Sassy Teens, Random Tweets & Midwestern Governors Don’t Mix

TweetingI generally love when kids take a stand and learn early on to make their voice count in their communities, country, and generation. It’s inspiring to see teenagers shape the society they live in instead of just getting old, complaining about a lot of crap, and becoming a middle-aged armchair analyst.

But — oh yes, but — not in the way 18-year-old Emma Sullivan went about it. During a school-sponsored Kansas Youth in Government trip to Topeka, the high school senior whipped out her phone and sent the tweet heard around the web: “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person. #heblowsalot.” Mmm.

The post caught the eye of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s office who, not surprisingly, didn’t retweet or even giggle. In fact, they demanded an apology from Sullivan. Her principal at Shawnee Mission East High School did, too. And rightfully so.


Even though the blogosphere and liberal set have made her into a sort of Twitter teen heroine, Miss Thing needed to pump her brakes before she baptized herself by fire. Before stepping into the high velocity world of political commentary, her once-a-day tweeting waxed poetic about deep, philosophical issues like the new Twilight movie (“Dear edward and jacob, this is the best night of my life. I want u. Love, ur future wife #breakingdawn”) and her adoration of The Bieb (Everyones opinion aside, I am most likely to be Mrs. @justinbeiber for our yearbook. #vote #deadserious).

Typical, typical teenager. And that’s fine.

But aside from some Occupy Kansas City hoorahing, our dear Emma didn’t have one political observation in her newsfeed, so suffice it to say that she wasn’t expecting to have to back up her random comment about Gov. Brownback. She, like most teenagers, was just talking — or in this case, tweeting — because she could. And actually, she stretched the truth too, because she apparently never said anything to Gov. Brownback in person, much less get gangsta and make disparaging comments.

I can only imagine what would’ve happened if she did. All of this fallout over a tweet, heaven only knows what she would have to do to clean up the aftermath of sassing an elected public official.

Because they were being vilified as big mean bullies, the governor’s office and Emma’s principal alike have backpeddled fast enough to reverse the spin of the earth, Superman style. Now they’re verbally patting her on the head and acknowledging her First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and insist no apology is necessary. That works out well because Emma was determined not to give one anyway. It would be inauthentic, she contended, and for that much, I have to give her respect for standing her ground.

But still, I think she was wrong in the first place and I think her parents are wrong if they aren’t urging her to cough up an apology. There’s a way to critique that is both constructive and respectful, and this was nothing more than in-your-face teen bravado being blown up on Twitter.

Is it a big deal? Nope. In fact, it’s probably gotten more airtime than it really needed to. But if it isn’t a big deal — and she really had no grounds for the comment in the first place, especially since she didn’t cite grievances behind her would-be “mean comments” or reasons for saying he “blows a lot” — then she ought to be prepared to suck it up and say she’s sorry. That’s part of being a big girl and, according to some recent tweets, she’s pretty fresh in her official adulthood.

I appreciate that she took the initiative to stand up. But when you’re standing, you have to make sure you have something to say, not just blow your horn because you have one to blow. We have enough people talking for talking’s sake. She’s got the gumption part down pat. Now she just needs to get her thoughts and reasoning in order.

And if she were my kid, oh, she would be writing that letter of apology. Just sayin’.
Would you make your son or daughter apologize for "disrespectful tweeting"?


Image via Zawezome/Flickr

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