Opinion

Kids, politicians, and the state of American rhetoric

When the political sphere becomes a platform for paid sideshows, American politicians need to spend some time reflecting on their priorities. In another controversial stunt, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had a tween girl group called the U.S.A. Freedom Kids sing an ode to him during a rally in Pensacola, Florida. A video capturing the performance has made rounds on the internet and has met with public ridicule. In fact, several news outlets have published articles openly criticizing the song and performance.

In their performance of “Freedom’s Call,” the Freedom Kids danced awkwardly, wearing dresses inspired by the American flag, while singing lines declaring “Apologies for freedom?/ I can’t handle this” and “President Donald Trump knows how to make America great.” The song itself is unoriginal; it’s a rewriting of the American war song “Over There.” The song has been recycled throughout the eras, and was first used to boost American enlistment during the first and second World Wars. Currently, it’s the melody of a girl group’s pop single that praises a publicity-seeking politician.

Critics have pointed out that the girls likely don’t fully understand the song’s meaning and aren’t mature enough to vouch for any candidate. And while casual viewers might watch a minute or so and have a laugh at the girls’ expense, some internet trolls have taken it a step further and have called the girls’ homes to personally deliver hateful comments. This raises the question: what is happening to the state of American rhetoric? Furthermore, why are political rallies turning into a halftime show for the presidential election, where people are mocking kids instead of critiquing a politician’s views?

Another arrow to the knee of American rhetoric is the fact that Jeff Popick, the dad of one of the girls in the video and the group’s creator/manager, told The Washington Post that he reached out to “almost all the campaigns” when he tried to secure the group gigs, despite claiming to be a devoted Trump fan. While History teacher Mr. Karl Neumann notes that there has been “a long tradition of children promoting politicians,” and says that it’s important for kids to “practice being an adult in a democratic country” as they are the future of the nation, what exactly, by singing and dancing for a targeted politician, are the girls rehearsing? How to take nasty criticism?

Do American politicians have it in them to craft campaigns that focus exclusively on their concrete viewpoints, campaigns that don’t rely upon children spewing baseless praise on their behalf? I really hope so.

Photo: The Freedom Kids. Photo credit: Jeff Popick, for Time.