Kids shouldn't be used as props to further adult causes.

Children drawn too quickly into adulthood

Political cartoonists have always pushed the boundaries – from Thomas Nast’s depiction of Boss Tweed and a corrupt Tammany Hall to Barry Blitt’s famous 2008 cover of The New Yorker depicting then presidential hopeful Barack Obama and wife Michelle decked out as terrorists – but some lines should never be crossed.

Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz blasted The Washington Post’s Ann Telnaes last week after the political cartoonist drew Cruz’ two children into a cartoon.

Cruz, dressed as Santa, played an organ-grinder as daughters Catherine, 4, and Caroline, 7, depicted as monkeys, danced at the end of their leashes.

The Post pulled the cartoon, but not before Cruz criticized the publication and put out a call to supporters.

Telnaes defended the cartoon, tweeting “Ted Cruz has put his children in a political ad - don't start screaming when editorial cartoonists draw them as well.”

Candidates for political office selfishly use their children as props all the time, yet they generally don’t make it into political cartoons because, at the end of the day, two wrongs don’t make a right.

When Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church brought his hatred and bigotry to protest the funeral of a soldier killed in the line of duty, I was aghast to see his kids holding signs reading “God hates America,” and other, more vulgar messages.

Children have a limited amount of time when they can explore all the joys of their youth. It always appalls me when they are pulled prematurely into the ugly world of adulthood.

Some parents think it is fine to hang a protest sign on their kid. “We’re teaching them to stand up for what they believe in,” they say.

Actually, you are teaching them to go along with what you believe in, not teaching them to stand up for their own beliefs. They are children. They have not formed an opinion on politics, abortion rights, gun control or myriad other issues. If you want to take them along to your protest, fine. But let them stand off on their own. Let them take in the arguments for and against which are on display. Don’t hang a sign on them or use them as a prop in your battle.

Telnaes is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who regularly pushes the boundaries in her attempt to get people thinking. And in a political season where boundaries are being blown up pretty much every day – thanks largely to the antics of carnival barker and GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump – it is easy to see why she would be inclined to push the envelope a little further. But kids should not be drawn into political debates, nor should they be used as props to help advance any adult’s cause.

The wonder and joys of childhood will pass quickly enough for them. Let them enjoy that time to its fullest.