How Do You Really Feel about David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez?
A proposed thought experiment for my liberal friends: What if the Parkland students – and the hundreds of thousands of other fired up adolescents who gathered around the nation last weekend – were not on your team? What if, rather than advocating in favor of something you passionately agree with, they were advocating in favor of something you passionately disagree with? Say, for example, their voices were raised not for the purpose of restricting access to guns, but for the purpose of restricting access to abortion?
This is not to become enmeshed in a discussion as to the relative similarities or dissimilarities of those two things. Nor is it to disavow the concern and sympathy to which these young people are legitimately entitled based upon the horrendous experience they survived or were in proximity to. It is simply to encourage an awareness of the extent to which our perceptions, reactions, and even valuations – in this case, of a group of particularly vocal, colorful, and engaging teenagers – can be influenced by, even guaranteed by, the way we feel about the issue being advocated rather than the inherent and observable characteristics of the individuals doing the advocating.
So, for example, instead of seeing a sixteen-year-old on a podium in front of an enthusiastic throng thundering that "any politician who receives a dollar from the NRA has blood on his hands," it would be "any politician who receives a dollar from Planned Parenthood has blood on his hands."
Or, during the CNN "town hall" ambush of Marco Rubio and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, suppose it were, instead, Chuck Schumer (100% rating from Planned Parenthood) and Cecile Richards, who, during her tenure as President of Planned Parenthood, presided over millions of abortions. Suppose teenager Cameron Kasky, instead of walking up to Senator Marco Rubio; getting in his face; and saying, as he did, "Senator Rubio, it's hard to look at you and not look down the barrel on an AR-15 and not look at Nikolas Cruz," said to Senator Chuck Schumer, "Senator Schumer, it's hard to look at you and not see an aborted fetus and body parts being sold on the open market"? Suppose it were Richards who was the target of shouts of "murderer," "burn her" and "c---" instead of Loesch?
Watch the tapes of the speeches and the on-camera interviews of these impassioned kids, and make a good-faith effort to imagine if that self-same passion were directed in favor of something you find reprehensible, even morally repellant, instead of something your own view of the world allows you to cheerlead.
How would they appear to you then?
They would tell you they have absolute moral authority because they are the "abortion generation," marinated for their entire lives in a well funded (taxpayer funded) pro-death culture flowing like a river through all aspects of society, their society, and that, therefore, what they have to say cannot be challenged or questioned. They are the ones being traumatized by it. They are the ones being sacrificed to a culture of life termination in the service of convenience. If confronted with the notion of "reproductive rights," they would scoff and pronounce it irrelevant. There is no complexity. There is no "other side." There is only the fact of one million babies being aborted per year, and that should be sufficient information for anyone and everyone to agree with them. They would declaim that they had "had enough," and they were going to do something about it because the adults clearly couldn't or wouldn't. No more. No more killing babies. Enough is enough. The only possible reason anyone could disagree with them is because he is greedy; incapable of empathy; and in the pocket, bought and sold, by...someone. They are taking over the issue, and that's that. Get out of the way. Shut up.
Imagine how you would feel watching that.
Here's what you would be thinking, but not saying, because you can't say it; it's not allowed. You would be saying to yourself, who on Earth do these kids think they are? How do you produce young people this arrogant, this condescending, this heedlessly insulting, this over-amped by the spotlight and the power that has been thrust upon them by those eager to use them to push their agenda? Grownups and parents who should know better can without hesitation choose to exploit a bright, hurting young high school woman, as full of life and brimming with passion as you would hope any such young person to be; thrust her to the microphones; and applaud while she demonizes, in the most inflammatory, unfair terms imaginable, anyone who disagrees with her heartfelt but simplistic analysis, without a single adult at least whispering in her ear that there is a place for displaying respect for the office of a senator, a congressman, a president, or an adult, however much you might disagree with him or believe yourself to be in possession of a particular wisdom, one that you feel is oddly inaccessible to those with greater years and greater experience and greater exposure to the world of ideas and nuance and conflict.
Watching these young people, you would be asking yourself, what must their parents be like? Where are they in this, and what role are they playing? What must the teachers be teaching – and what are they leaving out?
But those on the left will not engage in this thought experiment, because the exploitation of these wide-eyed, predictably passionate, predictably naïve, and predictably full of themselves young people is just too delicious, too effective, too useful. That it is tawdry and exploitative and shameful is of no concern, outweighed by the import they perceive the ascendancy of their views to have. Without doubt as to the rectitude of their worldview, convinced of the wickedness of any opposition, the end is justified, even placing children at the point of their phalanx, something that in a different world, and perhaps a better world, would be understood as an act of cowardice.
But what about them, these decent but frightfully credulous young people? That they don't yet know what they don't know is to be expected. It goes with the territory, and we've all been there. But perhaps as they begin to contemplate the trajectory of the road they have been sent down, they could add to their already overflowing reservoir of wisdom by Googling the words "Cindy Sheehan."
She, too, was a darling of the left, for a time, said by them to have "absolute moral authority" based upon the loss of her son, Casey, in Iraq – the same immunization from criticism bestowed upon the Parkland students. She was used as a cudgel by the left against the policies – and, even more importantly, the morality – of the Bush administration. She led rallies, marched, spoke, and even camped out at the Bush compound in Texas – and every second of it was covered with relish, and gusto, and with fanfare by the media, endlessly. Then she made a misstep: she said something that was counter to the agenda, contrary to the approved narrative. She implicated Hillary Clinton, essentially putting her in the same basket of culpability as George Bush. The result? She disappeared from the media, instantly and forever, except, for a short time, as the target of a ferocious campaign of delegitimization by a media that had loved her so just such a short time prior.
Someone should say to these young people: you are being used. If that's OK with you, fine. But know that's what it is. And know that sometime down the road, it is going to end, and you are going to be discarded. At that point, at least some of you will look back on your behavior during this period and be embarrassed, even horrified. But hopefully, you will look at your younger selves with compassion and understanding. It's not your fault. You are young. It's the fault of people who know better but don't care. If you are very lucky and very diligent, in time you will come to understand why that is, why you are being used, and how that happens. You might even become as smart and wise as you think you are now.