“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't.”
Two different teenagers with two different circumstances and they were treated very differently. How should they have been treated? Nick Sandmann was unwittingly caught in a difficult situation while attending a pro-life rally in Washington DC. While waiting with his classmates from Covington High School a Native American named Nathan Phillips and a group of Black Israelites started heckling and confronting the group of kids because of their MAGA hats and clothing. The video went viral and the media went apoplectic condemning Nick Sandmann and Covington High School calling all associated in any way racist, bigoted, and a variety of other ad hominem attacks.
Greta Thunberg, recently named Time Magazine's person of the year, started skipping school on Fridays to protest climate change and soon found herself leading a movement of students who did the same thing. Her rocket like climb into the spotlight as a world renowned climate activist has been a sight to behold. She sailed around the world to travel to the United States in order to avoid using fossil fuels (doing her part to save the world...literally). Greta has Aspergers, as a result, she sees things very black and white (by her own account). Time magazine has called her person of the year, as you see in the picture above.
Now, some on the right have begun to criticize Thunberg including a tweet by President Trump that has been widely reported on. The main stream media has shot back defending Greta as a minor, a child who should not be criticized. In fact, they have lauded her bravery and courage to stand up for what she believes in. Indeed, when we see these characteristics we should laud them as positive things regardless of whether we agree with the cause or belief. We can disagree without ad hominem attacks. We can even laud positive characteristics and adamantly disagree with someone.
While Trump often lacks tact or a filter of any real significance, I can't help but think underneath it all he has a point. Trump tweeted, "So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!" To be clear, I think Trump was out of line and I'm not sure why he cares about Time magazine or who their person of the year is. That said, it seems unwise to allow a kid to be put in the spotlight on that level, especially on a controversial issue that draws the attention and ire of some many (where are her parents?). Greta is a child. She is not a climate expert, public relations expert, and she doesn't have a lot of life experience and the kind of wisdom that I hope comes with age and experience. It seems to me that trump is suggesting that she should enjoy her age. Of course, Greta clearly believes the end is near and that the climate alarmists predictions of doom are in fact true. She likely doesn't see "staying in her lane" as a viable option since doom is eminent. It would probably be too much for me to hope that her parents had the wisdom to temper her passion with some caution and restraint. Her parents likely fed her the apocalyptic climate change messages so prevalent in the media.
Whatever the case, Greta is the media's darling. Not because she is wise beyond her years, I sincerely doubt that is the case, but because she serves a political purpose; she's a pawn. She echos their message and provides them cover since any criticism can be condemned as an attack on a minor. In other words, rather than having an adult conversation about the realities of climate change and what if anything can be done about it in an adult manner, they put a microphone in the hands of a 16 year old and hide behind her. Shame on the press!
While Greta is lauded for her courage to stand up for the environment, Nick Sandmann was condemned as a racist and bigot for simply standing there as a Native American yelled and beat his drum in Nick's face. I'm not going to defend everything that group of students did in that situation. In fact, I wondered where the adults were. The chaperones should have known better than to allow the kids to chant and elevate the situation and they should have stepped in and diffused the situation; shame on them. Nevertheless, the Covington kids were at a pro-life march defending the most vulnerable and voiceless group of people possible, the unborn. It is hard to think of a cause more worthwhile. Yet, instead of seeing the nobility of these kids to stand up for their belief, the media had no problem condemning them, especially Nick. People ridiculed his "smirk" and accused him of making racist statements. The "smirk" was undoubtedly a nervous reaction. I watched the whole video at the time, not just the outtakes and clips provided by the media. At worst, these kids were guilty of being kids, not racists and bigots. The chaperones deserved some chastisement for sure. Nick did not deserve to have his face plastered all over media as a racist and bigot. In fact, as more information came out and people started watching the whole video, the Black Israelites (who aren't actually Israelites) and the Native American group verbally attacked the kids and elevated the situation...and they were adults.
While Nick and the Covington group shouldn't have been lauded as heroes, they should not have been drug through the mud either. The media did to Nick what they say no one should be allowed to do to Greta, they attacked him. The difference, Nick wasn't looking for attention and Greta was.
Culturally we should be careful about elevating any kid to hero or villain. Kids are kids, they should engage in the conversation, but they do not have life experience, wisdom, and so on. That doesn't mean their voices aren't welcome, but that we should grant them grace because of their youth and adults should act like adults. The media should be criticized for its lack of discernment. Time magazine made headlines, and Trump did them a favor by responding, but maybe Greta and Nick should be allowed to grow up without the spotlight before we crown them as the model of virtue or condemn them as the face of evil.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.