can't get enough of Kimberly Jo Simac? Watch this video to hear Simac discuss her lack of understanding of the U.S. Constitution, her disbelief in the separation of church and state, her thoughts on the 2nd Amendment, and her theory that homeschooling is the best way to avoid the dangers of free-thinking that come with attendance in public schools. (This video is Part C of a 3-part series. Check out the rest on YouTube)
Editor's note: Readers may be interested to know that Kim Simac's children's book about gun ownership may have impressed the CSPA, but the National Rifle Assocation has endorsed Jim Holperin for Senate, giving him an A rating and citing his "strong and vocal support of our right to keep and bear arms”
Jim Holperin has also received the endorsement of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association: "The Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) announced its endorsement of Jim Holperin in his reelection campaign to represent the 12th State Senate District. The WPPA’s board of directors, which is comprised of active law enforcement officers from all across the state, overwhelmingly chose to support Holperin after closely evaluating his record against that of his challenger, Kim Simac."