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We Need Less Self-Esteem

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

While browsing Twitter last week, I suddenly noticed a barrage of tweets hailing Dana Loesch’s performance at CNN’s town hall meeting on gun control.  Curious, I headed to YouTube to see it.


Loesch, indeed, defended the Second Amendment with tact and poise, but what struck me most as I watched the event wasn’t her performance but the vicious behavior of the crowd.  Like a mob, the audience repeatedly heckled Loesch – and Senator Marco Rubio before her – for opposing gun control of any kind.  It even booed Loesch for arguing that some rape victims would have loved to have had a gun to fend off their assailant.Meanwhile, anyone supporting gun control was wildly cheered – as if CNN were hosting a sporting match rather than a serious political discussion. 

That so many adults were uninterested in reasoned debate was disturbing enough.  More disquieting, though, was watching several snarky teenagers at the town hall lecturing adults three times their age.  One liberal student even had the gall to say to Loesch, a mother, “I want you to know that we will support your two children in the way that you will not.”  Another treated Rubio like a six-year-old child, interrupting him repeatedly while demanding that he pledge to reject NRA donations in the future. 

“If I would have addressed Marco Rubio the way that kid did,” wrote one popular Twitter personality afterwards, “my grandpa would have [whipped me] on national television.  And I would have rightfully deserved it.”  

I second the sentiment.  When I was a teenager, I was taught to honor my elders.  To never contradict them or be disrespectful.  To act with diffidence before them.  These high school kids did none of the above.Not only did they flout basic standards of decency, they did so without the slightest trace of nervousness – as if disrespecting adults meant nothing to them.  


Also meaning nothing to them apparently was their appalling ignorance on gun control.  They showed no signs of having read any books on the subject, of having studied any statistics on gun violence, or of having given any serious thought as to why the Second Amendment appears in our Constitution.  That didn’t stop them, though, from appearing on national television to mock adults who actually do know a thing or two on the topic.

As I watched these teenagers talk, I kept on thinking: If only they had less self-esteem…  Today, self-esteem is considered the sine qua non of growing up “healthy,” but the term was hardly used until a few decades ago.  Before then, men of distinction were held in high esteem and people endeavored to win the esteem of God and their peers.  But to esteem oneself?  That was considered downright arrogant.  Indeed, one of the definitions of self-esteem in the 1973 Webster’s dictionary sitting on my father’s bookshelf is “self-conceit.”  Which is presumably why, “instead of prioritizing ‘self-esteem,’” schools of yore endeavored to “lower it to imperceptible levels by the end of the first week,” as conservative Mark Steyn writes recalling his own childhood. 

Unfortunately, we’ve come a long way since then.  Now patting oneself on the back is considered virtuous; indeed, it doesn’t even require justification since the gospel of self-esteem preaches feeling good about oneself for no reason at all.  You failed the test?  Wonderful. You botched the job? Amazing.  You know nothing about the topic?  That’s fine, just tell us how you feel.  As Newt Gingrich has said, we now have a “whole school of education theory that you don’t have to learn; you have to learn about how you would learn so that when you finish learning about how you learn, you have self-esteem because you’re told you have self-esteem even if you can’t read the word self-esteem.”


This is madness.  And this madness was on display Wednesday night at CNN’s town hall meeting.  A bunch of smug teenagers with robust self-esteem exhibiting pompous ignorance before millions of viewers.  To paraphrase Rabbi Meir Kahane, one of the greatest Jewish nationalists of the last century, “Ignorance may be excusable, and arrogance may be tolerable, but the arrogance of ignorance is insufferable.”  

America can probably survive stricter gun laws if it came down to that.  But long-term, it cannot survive such mindless arrogance.  If we wish to survive as a republic, we need an infusion of humility.  We need less self-esteem.  

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