Democratic candidates for president try to appeal to an ideological audience that pays attention to early campaigns, but will that hurt the candidates in the longer term?
“One remarkable feature of Donald Trump’s constantly surprising tenure,” reported Publishers Weekly last May, “is this: he is a professed nonreader whose presidency just might launch a thousand books.”
Indeed, shortly after the election of 2016, the publishing world rose up with cries of “Resist!” Dozens of children’s authors expressed their dismay, followed shortly by determination to push back against this new wave of supposed racism, sexism, and xenophobia. Within months, books aimed at encouraging teen activism were rolling off the presses.
Books were remarkably—or not so remarkably—similar in theme, and even title. Last year’s activist lineup included How I Resist; Girls Resist!; We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices; and Steal This Country: A Handbook For Resistance, Persistence, and Fixing (Almost) Everything. Political action is the key for fixing (almost) everything, and many of these books include contact information for activist groups—though presumably not for the College Republicans, Young America’s Foundation, or Live Action.
Pre-teens and toddlers needn’t feel left out. A board book titled A Is for Activist, published in 2013, received a sales boost after 2016 for lines like this: C is for Co-op. Cooperating Cultures. Creative Counter to Corporate vultures. Oh, and Cats. Can you find the Cats? “Finding the cats” is just about the only nod to the actual proclivities of a 3-year-old. The rest of the book features festive alliterations about “Silly Selfish Scoundrels” who oppose solar power and “LGBTQ: Love Who You Choose.”
As over the top as some of these books are, they illustrate a basic truth of children’s literature: It’s inherently moralistic. As much as they may testify to the supposed inherent wisdom of children, children’s authors know more than their readers do, and naturally wish to pass on some of that knowledge and experience. Almost all children’s books, whether fiction or nonfiction, include some kind of lesson; the question is what kind.
Conservative Christians tend to couch their messages in example or illustration. New-wave “resistance” tends to sacrifice subtlety for stridency and example for exhortation. It assumes a leftward tilt in the reader and doesn’t waste time on persuasion. These authors say they feel a mission: never again to let the reactionaries take over. But in their uniform prescription of political and community action, they sound more than a little reactionary.
Politics does not consume most households, but kids may still absorb the lesson from teachers and librarians, from politically inclined classmates, and possibly from required reading. Christian parents could usefully check out some of these books and read them with their teens, evaluating together the pros and cons of the argument. Rational or irrational? Realistic or utopian? Where does the logic hold up, and where does it falter? What’s missing from these perspectives that Christ can provide? Is the answer political or more a matter of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8)?
Christians can’t flee from “Resistance,” but we can meet it with firm, assured, and loving resistance of our own.