Leave those kids alone.
America, we need to stop letting politicians take staged pictures with our children. Because they’re creepy AF.
I know there’s an old adage that says candidates need to “shake hands and kiss babies” to get elected, but, seriously, maybe let’s just keep it to a friendly handshake, OK?
I started thinking about this once I saw the recent video of Donald Trump super-awkwardly lifting up a young girl at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Everything about the interaction is a total nightmare.
Trump starts out yelling into the crowd, “Bring her! She’s so beautiful.” That goes on for a while until he finally gets the girl on stage and holds her up like a trophy, but it’s bizarre. She looks uncomfortable, he looks uncomfortable, and, as the viewer, you find yourself asking, “Is his hand on her butt?”
Which, OF COURSE IT IS, because he’s holding up a child who’s a little too big to be held up like a toddler. Every parent has to support a child they’re holding under there, but, up on stage, it looks unseemly and opens mental doors we don’t want opened.
And then he tries to kiss her. SO AWKWARD.
Here’s the thing — I don’t really blame her parents for this. At least not fully.
They took their daughter out to a rally to see a candidate they support. And then he yells down "Bring her up here," and I'm sure the crowd started putting pressure on them. It's hard to resist the mob mentality, even when it's a relatively well-meaning mob.
The final result is the problematic part. The parents relent, the girl goes on stage, and then there's this tableau — Trump trying to act naturally, holding this little girl he just plucked out of the crowd. It's a marketing tableau. Trump is trying to sell himself as a family man.
But then there's this kid, a kid who doesn't understand all the consent issues, who doesn't realize that they're going to be an internet meme within an hour. And that doesn't feel right.
As a society, we should not place our sons and daughters in that position. We can't let politicians use them like that.
We have to stop consenting to allow our children to used as political props. We need to realize that it's not like letting kids take pictures with Santa. We're basically agreeing to let our kids function as propaganda for the Right and the Left.
After this brutal election cycle, American adults should be more than familiar with how our 24/7 news cycle works. When we toss a kid on stage with a candidate — with cameras all around and giant banners with the candidate’s name on them in the background — we should instantly realize “Oh shit, that kid is going to be all over Twitter in the next 10 seconds.”
In terms of the little girl in Green Bay, I really hope once their parents saw their daughter up on stage, with Trump trying to smile and kiss her at the same time, that their first thought was “We IMMEDIATELY regret this decision.”
Because kids and politicians are a weird mix.
Politicians seem to think that children humanize them. “Hey, look at me, I’m their Uncle/Aunt INSERT CANDIDATE NAME HERE.” But that’s never actually the case.
Instead, you have this person who is unapologetically selling themselves to the electorate and these small children who obviously have no political leanings themselves, but they’ve been shoved into the spotlight by their parents for the candidate to use as they see fit.
Remember those creepy videos of the small children playing the guitar on state TV in North Korea?
There’s a reason they feel so unsettling. Because those children are being used to sell a non-age-appropriate product. If a kid appears in a cereal commercial, it’s fine. But imagine how you’d feel if you saw a kid as the public face of a Viagra commercial. Doesn’t feel right, does it?
That is why kids and political photo ops should NOT mix.
Trying to act natural around children is NOT a good look for politicians, unless they’re the candidate’s own kids. (Well, unless you’re Ted Cruz. Then it's still not a good look.)
But the candidates aren't the only one at fault. We ALL need to stop supporting these kind of photo ops.
We need to stop allowing kids to be used in this way. Never let them on stage. Never allow them to “participate” in press events. And never, ever allow a candidate to hold a kid up in front of thousands of people and suggest that, “Hey, if this kid likes me, America should too, right?”
Because those kids almost always look terrified — and that’s on all of us.
At this point, to paraphrase Pink Floyd, more than anything, I want to vote for the candidate who will leave our kids alone.