TIME magazine announced today that teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg has been chosen as their Person of the Year. At 16 years old, she is the youngest person to ever receive the distinction and was many prognosticators’ top guess for this year’s recipient.
Thunberg was in the news constantly in 2019. Her brave calls for older generations to take responsibility for the devastation they’ve inflicted on the environment so as to ensure for Thunberg and future generations a habitable planet made her a global personality in a staggeringly short amount of her time. She addressed the United Nations with a fiery speech that immediately went viral and inspired millions around the world to take to the streets in protest of their governments’ inaction.
Her meteoric rise also made her a target for right-wing trolls and reactionary politicians who have long denied the threat posed by climate change. Even in the face of some truly vile attacks and smears, she stuck to her message and urged us as a species to strive for a better world. In short, she is truly deserving of TIME’s recognition.
— TIME (@TIME) December 11, 2019
Of course, it was only a matter of time before the Republicans who have long downplayed climate change in service of the fossil fuel industries began to criticize TIME for its Thunberg choice. The troglodytic and truly dense Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter to whine, presumably because he wanted his father to be named Person of the Year again.
The First Son said choosing Thunberg meant TIME was ignoring the Hong Kong protestors struggling against the Chinese Communist Party. While the protestors certainly deserve our support and recognition and it’s true that their struggle is a valiant one, when you take a step back you see that just about everything going on in the world right now is dwarfed by the enormity of the climate change problem. If we don’t take serious steps to combat rising global temperatures, there eventually won’t be any humans left to protest in the first place.
More to the point, Trump Jr.’s dismissal of Thunberg as a “marketing gimmick” is not only mean-spirited and dishonest, it’s dirt stupid. What exactly does he think she’s marketing? Cleaner air and water? Avoidance of a world in which sea levels rise and destroy some of our most beloved coastal cities? The basic survival of our species? As usual, the president’s son is so focused on pushing his inane culture war points that he’s devolved into speaking nonsense.
His co-opting of Thunberg’s viral “How dare you?” was also incredibly tacky. She used it to shame world leaders into saving the planet, he used it to attack a child.
Keep in mind that this is the same Donald Trump Jr. who threw a fit of faux-outrage just last week when Barron Trump’s name was benignly mentioned at a Congressional hearing. Apparently, he wants us to believe that saying a child’s name is inexcusable but mocking and attacking one on Twitter is perfectly fine.
In any case, Thunberg can rest assured that history will look kindly on her and vilify this odious First Son. We have a lot of work left to do to fix this planet and doing so will mean ignoring the bad faith attacks of smallminded hacks like Donald Trump Jr.
Time leaves out the Hong Kong Protesters fighting for their lives and freedoms to push a teen being used as a marketing gimmick.
How dare you? https://t.co/dnV9mESM6G
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 11, 2019
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Rob Haffey is a writer, filmmaker, and winner of the ScreenCraft Writing Fellowship. He is a graduate of Drexel University.