“Cancel Culture” and Why Aaron Coleman Shouldn’t Be in Congress

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In our current world where “cancel culture” runs amok ruining lives at a whim, can anyone ever truly be forgiven? Can anyone truly change and grow? Yes and yes, because cancel culture isn’t what rich white guys with bad opinions would have you believe. Let’s talk about Aaron Coleman.

When Aaron Coleman was 12 years old, he got hold of a friend’s nude photo. He demanded that she send him more nudes by threatening to send the one he had to everyone she knows. When she didn’t send him the nudes, he kept his word and sent her nude photo to all of her friends and family members.

Coleman bullied another girl so persistently that she tried to kill herself, sending her messages like “F—- you you f——- ratchet fat s—-,” she says he told her in a message back then. “F—- off whale. Go on a diet and get some braces.”

Other women have said he’s done the same thing to them, and Coleman admitted they were truthful and that he continued these behaviors at least until he was 14. He told the Kansas City Star, “I made serious mistakes in middle school and I deeply regret and apologize for them. I’ve grown up a great deal since then.”

Now he’s 19 and running to be a Democratic state legislator for Kansas. When his victims spoke out about his past, many liberals were critical. Glenn Greenwald conducted a glowing interview with him and wrote an accompanying article for the Intercept in which Greenwald opines, “All of this raises profound and important questions about whether adults should be judged by the actions they undertook when they were a child, particularly when they have apologized and expressed remorse.”

There are several problems with this viewpoint and it’s a real shame that it’s taken off amongst people who really should know better, so let me spell it out for you: this is not an “adult” who did something as a child. This is a man whose brain hasn’t stopped developing yet, who behaved like an actual monster just five years ago. Five years ago! That was 2015! That’s when The Force Awakens and Jurassic World premiered! To Pimp a Butterfly came out in 2015! Trump was campaigning for president in 2015! And this guy was bullying girls into attempting suicide.

So that’s one problem. Here’s the other: time, an apology, and expressed remorse does not mean someone has changed. With all the current whining about “cancel culture,” people appear to be forgetting that change doesn’t just magically happen. I’m very sorry and remorseful that last month I ate an entire “Family Size” bag of Cool Ranch Doritos over the course of two days. When I place a grocery order next month, two months will have passed. Remorse has been expressed. But there’s a very good chance I’m going to order another bag and I’m going to go to town on it. Because remorse and time are not enough! I need to do the work to recognize where I went wrong. I need to understand how Doritos negatively affect me, I need to develop strategies for dealing with the temptation they present, and I need to take real action to put those strategies into place and demonstrate an ability to consistently resist the siren call of those delicious little triangles. I have to prove I’ve changed, and honestly I am not willing to do that. So, if you had a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and you needed someone to watch them for a weekend and not eat them, would you trust me? I said I was sorry! It’s been two months! But I am going to eat those god damn chips.

So let’s apply that to Aaron Coleman: in the five years that have passed since he’s admitted to abusing girls, has he done the work? Has he gone to therapy? Can we hear from any medical professional about any progress he’s made? Has he volunteered for any anti-bullying work? Has he demonstrated a full understanding of what he did, why it was wrong, and how he can make amends?

Or did he tell the family member of the girl who attempted suicide that they should “leave the past in the past and move on”? Or did he admit in texts to slapping an ex-girlfriend in December of 2019? Did he text that ex while they were dating “I hope you get abducted raped chopped up and have ya pieces scattered around and Burnt in different locations” and “you might get lucky and they might kill you first then rape your corpse” and  “Air out the clip into your head. Mag dump yourself. Do that midnight tonight. If I never hear from you again then I’ll know what happened”? Did he text that ex and beg her not to tell her story so that he could continue his political campaign? Did he tell another woman she was a “political prop” that he could use to seem more pro-choice?

Guess what, it’s all those bad things. He did all the bad things. He’s a horrific person. He was a horrific person in the 5th grade and he’s still a horrific person now.

Even if we didn’t know for a fact that he’s still a horrific person, at the very least we would need to see the work he did to get better. Should someone’s entire life be ruined because of something they did when they were 14? Absolutely not. But no one is entitled to political office, and if they want to attain it they need to first of all get better and second of all prove it. Coleman did neither, but he’s still in the race for office because “cancel culture” doesn’t actually have the impact that the people who whine about it fear.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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