Daniel Suddeath

Daniel Suddeath

Many of us were told when we were young that children are to be seen and not heard.

In my parents' defense, I can understand why they wanted me to keep my mouth shut. I was (possibly still am) a smart aleck who took advantage of nearly every opportunity to crack a joke. I mean I found my jokes to be funny, and I think the other students in detention with me did as well.

But not all kids -- especially teenagers who are on the verge of becoming men and women -- just talk to hear themselves speak. Oftentimes, it is our younger generations whose wisdom inspires and changes us as a society. They see life from a different perspective because they are at a different stage of their lives.

However, there's also a segment of our society that takes pride in attacking the ideas of our youths. They believe they're too inexperienced to have a say and they should accept what their elders tell them without questioning authority.

Over the past two weeks, such attacks have come to the forefront following Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg's speech to the U.N. over climate change.

Certainly there's room for counter arguments to Thunberg's beliefs. I, for one, don't believe it's just the government's responsibility to cut back on pollution and overconsumption. Many of my liberal friends are huge proponents of climate change legislation and protecting the planet. Their hearts are in the right place, but when I ask them how regularly they consume meat, I typically get a blank stare in response. The reason I ask the question is because the meat industry has been proven to be one of the biggest polluters to our climate, from emissions to the fact that a bulk of grains and other feed products are grown simply to feed livestock so we can consume them three times a day.

The point is, it's always easier to point the finger at another as opposed to looking in the mirror and considering how we're a part of the problem.

But this isn't an anti-meat column. This is about a young woman who was bold enough to speak truth to some of the most powerful leaders in the world and who has been shamed, insulted and belittled by adults as a result.

Sadly, Thunberg isn't alone. David Hogg is a teenager who survived the school shooting last year in Parkland, Florida. Since then, he's been an outspoken activist calling for stricter gun control laws. That stance has brought him insults from the Right and from gun lovers around the nation. How dare this kid whose classmates were shot to death ask adults to consider some commonsense changes that could keep such tragedies from happening again?

One man went so far, according to national media, as to mail Hogg's mother a threatening letter. How sad it is that a grown man would stoop so low based out of reaction to the words of a teenager? Perhaps it's because Hogg's message struck a little too close to home.

The insults toward these teens and other activist youths aren't just issue-based, but many of them are personal jabs about everything from appearance to intelligence. When a teenager can present logic-based arguments and the counter from adults is to insult them on the same level as what we would expect from a grade-schooler, one should rationally assume that it's the teens who are the mature ones.

It's hard to fight years and years of societal norms, but as the great Bob Dylan sang over 50 years ago, "The Times they are a Changin'."

Teens are concerned about what the earth is going to look like in 25 or 50 years. They are worried about their safety when they go to school. They're engaged in their futures, and we should be proud of them and encourage them to stay on top of the issues and make their voices heard.

We call these youths irrational and over-emotional, but we seem to think its OK when our President goes on childish Twitter tirades over his naysayers. Maybe the way these teenagers conduct themselves can be a lesson to all of us, because right now, there's not much civility left when it comes to debating politics and policies.

Suddeath is the editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. Reach him at 270-678-5171, or by email at dsuddeath@glasgowdailytimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @DsuddeathGDT.

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