Am I the only one who gets totally and weirdly uncomfortable when politicians use children to push their political ideals? A recent NPR article discusses Obama using kids for gun control, a choice that’s giving his agenda quite the boost. Though I’m glaringly liberal and in favor of tighter gun laws, I can’t help but cringe when I read stuff like this.
Kids are also synonymous with innocence. Every person interviewed for this story brought up the phrase “innocent children.” And that innocence can also be a useful tool, says Pippa Seichrist, president and founder of the Miami Ad School.
“Anything bad that happens is worse if it happens to a child because they’re fragile and they don’t have control over anything,” she says. “They’re at the world’s mercy. So we have this feeling to protect them and to want to make something better.”
That’s one reason Obama mentions kids every time he talks about gun violence.
Listen, I get it, the gun violence at Sandy Hook was the catalyst that really snapped politicians into action. So it’s not irrelevant for Obama to pull out the old “think of the children” rhetoric. It’s wonderful, noble, even, that real children have written letters to the president about gun violence—and he’s responded by inviting them to the White House. This sends a lovely message to children that they are people, too, and they may not have voting power but they still have a voice.
But there is a huge difference between lifting up the voices of real children and using children as political pawns. This is why the NPR article really gives me the heebie-jeebies. The underlying idea seems to be that there’s no harm in featuring children in political ads. In fact, the author would have you believe there’s a “freshness” to it that’s both welcome and heartwarming.
Yeah, no. I just don’t see how using children as pawns is a positive play. All of this just calls to mind the anti-abortion activists who use random pictures of babies to appeal to our emotions. And that’s exactly what it is: a cheap trick to sucker us into feeling guilty. It really irks me when complicated issues are reduced to black-and-white: if we don’t do this, our children are doomed.
Like I said before, there’s nothing wrong with actual children speaking out about issues. A child writing a letter to the president or a teenager posting a video online about how new laws will negatively affect his gay parents are wonderful efforts that we should publicize and encourage. But having a child actor in a political commercial or making blanket statements about how something is going to “burden our children”? Not cool.