Popular Culture

Crybaby Nation

Hysteria over hurt feelings and safe spaces exists on the left, and right.


When did America get taken over by a bunch of crybabies?

The question seems a little judgy, but look around. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting people—from all parts of the political spectrum, it's important to note—yelping about their hurt feelings.

That's not hyperbole: A recent viral video shows a student screaming at a Yale administrator over an email by the administrator's wife. Said email was a long, thoughtful, and sensitive meditation on how far colleges ought to go in policing student Halloween costumes in the name of cultural sensitivity. From the reaction, you would have thought it was a recruitment letter for the Klan.

Sensitivity has become a cardinal virtue on many campuses. Students fret about "microaggressions," expect trigger warnings for works with content that might upset them, and demand the dis-invitation of speakers whose ideas they disagree with. Often, colleges oblige—and some take it even further by establishing segregated housing units in the name of creating "safe spaces."

Conservatives ridicule such trends—at least until their own feelings get hurt. Witness the kerfuffle over Starbucks' Christmas-themed cup, which doesn't mention Jesus and is therefore, supposedly, part of the imaginary War on Christmas. This brew-haha actually started out as a joke. Then it turned into a real thing. Donald Trump jumped into the fray, threatening (promising?) to boycott Starbucks and promising (threatening?) that "if I become president, we're all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you"—and plenty of folks seconded the motion.

This might be a tempest in a coffee cup, but it's part of a wider and longstanding plaint by some conservatives that a store clerk who says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" is a covert op in the liberal plot to destroy Christianity.

The irony is thick enough to stop a bullet. Imagine the reaction if a Muslim clerk wished a customer a pleasant Eid al-Fitr. Fox's Bill O'Reilly denounces "race hustlers" and "charlatans" for stirring up resentment by spewing "garbage" over the shooting of young black men by police officers. Yet O'Reilly, who is (as someone said of his ilk) "hysterical for a living," has been stirring up resentment by hammering away at the "War on Christmas" theme for years. Black kid gets shot to death, and it's irresponsible to make a fuss. But a cashier in East Overshoe wishes somebody happy holidays—and it's the End of Civilization As We Know It.

Some of the pushback against this silliness tries to exonerate the accused: Look, it says—Starbucks can't be anti-Christmas, because it sells Christmas-blend coffee and advent calendars! Relax, there's no cause for alarm!

But this treats only the symptom. The disease is the expectation on the part of some conservatives that retail establishments have any kind of duty to honor their religious beliefs—i.e., to create a "safe space" where Christians can feel validated and insulated from others who might think differently. News flash: They don't. Starbucks isn't in business to reassure people about their choice of deity. It's in business to sell burnt coffee at ridiculous prices. Don't like its holiday cups? Go buy a jar of Taster's Choice. Problem solved.

Yet the grousing doesn't end there. Nosiree! The New York Times recently reported on a Pew survey that finds "working parents say they feel stressed, tired, rushed and short on quality time with their children, friends, partners or hobbies"—especially now, when two-earner families are more common.

The stress is particularly high among college-educated white couples. "This is not an individual problem," says Mary Blair-Loy, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego, "it is a social problem." She thinks the solution lies in paid family leave and after-school care. Government, in other words, really needs to step in and relieve this awful burden.

Let that marinate for a second. Not so long ago—within a couple of generations, in some parts—the typical grownup worked himself into an early grave scratching out a bare subsistence through backbreaking manual labor, usually agricultural. He'd stockpile root vegetables and firewood in the hopes of surviving the winter. He'd probably bring the livestock inside too, so they wouldn't freeze to death. One-quarter to one-half of his children would die—and there wasn't a thing he could do about it but watch.

Now people feel stressed because they don't have enough time for their hobbies. They get impatient when the video stream on their smartphone buffers. They can't believe how much they have to pay for premium cable channels. They're frustrated that they can't get their daughter to soccer practice without their son being late for piano. The poor dears!

In a funny way, this is all quite encouraging. It shows just how far we've come.

College students today can afford to stew over their hurt feelings because they are not busy being blown into red chunks on the Western Front—or getting lynched for trying to go to school in the first place. Conservatives can gripe about coffee cups because Communism is dead and ISIS is a long way away. Working parents can fret over their tight schedules during their free time because they actually have more free time now than in previous decades.

As Janan Ganesh put it so nicely a while back in The Financial Times, many of today's discontented are "working their way up Maslow's hierarchy of needs. They have physical health and security; they crave belonging and self-actualisation."

There's nothing inherently wrong with that. But could they maybe also count their blessings from time to time—and then dial it down a notch?

This column originally appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. The college students complaining about the letter re: halloween costumes were not engaging in free speech? Getting dis-invited to speak somewhere because you’re a racist/sexist/libertarian/whatever shitheel is an attack on free speech, because you are owed a soap box?

    1. People who complain about PC are really complaining that they can’t say ignorant bigoted unthinking dumb stereotype bullshit in public without being called on it anymore. It didn’t used to be like that.

      1. Heh, yeah right. You are a freaking moron.

        There’s a reason they needed to create microagressions that were so subtle that they couldn’t be seen.

        That way they can say we hate you because you microagress, and you microagress because you are white.

        That doesn’t look as bad until you realize that migroagressions are an illusion which reduces the statement to: we hate you because you are white.

        The new Progressives do not want to eliminate racism, they want to embrace racism. They want what Progressives alway want, power over the other.

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      2. Short version: “free speech I disagree with sucks.” Good lord, you are one stupid motherfucker.

        If it’s satire, though, good job!

        1. It is not clearly a satire, so this excuse is rubbish. Indeed, “satirical” speech can itself?especially when it deceitfully presents itself in the form of “Gmail confessions”?constitute a serious form of micro-aggression that needs to be suppressed with the full force of the law, particularly in academic contexts, where professors as well as students need to be protected from offensive ridicule and distressing criticism. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal satire case at:


      3. The issue is not about things said in public. It’s about things said in a university, which is, like a corporation or other business, church, social institution, collective or individual private property, and so on, not public in the sense that the street is public. I have a reasonable expectation that I will not be harassed on account of my supposed race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, height, weight, number of cats, etc., in my home, but no such expectation abroad — that’s free speech. You can put a swastika in the park across the street, but not on my door. People live and work in universities, and it is reasonable for the university to set the behavioral standards on its own turf to whatever extent its administrators and managers think proper — blab about academic freedom and free speech to the contrary notwithstanding. If you don’t like it, you can stay away from them.

        Several decades ago, before The Fear set in, the main American pastime was whining. Maybe it’s better if we get back to that — instead of ‘I win because I’m more afraid than you’ we could go back to ‘I win because I’m more offended than you.’ Anyway, it looks like the youth are trying to lead the way. Some coddling may be in order. I wouldn’t mind some coddling myself.

        1. While it’s true that a university is a home and workplace for many, it’s also true that a university’s raison d’etre is the pursuit of knowledge. An integral part of that pursuit is challenging beliefs, norms, expectations, world views, etc.

          Furthermore, universities are still part of a real world where people aren’t always nice and considerate of others.

          As such, inside the classroom, students should expect to have their thoughts and opinions challenged, and outside of the classroom, they should learn to navigate the challenges of normal life.

        2. Sure! You’re right! Just as long as I don’t have to pay for the pathetic little safe zone with my hard earned tax dollars. Privatize education and I’ll back you up 100%.

      4. Like saying ignorant bigoted unthinking dumb stereotype bullshit like saying PC stuff (Political Crap)? Oh wait, that’s government approved bullying, has a court stamp on it. Carry on. Just don’t be surprised if somebody else says something SANE.

    2. wow what a cogent argument

    3. That’s what Free Speech is all about dimwit. Both sides get to express their ideas and the listener gets to chose which side he supports. If you disagree with the speaker you should be prepared to counter his arguments, not just tell him to shut up.

    4. The crybabies and whiners don’t think they should be able to speak ANYWHERE.

      Just like Fed gov, thinks nobody should be able to expose them. They’ll crush the critics soon enough. Like Janet Napolitano’s hit list telling police officers across the nation to watch out for those dangerous people sporting “Ron Paul bumper stickers”.

  2. C’mon get the term right, its Cry-bullies.

    That needs to gain traction in the common lexicon, because it is precisely what these little bastards are.

  3. The Starbuck’s red cup thing started as joke? Hmm, maybe this has grown into a thing by the prof”s taking it serously, because those are the only types of people I have seen actually spreading it. Maybe this is a mass hysteria spread by gullible “sophisticates”?

  4. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting people?from all parts of the political spectrum, it’s important to note?yelping about their hurt feelings.

    Hinkle, you did a horrible thing!!! You have advocated hitting people!!! with dead cats!!!! These macroagressions must stop!!!!!!111!!

  5. Well, to speak on behalf of white, middle class DIWK’s (dual income with kids), the “not having time” perhaps stems from the fact that about half of our income goes in taxes (of one form or another) while housing prices bubbled up (might have come out ahead depending on when buying/selling – my wife and I bought at about the worst time – early 2008 and was due to job/commute necessities), college tuition for podunk state school projected to reach up into the low $200K’s for two kids. All with a probability of having social security dropped 30%-50% by the time we collect, so we have to save even more, knowing that debasement is going to occur at least at the same rate, if not accelerate. All the while college kids demand “free education” and $15 minimums for everybody – in short, a large part of society thinking that the ~50% tax my wife and I pay “is a good start”.

    So is it subsistence farming of the 1800’s – no. But in our CURRENT society of blood sucking parasites lined up from my front door to the mailbox whining about how I should apparently be paying more, and as hours in the day get less and less as greater burdens at work (like ACA etc) take up more time, and public workers make as much, if not more, and can retire on benefits (paid by me) as early as 52 while my retiring at 65 seems to get less and less likely, there’s room to bitch.

    1. cont-

      If EVERYONE is a subsistence farmer, then no one knows better or worse. If SOME PEOPLE get to pay for the betterment of others through transfers and rigged systems, those who getting the shit end of the stick have legitimate complaints.

      1. You’re missing the point. If you were a subsistence farmer in the 1800s, your life expectancy would be 40 years or so. That you expect to live past 65 and don’t have to worry about your kids dying a variety of now-curable diseases is already a huge improvement…

        Yes, we all have gripes about life, but the point of the article is that our gripes demonstrate just how good we really have it.

        1. We have it much better due to technological advance. Along with that advance is a society that can take whatever it wants from me, monitor me 24/7, and very soon will be able to turn me into a pile of hamburger with a push of a button. Meanwhile, my wife and I work ourselves quite hard (harder than a lot of other people do, apparently) have half of our labor taken at gunpoint, and – again – a malevolent society who sees that as a good start.

          There’s a HUGE building resentment within the private sector middle class (the first signs of which were the tea party) and NOTHING has changed. And no one is doing anything about it. Everybody is feeding off the private sector middle class – the lower class (and the bureaucrats who curate them), the upper class through debasement, and the public sector middle class with their full pensions AND another full time job (to harass the productive).

          1. cont

            In short, the real productive sector of our society are set upon like no other class or sector in the history of the country. THAT is the point I am trying to make. If a few can’t see what’s happening to them, and narrow it down to not having enough hobby time, they themselves are missing that they are getting eaten from both ends. Once they finally wake up and realize that they don’t have both a social security account AND whatever savings they have, but only one, they might realize that they are in a who world of hurt worse that not having enough time to build ships on bottles.

            The private sector middle class is the only sector in this country that has NO ONE looking out for them or subsidizing them. They are being picked at from every other sector. When everyone was a subsistence farmer, then no one had it better or worse. Perhaps I’d rather live in THAT time, and be free, than to be eaten alive by parasites all around.

  6. I saw a sign being held by a group of people that said “Free Speech is White Privilege” and I couldn’t help but wonder why they couldn’t see the irony in that sign…

    1. Yep, and you can make a pretty good argument that free speech is harder for white people when it comes to discussing race issues. Very often, when white people disagree with non-white people on issues of what constitutes racism, they are characterized as racist for doing so, and then they become part of the ‘evidence’ for continued racism in America. It’s a convenient bit of self-fulfilling hyperbole.

      1. It stops the discussion, though, which may be what everybody really wants.

  7. Calling people ‘cry babies’ is hurtful and unhelpful.

    1. True, though.

  8. The events of the last couple of weeks, both real horrors and those mostly imagined, show us that people will ALWAYS find something to complain about and expect others to do something about their ‘misery’. ISIS wants to usher in the apocalypse because it can’t stand modernity and college students can’t sleep, study, or eat because someone might wear a non-PC Halloween costume.

    The world can be a pretty good place. More people need to enjoy the delights of France and attend costume parties rather than wringing their hands….

  9. Yes, the numbers of speakers at conservative events that have been shouted-down for voicing opposing views are just too numerous to re-count…..or there haven’t been any which makes the names difficult to recall.

  10. Personally, if I were a college student, I’d be secretly promoting all this bullshit. A normal guy is going to seem like a total stud in comparison to these pussies.

    Wish this had happened when I was in college.

  11. It warps the debate or silences it to the point that there is one backlash after another from the right, left, the populists, etc.

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