Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
From Greta Thunberg to children put on puberty blockers, the victims of the war on childhood are everywhere. They show up at environmental or gun control rallies holding up giant signs in their little hands, they’re indoctrinated at school to enlist as child soldiers for the latest cause.
Adults tell them that unless they save the world, they won’t even live long enough to grow up.
At the heart of the exchange of political buzzwords of the culture war is a simple question about whether childhood should exist. Leftists believe that no one may evade political commitments, and that therefore the idea that childhood should be a space apart from adult causes and concerns is a privilege that it is the job of teachers and popular culture to shatter into pieces.
And that is the war on childhood that we see all around us waged from Disney to kindergarten.
What this is really about is the leftist conviction that children cannot be allowed to be children, occupying a separate world of imagination and wonder, but must be indoctrinated into the fight as soon as possible with The Anti-Racist Baby Book and Baby Loves Green Energy. The only way to save the world is by politicizing childhood and turning children into little adults worrying about microaggressions, experimenting with sexuality, and fearing that the world will end.
Utopia, the fantasy land of progressive adults who act like children, has no room for children.
It is the job of adults to save the planet, assuming it needs saving, to debate political causes, to explore whatever sexuality needs exploring, and to build or wreck their lives how they please.
And it is their primary job to protect children from living in that threatening adult world.
Play is the business of childhood. From the Victorian era onward, civilized societies worked to create safe spaces for children to grow and learn before that became a term for whiny adults. Reformers and muckrakers took children out of factories. Growing prosperity enabled the rise of a children’s culture in which a multitude of toys and books meant for children filled shops.
Adults protected children, preserving their innocence while they developed into unique people.
Baby Boomers, a generation whose name is of an era of progeny, may have enjoyed the last golden childhood in American history. And many never grew up. The generations that followed came of age during the breaking of the American family and now the very idea of family. The indirect damage done to children is now being eclipsed by the direct assault on childhood.
The radical leftists who demand safe spaces for themselves are taking them away from children. Children are being put to work again, not in factories, which would be kinder by comparison, but in radical causes, they are being told that they are on the verge of death, that their country is evil, and the world is about to be destroyed if they don’t do something at once.
That’s where the traumatized children screaming angrily at rallies come from.
Children, especially young children, implicitly trust adults and their parents. If they’re told that the world is about to end, that they’re racists, or have to experiment with gender, they believe it.
The adults who deprive them of their innocence and their childhood are the monsters.
Instead of growing up feeling safe and protected, leftist children are traumatized at an early age by being forced to think of the world as a dangerous and evil place their parents can’t protect them from, but that they must take on the responsibility to change or else everyone will die.
The “parentification” of children began as Baby Boomer despair in the wake of the end of “Camelot”, the death of leftist culture heroes, and the collapse of the counterculture, followed by the conviction that the next generation had to take over and fix things. Adults who acted like children insisted that children had to become adults. And these days the precocious children and the immature adults are all around us. They’re also two halves of the same tarnished coin.
Adults who lacked a safe childhood assert the privileges of childhood as soon as they’re economically secure enough to supply themselves with one. They surround themselves with toys, exclusively pursue the most direct pleasures, and clamor for safe spaces and trigger warnings, for the emotional security they lacked as children. But they deny that emotional security to actual children and selfishly traumatize them for their own actualization.
Teachers on TikTok freely assert that their feelings matter more than the safety of children.
The aggressive push to embed sexual politics into elementary schools is how dysfunctional adults, including some teachers, prioritize their own sexual identity over the welfare of children.
It’s also on a par with pushing politics in general on children at the youngest possible age.
The transgender war on children is only the latest in a series of assaults on childhood by politicising everything. When African warlords enlist 8-year-olds to fight for their causes, we think that’s monstrous, but when leftists turn Greta Thunberg, an unstable teenage girl, into a heroine and encourage even preschoolers to protest over global warming, that’s activism.
Activism is how the educational war on childhood began. Now the war is not just about how children see the world, but against their bodies. Child soldiers are expected to be willing to die. The sexual identity political movement expects children to have their minds damaged and their bodies mutilated, taking away their ability to have their own children, as a political commitment.
Even African warlords would find that unfathomably barbaric.
The ancients sacrificed children to the fires of Moloch while progressives sacrifice them to their passion for wokeness. Either one is a symbolic assertion that the obsessions of the adult are more important than the safety of the child. Civilized adults don’t act this way. Barbarians, which is another way of saying children who inhabit the bodies of adults without the disciplined ethics of adulthood, do things like this because they live in a Lord of the Flies world of emotional turmoil, fearful insecurity, and angry selfishness. They see every encounter as a threat to their fragile identities, their insecurities surround them with humiliating microaggressions, and they retreat from their conviction that the world is a threatening place by escaping into fantasies.
Fantasies are supposed to be the business of children, but in the post-modern age, fantasies, supernatural, conspiratorial, political, and utopian, are all around us. And adults sacrifice children to utopian ideologies that promise that a better world is just around the corner.
All it will take is destroying childhood and then children.