We got a lot of insults thrown at us this past summer doing anti-abortion activism on the streets. We expected this, of course, and most of them were not very original. Most of them were easy to brush off. Some stung a little bit. Some actually hurt, making us wonder how someone could possibly say something so horrible to someone else. But I have to say, while I could repeat most of the insults to you if you asked, I don’t really think about them. There is one, however, though I brushed it off at first, that started to really bother me. It was usually spoken in a very patronizing tone, and it went like this:
“Honey, I don’t know what these people did to you, but you don’t have to do this.”
“Clearly your parents told you to be here.”
“Did your parents send you?”
“Your parents must have brainwashed you.”
“How old are you?”
“You must be, like, twelve.”
“Go home to your mom.”
I wasn’t just bothered for myself. After all, I figured that twenty years down the road I won’t mind looking like I’m six years younger than I actually am, even though I don’t really think that I look twelve. (Sixteen, maybe, even fourteen, but twelve??). I was bothered for all the people my age. I was bothered for all the young people written off as brainwashed robots just doing what their parents told them to. But after all, maybe they were right. Us teenagers are just too young.
Young people shouldn’t be standing up for what they believe in. In fact, they’re too young to really believe anything. They have no life experience, no real idea of what goes on in the ‘real world.’ I can’t count how many times I had to deal with this from people only several years older than myself. Often I stood frustrated behind my sign after a conversation wondering why, after I clearly articulated the logic behind the pro-life stance, after I was polite and friendly despite being treated insultingly, I was brushed off as a teenager who really couldn’t be telling the truth.
Too bad no one ever reminded Mozart of his age when he started writing symphonies. I’m quite sure, actually, that Anne Frank’s parents told her just what to write in her famous diary, and Sophie Scholl of the White Rose was clearly brainwashed by her brothers. And the girl who just won the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai–well, clearly no one checked her birth certificate and informed her that she was just too young to stand up for educating women.
Please, if you're reading this, don’t believe it. Young people can do so much more than just meet the low expectations set for them by society. So yes, we were brushed off time and time again, but we kept coming back. We kept coming back to show that we were serious, that we meant what we said. We came back to prove that there still are, despite the image society paints, teenagers, young people who will stand up for justice. That being said though, I realized later that I shouldn’t be surprised. I was on the streets fighting against age-based discrimination that celebrated the shredding of the youngest members of our kind. Why was I surprised then, that I too was brushed aside as too young? Once a society adopts a mindset regarding one group of people, they don’t have a very hard time extrapolating their ideas to other unwanted persons.
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My fellow interns and I were telling people things they didn’t want to hear and we are young, we look young, and our age gave some people the way out that they needed. Not for long though. When Margaret Mead declared, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”, she didn’t set an age of when these citizens should start. We’re thoughtful, we’re committed, and I would argue that our age is not against us. We have set out to make Canada a safe country for all human beings, and all our age tells us is that we, God willing, have a long time to do it.
One more thing. As the middle-aged people come up to me and inform me that I am far too young to be trying to influence society, I can’t help but think of them as young people. Young people who rose up and said that they wanted sex without consequence. They wanted drugs, they loved rock and roll. I can’t help but think of the young people who set out to change the world, and did just that. And now it’s our turn. As the lot often falls on future generations, our generation has been called upon to rise up, to fight, and to correct the mistakes of the last one.
After all, what is more natural than young people talking to other young people about the killing of the youngest people?
Reprinted with permission from CCBR.