Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Message on the Shirt

Several days ago, I saw an article about country singer Jason Aldean, his wife, and their two kids (ages two and three).  I admit I'm not a fan of country music, but I always like to see what celebrities are up to, given that I teach courses in popular culture. So, imagine my surprise to see the Aldean family proudly modeling a line of anti-Joe Biden shirts, a line that includes a shirt that reads F*** Joe Biden (with the word spelled out). 

Before some of my conservative friends get upset with me ("You wouldn't complain if it were a pro-Biden shirt!" or "You wouldn't complain if it were a F*** Trump shirt!"), let me repeat what I said on social media as soon as I read the article:  Actually, I would complain. And here's why:  the Aldeans have two kids, who are two and three years old. They did not ask to be models. They did not ask to be representatives for their parents' political views. In fact, I'd be surprised if they knew much about Joe Biden, other than the (obviously) hateful things they've been taught. 

I am absolutely fine with Jason Aldean disliking Joe Biden. I am absolutely fine with him expressing his views on politics, or any other topic he wants to discuss. Ditto for his wife. But they are adults. They (theoretically) know why they believe as they do. I may not agree with their beliefs, but I respect their right to have them.

However, as parents, they should be setting an example, and using their kids to sell political merchandise isn't the kind of example that's good for those kids. What they are being taught at a young age is to hate a guy who never did anything to them, a guy who doesn't even know them. They are being apprenticed into a worldview where one side is good and the other side is evil, where a shirt that expresses strong views against the current president is considered an adorable thing for a little kid to wear.          

But it's not. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think little kids should be involved in the political battles of their parents. I think little kids should be... little kids. They should be playing with their toys, learning the ABCs, helping to walk the family dog... and learning how to be kind. Evidently Jason Aldean and his wife believe they are teaching their kids a valuable lesson, but I think they're teaching them the wrong one. 

In the world today, we have enough hate, enough divisiveness, enough pointless social media arguments, enough angry talk shows, and more than enough myths about how "our side" is the best, and everyone on "the other side" is the worst. Why do kids need to learn this? Why can't they learn respect and tolerance? Why can't they remain innocent, just for a little while? Too often, society forces kids to grow up too fast. Parents shouldn't be accelerating that process. And the way I see it, that's exactly what the Aldeans are doing. And I wish they wouldn't do it.        

1 comment:

  1. Childhood is a fleeting and wondrous time in every person's life so blessed to grow up in a positive environment where their basic needs are met in addition to a few "wants". To rob a child of that experience by even so much as a day is amoral and foolhardy.