Salvo 08.22.2023 4 minutes

America’s Red Guards

Six Killed In Mass Shooting At A Prive School In Nashville

The communist history of using children to forward political goals.

In August 1966, communist leader Mao Zedong commenced “Red August,” a campaign amidst the wider Cultural Revolution to wipe away the “Four Olds” of Chinese society: old ideas, old culture, old customs, and old habits. He infamously used university students, and other younger children, as foot soldiers to carry out mass beatings and destroy important cultural and historical institutions.

The outsized rule of juveniles and young adults in the subsequent massacres perpetrated by the Red Guards was not at all unique. In Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, children were also enlisted as foot soldiers, prison guards, and executors of public shaming of non-compliant adults. The weaponization of children and adolescents is a marked feature of left-wing movements across the globe.

The American Left has ensured that children occupy an increasingly active role in our country’s political and culture wars. Childhood no longer exists outside the realm of conflicts between adults. If anything, children are now being told that they must take center stage as the voice of moral righteousness on the most controversial issues of the day. Look no further than Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan remarking that “when our children tell us who they are, it is our job as grown-ups to listen and to believe them.” In Flanagan’s reality, the immature should lead adults in determining cures to societal ills.

Aimless, directionless children can be easily exploited by political elites to advance their agenda. Goals that cannot be accomplished at the ballot box may be advanced through the moral outrage activism of children.

Politically, it is genius. A coalition of kindergarteners or an attaché of adolescents can escape accountability behind their left-wing guardians while simultaneously breaking rules for which adults would face communal, professional, and legal reprimands.

The insurrection at the Tennessee state capitol in April is another example of how adults weaponize children for political gain. Look at the pictures showing screaming children separated from legislators by police and legislators bringing children onto the House floor, disrupting the session. There were several violent confrontations between police and the manipulative adults leading children—grade school aged children who, having been shoved to the front of the crowd, were screaming at legislators while adults directed them from the back, as one viral photo shows. The slaughter of children at a Christian school by a transexual was quickly turned into an issue about firearms, as organizations like March for Our Lives activated its own Red Guards to push as many children into the state capitol as possible. The children became the fulcrum by which the media and political elites pushed for gun control. But because the adolescent moral blackmail was done for a supposedly righteous cause, the insurrection at the Tennessee state capitol wasn’t seen as such.

The outrage that is generated from dismissing children’s concerns is a clever way for elites to compliment the rule of experts. The experts who hypothesize, craft, test, develop, and propose policies to solve all the supposed ills of society are not the same people acting as the foot soldiers for pressure campaigns. Children have both youthful spirit and energy, alongside their “honesty and sincerity, their single-minded determination and their unshakable faith in the rightness of their cause,” as The Washington Post put it.

Give children the ability to do the dirty grunt work of politics that adults either won’t or cannot do themselves. Keep the parents at arms-length or pass off such activism as a great resume-builder for college applications.

Just like the Red Guards, young people today have been the hammer of the expert class’s war on Western civilization’s past. While high schoolers holding Mao’s Little Red Book publicly berate and humiliate class enemies in struggle sessions, teenagers in the Sunrise Movement occupy buildings, scream at legislators, and make puppy-dog eyes for the cameras as they are hauled away by police. U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar’s 16-year-old daughter’s group, US Youth Climate Strike, brings both the expert class’s “settled science” with leftist organizing to pressure lawmakers into adopting “anti-capitalist” climate legislation. David Hogg, a more widely known American Red Guard, attacks Second Amendment rights, pressures advertisers to boycott conservative media, and then cries “cyberbullying” when the adults punch back. The expert class-youth movement provides the patina of “democracy” that the regime needs to morally bludgeon its opposition.

This cynical project of using a fraudulent moral authority to gain political power is why the fight for parental rights is so important. We must support efforts to restore the nuclear family and give parents not only the right to choose where to send their child to school, but also to ensure that their child cannot be co-opted by political movements within the educational bureaucracy. Parents objecting to elementary schools forcing children to march in Pride parades understand that children can be easily manipulated by political actors who want to use children to push their own agenda. The expert class’s recent full-scale campaign to label Moms for Liberty a hate group speaks to the scope of this problem.

Restoring parental rights is a small step toward clawing back some semblance of the traditional family and defanging those attempting to indoctrinate and weaponize children. If the fight for parental rights fails, adults will become even more decoupled from their children—all to the regime’s benefit.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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