Leave Barron Alone
by Benjamin Studebaker
I want to talk today about Barron Trump. Do you know Barron? He’s Donald Trump’s 10 year old son. We don’t know that much about Barron, but here’s what we do know–he lives on his own floor of Trump tower, he speaks two languages (English and Slovenian), he enjoys wearing suits, and he currently attends a prep school in New York. Already, people have started going after Barron. There are people who think he should change schools in the middle of the year, and there are people calling him autistic or anti-social just because he often didn’t seem to enjoy the campaign circus. This is not okay.
Growing up in the White House is hard, especially when you don’t have any near-age siblings with which you can share the experience. Barron’s nearest sibling is 13 years older than he is and from a different marriage. In the entire 20th century, there is only one other first child who had to move to the White House with no near-age sibling–Amy Carter. Amy Carter didn’t have it easy. When asked by reporters if she had a message for the nation’s children, Amy Carter replied “No.” She was also criticized for reading a book during a state dinner. She had some difficulty in college–she dropped out at Brown, but eventually managed to secure degrees in Art History from the Memphis College of Art and Tulane. She seems to be doing okay today, in spite of it all. She rarely does interviews.
But Amy Carter didn’t grow up living in a tower and she didn’t grow up with the internet. Barron’s move will be the most difficult move for any first child in the history of the country, and because Donald Trump is such a controversial political figure there are many people who are willing to use Barron as a political football, including Rosie O’Donnell, a Trump nemesis:
Many Americans were not politically active when Amy Carter roamed the White House. We need to remember that because Barron has been put in a public position–a position he never asked for–we are all part of his environment and everything we say about Barron potentially contributes to his upbringing. We are all collectively responsible for Barron now. This means when we talk about Barron or about things that affect him we need to consider his interests.
Those who are now saying that Donald Trump should immediately move his family out of Trump tower to save money on security are not considering that Donald Trump has an important moral duty to his son to do everything he can to ensure that his son is raised in the best possible way. When we elected a president who had a 10 year old son, we implicitly acknowledged that he would have duties as a father to his son and that at times our nation might have to pay the cost of him fulfilling those duties. If a father can help his son avoid changing schools in the middle of the year, he has a duty to do that. If that means paying extra for security, then that’s what we have to do.
Those who are rushing to make armchair diagnoses of Barron or to condemn him for being uncomfortable in social situations that would have made most of us very uncomfortable when we were 10 need to consider how it might make Barron feel when he gets on the internet and sees what they’re saying. This is not the 70s when a first child could be sheltered from the press. Barron is good with computers–probably much better than many of us are. He can see what we’re saying about him, and it affects him.
When a child becomes a public figure because of decisions taken by that child’s parents, we all have a duty to recognize that we all in a sense acquire some small portion of the responsibilities of parenting. Because Barron is a public figure he belongs to all of us, and we have special duties to ensure that we do what we can to create a nurturing environment for him. This means we don’t bully him, we don’t say things about him we would be embarrassed to find out he read, and we stick up for him when other people are failing to meet their duties to him.
If Barron does have difficulties over the next 4 to 8 years–and what adolescent wouldn’t, especially in his situation–we are collectively responsible for those difficulties. We are not entitled to make fun of him or take pleasure in his suffering. We need to leave him alone, and we need to make the case for leaving him alone to those who would mistreat him.
To that end, I have founded a little Facebook page called “Leave Barron Alone“. Its aim is simple–to stand up for Barron and his interests. It’s not about blaming or shaming those who pick on Barron, but it is about making the case that picking on him is wrong. And in the course of making that case, I hope to emphasize to everyone that children do not grow up in vacuums, that our society plays a dominant role in determining the circumstances of their upbringing, and that we all need to take collective responsibility for the way our young people turn out. It has become far too normal in our society to put the interests of children and young people last. They don’t have a voice in our society unless we speak up for them.
I don’t expect to blog much about it here, but if you want to follow my efforts to stick up for Barron when no one else will, feel free to follow the page: