The Modern Political Pawn: Children

Our modern age has politicized everything. From the death of Harambe the gorilla, to Christmas trees on Starbucks cups, to safe spaces on college campuses, to gender-neutral bathrooms, pronouns, and toys. You name it, political life has engulfed it. ESPN is losing ratings because it spends too much time discussing politics; friends are un-following or un-friending other friends because of political statements made on social media; and people who eat at Chick-fil-A do so at the risk of someone guilt-tripping them into never eating there again. Even the new Marvel movie, Spiderman: Homecoming, included political/ social activism. Education, entertainment, food, and faith are rife with thick political connotation.

Naturally, some topics are always going to be political, but the cultural norm now is to politicize to the point of absurdity. This is evidenced by the fact that our culture has birthed the notion that to disagree with someone’s world view is to hate them; or it’s the sign of an unrealized phobia or -ism (e.g. racism, sexism, elitism, etcetera). This is not only false, it is absurd. Admittedly hate, phobias, and -isms exist, but it is not hate nor is it a phobia to disagree with someone. Quite the contrary, the hallmark of intellectual maturity is the ability to entertain an idea and not subscribe to it. Our culture, however, screams otherwise; it says that if someone has an idea, no matter how unfounded or unreasonable, it is hate not to subscribe to it. And thus, we politicize everything; for in doing so, we publicly coerce others into not only accepting our views but into adopting them as well.

The Politics of Parenting

One of the topics that naturally bleeds politics is parenting. In fact, parenting may be the origin of politicking since it is rooted in the debate about what is healthy for another human. Of course, if a parent has a particular belief about what is the healthiest thing to do for a child, our hyper-politicized culture guarantees that said parent is going to try to persuade other parents into accepting and/or adopting those beliefs. Vaccines are an obvious example. In the last few years, there’s been a surge of parents that don’t vaccinate based upon the belief that vaccines harm rather than help a child. In the next few years, I’d imagine multiple cases of whooping-cough and polio will end that surge. Epidurals, abortion, circumcision, breastfeeding, and spanking are all highly contentious topics. Again, a hyper-politicized culture guarantees that parents have passionate opinions concerning all of them, and those parents will be quick to publicize those opinions by any means necessary. Unfortunately, one of the more tragic symptoms of a hyper-politicized culture is that far too many parents, in their effort to forward their personal political ideologies, are now utilizing a new political pawn: their very own children. And they believe, because of the righteous intent of whatever cause they espouse, this is an acceptable practice. It most certainly is not.

Living in Reno, Nevada, one quickly comes to understand that Reno is a melting pot of juxtaposing culture, ideology, and politics. As such, opposing political protests (which may otherwise be called rallies, marches, demonstrations, or so on, but for consistency’s sake, I will simply refer to them as protests) are bound to happen. This was especially the case in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election. I’ve often seen protests occurring along Reno’s main thoroughfares. They have been in support of or in opposition to things like immigration, women’s rights, abortion, health care, and issues concerning the LGBTQ community. While I appreciate and respect free Americans exercising their First Amendment rights, what I don’t appreciate, nor do I respect, is the fact that there are far too many children at these protests being used as mascots for some group’s moral outrage. And in a culture where moral outrage is a recreational activity, children have become a political prop in a game that should only be played by adults. It’s disgusting.

Social activists across the political spectrum are eagerly dressing up their kids in homemade t-shirts and/or billboards and parading them through the streets. Their political accoutrement says things like “God Hates Fags,” “Don’t Touch The Pussy,” “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” “Guns Aren’t ‘Scary,’ Bad Guys Are,” “If You Build A Wall, My Generation Will Knock It Down,” “Trump is a Racist DICKtator,” “Keep the Frack Out of My Water,” “Fuck Donald Trump,” and “We Are Not Science Experiments.” I didn’t make any of these up; these are actual t-shirts and billboards. A simple Google search is all one needs to see how many children are being used as bait for a political coup. And while some of the aforementioned political t-shirts and billboards are more heinous than others, all of them are equal in their moral depravity because all of them were worn by a child. This is abuse. And in spite of how just one believes their cause to be, a child should not be the spokesperson for that or any cause. Children are not objects to be used, so I will say is again: this is abuse. Ironically, the little girl, who looks to be about 6-years old, who was holding the “We Are Not Science Experiments” sign is too young to understand that while her sign, which was clearly made by her parent(s), suggests she is not an experiment, she most certainly is. She is a social experiment. Politicians and social activists alike, in an effort to gain the moral high ground for their individual causes, have started experimenting with how exactly to gain that high ground; and they have landed upon children as their devious answer.

The Ends Don’t Justify the Means

Case in point: on July 24, 2017, President Donald Trump gave a miserable and politically charged speech to 40,000 Boy Scouts and their families at the National Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean, West Virginia. In response to the politicized word-vomit that was the speech, many called it “reckless” and “inappropriate.” Filmmaker Michael Moore, who I generally regard as a slovenly, worthless individual, said that the speech was “child abuse on a mass scale.” It’s about the only thing he’s ever said that I agree with: using children as political props is a form of child abuse. Our Republican President, however, is not the only one guilty of using children to make a political point. On June 19, 2017, the Democratic Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, held a public rally in an effort to fight a Republican-led effort to increase charter schools in New York. At the rally, de Blasio smugly and self-righteously proclaimed that “we don’t want our children treated as political pawns!” He made this statement as we was flanked by three school children, all of which were holding political signs. He was telling Republicans not to use children as pawns as he and dozens of other Democrats were using children as pawns.

To be somewhat fair, however, we’ve come to expect this sort of intellectual deficiency and moral hypocrisy from our politicians. I mean, that’s what makes them politicians. The people I am most disgusted by are the everyday parents who line the streets with their malicious signs, their vitriolic politics, and their supposedly #woke children as they preach their modern religion: politics. It’s ethically wrong. These children don’t have the intellectual, emotional, spiritual, or developmental capabilities to understand, appreciate, or cope with the partisan circus that is a protest. As such, they shouldn’t be there as pawns in their parent’s game. And for those that argue they are simply trying to make their child “aware,” or they are trying to “get them [their children] involved” in the “resistance” or the “revolution” or which ever slogan or hashtag one uses to justify exposing one’s child to the hostile and convoluted environment of a protest, I call bullshit. Parents who use their children for their personal gain in divorce proceedings are sleazy and unprincipled, and so are those that use their children for political gain. The end does not justify the means. I repeat, the end (one’s political candidate and/ or policy winning) does not justify the means (one’s child being used like a theatrical stage-prop).

Across time and culture when a society has chosen to use children to do the work of adults, we have not only frowned upon that society but we have legislated against such actions. For instance, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, the Western World saw it acceptable to use children in the work force. Naturally, this exposed children to dangerous working conditions and deprived them education. As a result, Western societies realigned their moral compass and collectively outlawed the use of children in the work force. This, however, isn’t the only example of children being pushed into the world of adults prematurely. To this day, children all over Africa, especially in countries like the Central African Republic, are being ripped from their homes in order to become child soldiers in the political wars and ongoing conflicts that adults wage. Of course, organizations like the United Nations and others are working to end this practice. Further, children all over Asia, especially in countries like Thailand, are being sold as sex slaves. And it goes without saying that hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals fight to end this type of moral depravity.

Children are Not Objects

The conclusion then is natural: children are not objects for sex; they are not objects for war; they are not objects for financial gain; they are not objects for personal gain; and they are not objects for political posturing. Sex, war, money, and politics are games reserved for adults. And oddly enough, they are games we consistently stumble through and altogether ruin. Therefore, if adults have such a hard time understanding and/ or coping with sex, war, money, and politics, what makes any one think that a child can properly negotiate these things? They can’t. So, parents, as righteous as you think your cause may be, stop using your child as a political prop, objects of your social agenda, or mascots for your moral outrage. Take them to a rally, but take them to observe, not to be exploited by adults looking to claim the moral high ground. Talk to them about politics, but do it in your home, not by yelling at your opponent in the streets. Show them it is acceptable to disagree with others, but not to the point of labeling, threatening, or dismissing others entirely. Teach them to have faith, but also teach them that a blind faith or a faith that hates another human, is a maligned faith. Help them hold on to their innocence instead of prematurely ripping it from them because we want them to fight societies ills and injustices. Children should not be fighting; that in and of itself is unjust.

Much of the hyper-politicizing and recreational outrage that happens in our society and in our streets is because people simply want humans to treat other humans with decency, dignity, and respect. If that goal is to ever be achieved, it will be because decency, dignity, and respect are what we, as parents, model for our children in our own homes. After all, monkey-see, monkey-do. And if all children see when people disagree is screaming, arguing, profanity, and protesting, then all they will know how to do when they disagree with someone or something is to scream, argue, be profane, and protest. And that, I am sure, is the last thing any parent wants for their child when they are negotiating the at-home politics of parenting (e.g. homework, vegetables, nap time, and chores). Children are not mini-pundits in a political game, nor are they pawns to be set in opposition to their parent’s political rivals; they are children. Please, treat them accordingly.

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