Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Today I’ve been thinking a lot about a notion that I’ve seen expressed in several corners of our discourse, about how Greta Thunberg has chosen to make herself a public figure and should expect criticism.
I find myself splitting this sentence into two overlapping phrases:
1) “Greta Thunberg has chosen to make herself a public figure.”
2) “A public figure should expect criticism.”
While I don’t necessarily take issue with the second phrase I think it’s worth interrogating the first, specifically with regards to the word “chosen,” because I think it’s been reinterpreted over time to provide cover for those who have nothing to offer but cruelty and abuse.
We are almost two years removed from the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17, wounded 17, and traumatized an uncountable number of survivors and observers from afar. The aftermath saw several members of that student body band together and vocally demand action against our nation’s gun culture and its high priests in the NRA. For that defiance, the most visible of them were subjected to not only harsh criticism but also attempts to undermine their future opportunities for education or careers, and death threats up to and including “swatting” attacks that could easily have gotten somebody killed.
They knew such attacks would be coming, of course. They’d witnessed similar ugly campaigns against the adults mourning victims after the Isla Vista shooting, the Las Vegas shooting, the Pulse nightclub shooting, every other one that had occurred during their young lifetimes. They’d witnessed as media figures built a fortune out of selling a story that the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary had never even existed, then sitting back and whistling while the grieving families were inflicted with monstrous levels of further harm.
Nonetheless, the crisis was real and it had rained murder upon them, and I doubt that those who stepped forth into the spotlight viewed it as much a choice as a responsibility.
I don’t see a fundamental difference between the Parkland activists and Thunberg, who is bearing witness to a dire crisis that is affecting the world she lives in now and is going to affect her long after the shambling, bile-spewing marionette that calls itself Donald J. Trump has cooled and coagulated into whatever jar might be used to contain him. She has on more than one occasion observed that she doesn’t want to be doing what she does, that she would be infinitely happier if she could have had more time to entertain a child’s concerns rather than the concern of our planet’s survival. Her volume and anger, however, are in direct proportion to the inaction, incoherence, and antipathy of the alleged adults who have been placed in charge.
If somebody points out that a building is on fire, you don’t question their motives for doing so. You understand that they were compelled to do it by a sense of duty to others. And if they already expect to be attacked for having sounded the alarm, it tells you that something else might be broken about the society around them.
And on the other hand: If a building burns down in full view of somebody who chose to say or do nothing, or who otherwise reported that the building was not in fact on fire, you have every right to suspect them of being arsonists.