The sweet little face of seven-year-old James Younger headlined countless articles recently as his father fought in court to keep the boy’s mother from starting the dangerous medical process of “gender transition.”
James has been happy as himself, as a boy, as the father and friends of the family confirm. A long-time friend of the Younger family, Sarah Scott, attested, “James is blissfully happy as a boy. He loves to march around outside and yell, ‘we are the only boy scout troop’ or ‘I’m the Leader of the wolf pack!’… He loves dressing as a super hero and sword fighting.”
Those are the childhood memories he deserves. But James’ case is not unique; legal battles are being waged all over the country as children are subjected to psychological abuse by parents who want to raise them as if they were the opposite sex.
Margot Cleveland has outlined some of those cases—one in which a four-year-old boy had been cross-dressed for two years by his psychologist mother, and others in which young teen girls attempt transgenderism amid their parents’ divorce. Those cases resulted in the judges and guardians yanking the right to medical consent or custody from the dissenting parents.
Even James’ brother Jude is missing out on childhood because he is ordered to remain in a dysfunctional and abusive situation. Scott claims Jude is “withdrawn and quiet after prolonged time” at his mother’s house, and that he worries about his prized possessions going missing there.
This is the dangerous, confusing, volatile world children now inhabit, and the radical left is largely to blame for it. The abuses of children like James and his brother Jude are by far the worst damage progressive ideology has done to (born) children. But as our short attention spans turn again to the welfare of children, the extent to which leftist ideas and policies have undermined the childhood most of us remember and value should come into focus.
While in James’ case, the battle is very much on ideological grounds, James and Jude are not the only children who’ve had their childhoods blown to bits by divorce and custody battles. Many of those cases cannot be traced directly back to leftist ideas. The left has, however, siphoned off the innocence, security, and joy of childhood in a variety of other ways, from generating confusion over sexuality and hysteria over gun violence and climate change, to destabilizing family policy, to cancel culture. Here are five examples of the left’s war on childhood.
1. Gender Ideology
With gender ideology alone, the far left has succeeded, in many cases, in stealing the innocence and simplicity of childhood. To leave children with a mother who would abuse a child by attempting to bind him to a false identity with the potential for physical mutilation is morally abominable. It would cross the mind of neither judge nor jury if it weren’t for the infection of radical gender theory in psychology, education, and family policy.
Even when courts aren’t involved, the damage is pervasive. Goaded by “gender-affirming” authority figures and peer groups, a growing number of teen girls have lost months or even years to the quest for finding and expressing new gender identities.
The sexual binary that anchors our identity is being undermined, particularly in spaces and activities for youths. Biological males (boys) are increasingly allowed to dominate girls’ sports, as full destruction of female athletics is purportedly necessary for them to be fully affirmed and integrated in their new identity. Girls are losing to boys and denied opportunities to advance competitively.
Boys and men are being allowed into other girls’ and women’s spaces, like locker rooms, thus denying females the security and comfort of single-sex spaces. Girls are now allowed into boys’ organizations like the Boy Scouts, instead of offering the same program in a single-sex environment for girls. That space for masculinity to mature in a constructive single-sex environment is now gone.
Leftists are increasingly likely to breach the innocence of fourth and fifth graders about sex and instill kindergarteners with the idea that there are many different expressions of gender. Drag Queen Story Hour is just one example. If you’d like to deprive children of confidence in what they know to be real, who crave independence yet desperately need stability, tell them they have 100 genders to choose from and their sex wasn’t recognized at birth, but their “gender” was “assigned.”
2. Gun Violence Hysteria
The heist of innocence and security in childhood and adolescence isn’t limited to the question of sexual identity. The left has been preying on kids’ fear of getting shot up at school to further a gun control agenda. Because nothing says, “don’t fret over something with a miniscule chance of happening” like a full page featuring a pistol pointed directly at you.
Besides gun violence, the left is pressing kids to worry about huge issues like the environment and civil rights and wealth inequality. For instance, “A is for Activist” is a radical social justice board book aimed at third graders.
Third graders should concern themselves with whether their room is clean and whether they’ll like what mom made for dinner, not whether their “notions” of gender are “liberated,” or whether there’s fair pay for women or that “an injury to one [immigrant] is an injury to all.”
3. Climate Change Fear-Mongering
Even serious issues like immigration are trifles compared to the fear-mongering among the young and impressionable about climate change. Sixteen-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, trembling with anger, lashed out at world leaders at 2019’s U.N. climate action summit: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” But it wasn’t the “empty words” of world leaders that stole her childhood; it was inflammatory propaganda fed to her by proponents of a massive government power-grab to enact a radical climate mitigation agenda.
According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation Poll, roughly 1 in 4 teens have done some sort of climate change activism and “more than 7 in 10 teenagers and young adults say climate change will cause a moderate or great deal of harm to people in their generation.” The science on climate change is far from settled, yet a teenager who should be worrying about getting a summer job or whether to “heart” that cute girl’s ‘gram is now supposed to carry the burden of anxiety about the probable desolation of an entire planet.
4. Policies and Ideas that Encourage Family Breakdown
The left’s thievery of childhood reaches farther still than these single issues. Thanks to family breakdown, facilitated in part by no-fault divorce and welfare policies that discourage marriage, more kids have to worry about their home-life than ever before.
Higher rates of family brokenness by way of divorce, single motherhood, absentee fathers, and cohabitation all have serious negative effects on children, including depression, aggression, higher rates of psychiatric hospitalizations and higher potential for abuse. Girls whose dads aren’t involved are more likely to get pregnant than girls with involved fathers, and kids with moms who have a cohabiting boyfriend are “four times more likely to experience serious emotional problems” than kids with married parents, according to researcher W. Bradford Wilcox.
No-fault divorce and the “marriage penalty” are driven by the leftist ideas that adult desires do not have to be checked against the welfare of children, and that the family unit, with two parents, is not worth protecting for their sake.
5. Cancel Culture
On top of all this, teens face the brutality of a social media culture willing to “cancel” anyone who makes a mistake, or is perceived to be doing so, as with the Covington Catholic High School students last year. Immersive, addictive social media has fused with cancel culture to generate a constant pressure to self-censor and virtue-signal.
And if you get it wrong (who are you to judge “her truth?” How dare you appropriate that piece of culture, or speak from your place of privilege?), there’s no grace, because in the increasingly dominant worldview of the left, there is no God to emulate in offering it.
Obviously the social and psychological havoc social media wreaks can’t be laid entirely, or even mostly, at the foot of leftism. Technology has its costs. But the message our children are getting as the culture lurches leftward is clear: there’s no truth, no God, no hope, and no forgiveness.
Where are children, beset with peer pressure, bullying and confusion, to place their trust, if not their parents and God? How many will forgive their misdeeds, and will it be enough to keep them from social devastation?
What do they lean on amid the cultural chaos, if not assurance of their own identity, the realness of their own bodies? How do they feel hope and security when told that their safety depends on gun control and radical, impossible environmental revolution, and that the world will collapse in climate catastrophe at worst and perpetuate structural inequities at best? What solace do they have when the culture has judged their welfare to be subjugated to the selfish, often disorderly desires of adults?
The far left seeks to impress the young with ideas that further a leftist political agenda but do nothing to promote children’s welfare, to change censorship and punitive social tactics that hit adolescents hardest, and to propel policy change with their fear and vulnerability. For “progress,” they are willing to sacrifice the innocence and security every child and young teen deserves.
The integrity of childhood can, however, be restored for future generations: with truth and faith in a God who loves, forgives, and heals the wicked and the broken. If we can embrace that, we’ll foster not just happier, wholesome childhoods, but cultural renewal.