Saturday, May 5, 2018

Why Republicans Attack Children

Parkland student activists. (photo: Firenews)
Parkland student activists. (photo: Firenews)

By George Lakoff, Medium
adical conservatives have found a new target for their anger, scorn, and ridicule: Children. Conservative attack dogs have made a point of specifically berating, harassing and insulting the young victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Eloquent young students like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, whose voices have captivated the nation, draw venomous responses from conservative pundits. Fox News host Laura Ingraham went so far in her attack on Hogg that she’s now lost most of her advertisers and may even lose her show.

Why do conservatives viciously target these young people who have already suffered so much? For one thing, it’s clear that the powerful voices of these young Americans express the truth in a way that resonates with tens of millions of people.

But there’s another reason why conservatives have such a negative response to the voices of young people — a reason deeply ingrained in the conservative political brain. Conservative political thought is governed by a very specific hierarchy, a hierarchy in which children must always be subservient to adults. So, the sight of young people raising their voices to call for change is an existential threat to the conservative moral hierarchy — just as the sight of women, people of color, or LGBTQ people standing up for their rights is always met with fear and derision by conservatives.

This hierarchy (see chart below) explains most Republican political thought. Nearly every piece of conservative legislation is designed to impose this hierarchy on the entire country and to return to some mythical golden past that was great for a few but repressive for the majority of Americans.

Many intelligent people are rushing around trying to figure out why conservatives support Trump, and what ideas unite conservatives as a political force. This was the exact question I set out to answer in the mid-1990s when I wrote a book called Moral Politics. The answer, after years of study, became clear. Conservatives and progressives have two very different concepts of our nation, concepts rooted in very different understandings of morality. And in the conservative system of morality, which I mapped out two decades ago, children are not allowed to speak up to adults.

When conservatives attack students like Emma and David, they aren’t just attacking them because they disagree with their stance on gun massacres. They’re also attacking them because conservatives don’t believe children have a right to raise their voices, period. And their reason for believing this explains nearly every other aspect of conservative thought.

It’s time to stop asking “why” conservatives think the way they do and start figuring out what the American majority can do to make sure their dominance over our political system comes to a swift and final end.

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