As someone who has written extensively online, and occasionally covered controversial social and political issues, I've grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of some fairly colorful comments. When a person voices an opinion publicly, some people are going to disagree; it just goes with the territory. And of course, human nature being what it is, some of those… “criticisms” will take the form of personal attacks.
Over the last couple of years, it seems like a lot of people with conservative views have adopted the use of a specific insult to chastise their opponents: “Snowflake.”
The term seems to be the rough equivalent of being called a “wimp” or a “pussy” by a high-school bully, and is used as shorthand to characterize a person as fragile or ridiculously sensitive. Personally, when I see adults calling other people snowflakes, I feel a bit sorry for them. It's an inherently weak verbal jab, but it does reveal two things to me:
They delight in childishly trying to upset people, and almost never have a strong argument supporting their position. Instead, they go for a puerile put-down.
I've given this a lot of thought, and being called a snowflake doesn't bother me. I'm a middle-aged white guy living in America, so while my life isn't always fair or easy, I've been the recipient of a lifetime of unearned privileges that other folks haven't been given. Being aware of that, and working toward a more equitable society seems reasonable to me, and here's the thing:
It takes a stronger person, not a weaker one, to try to level the playing field. Think about it — the dudes (it's usually, but not always, a dude) calling you a snowflake for supporting Black Lives Matter or for supporting social justice initiatives, they're the fragile and frightened ones. I've never once felt diminished or weakened by pointing out that our society still isn't perfect and needs improving. But criticize any of the things many of those guys embrace? Holy crap, get ready for some sad, defensive bleating. If allowing others the same advantages that white dudes have in this country is such a threat to them, I have to assume those guys are the weak ones.
I don't like feeling like that, and I also don't live in fear that I'll lose ground just because a growing number of people think everyone should get a fair shake.
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I've written about gun culture and knife laws a few times in the past, and inevitably the Internet commandos come out of the woodwork to paint me as some kind of scaredy-cat in need of a safe space and a hug. A few of them have called me “snowflake” thinking it will get a rise out of me, or as a way to undermine my views, not realizing that I own quite a few guns and knives myself. That's why I feel comfortable criticizing some of the more boneheaded attitudes and laws concerning them.
Sure, some folks may fit unflattering stereotypes about progressives, just as the right has its examples, but most people aren't ridiculous parodies. Those who try to characterize anyone with progressive views as a “snowflake” just seem lazy and pathetic to me. They should also keep in mind that while an individual snowflake might not have a lot of power, a whole bunch can bury a city or crush a building. If some of the bullies are to be believed, there are a lot of those snowflakes out there, and maybe they should take note of that. Some snowflakes are stronger than they look.