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The childish are in charge

Carl R. Trueman | The indulgence of fantasies is wrecking lives


Vice President Kamala Harris Associated Press/Photo by Jacquelyn Martin

The childish are in charge
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It seems an eternity since President Biden took office and declared that the adults were back in charge. It also seems an increasingly absurd claim, for the Biden presidency seems to have ushered in an era of unparalleled childishness, despite the severity of the competition for that accolade. Childishness can, of course, be somewhat entertaining when it manifests itself in children throwing toys from their prams, given the comical juxtaposition of rage and impotence. But when it stalks the corridors of real power and imposes itself upon society with all the strength our cultural panjandrums can muster, it ceases to be so funny.

The recent sight of two men in the Biden administration dressed as women as they represented the nation at the French ambassador’s residence is a case in point. Even the old cliché about the emperor’s new clothes seems too weak to capture precisely what was happening, and the craven capitulation to this embarrassingly ridiculous scene by so many media pundits.

More recently we have been treated to the vice president introducing herself by specifying her pronouns. It is again tiresome to raise the issue of why a campaigner for women’s rights would seem to be so confused about what a woman actually is. But, of course, this incident is about performance and signaling, indicating that the veep is on the cultural cutting-edge. It is also further evidence that we are governed by the childish and that we had all better become childish too or face the consequences.

As any parent knows, childishness is marked by an assertion of the child’s will and a defiance of external authority. Everything from bedtimes to meals can become arenas of conflict. Yet parents know that they, and not their children, must win in the end if they are to fulfill their responsibility to help their offspring become mature and responsible adults. Indeed, there are few sights more pitiful than the parent who indulges the child’s every whim and fantasy and then wonders what went wrong when the obnoxious child becomes a childish adult. Learning that life is not all about me and that, despite my natural intuitions to the contrary, I cannot actually be and do whatever I want is part of growing up. Or at least it was, until politicians realized that indulging fantasies wins more votes than affirming reality.

Learning that life is not all about me and that, despite my natural intuitions to the contrary, I cannot actually be and do whatever I want is part of growing up.

That is essentially what the political ideology of transgenderism is. There are surely those for whom gender dysphoria is a genuine problem. But transgender ideology demands that the problem is seen as inhering in the body, not the mind. Hence, we witness the monstrous developments of hormonal and even physical mutilation of minors—old enough, we think, to make decisions about having breasts removed or puberty blocked, but not yet responsible enough to get a tattoo. And this child abuse is enabled by precisely the childishness of Kamala Harris and company as they play along with this nonsense and indeed work to make sure that everybody else does the same.

We have seen body dysmorphias before and we have seen the toll they take on individual lives, on families, and on society in general. Anorexia and bulimia, like rapid onset gender dysphoria, disproportionately affected young teenage girls in the ’80s and ’90s. Yet there was a huge difference with today. Then we were governed by adults and so the whole weight of the political, medical, and cultural establishment was mobilized to stop the problem and save young people from damaging and even destroying themselves over their delusions.

Today, despite what President Biden declared upon beating Donald Trump, the children—or perhaps better, the childish—are well and truly in charge. Politicians, physicians, and those with cultural power are united in imposing gender ideology upon us and our families. Make no mistake. The children are the victims. And the childish are the predators. Vice President Harris might do well to reflect upon that before her next performative gesture to the home crowd.


Carl R. Trueman

Carl R. Trueman taught on the faculties of the Universities of Nottingham and Aberdeen before moving to the United States in 2001 to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 2017-18 he was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University.  Since 2018, he has served as a professor at Grove City College. He is also a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor at First Things. Trueman’s latest book is the bestselling The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. He is married with two adult children and is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

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