Across the country today thousands (millions?) of kids will walk out of school in protest of gun violence in the United States. Despite the narcissistic, delusional exhortations spewed by a certain “leader” of this country, these children are really the people who have a chance to make America great again.
A month ago seventeen people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and it seems that, perhaps, a fury has been unleashed. It’s difficult to say why students are so motivated and organized now, and not after any of the countless other school shootings, but whatever the reason, I couldn’t be more thrilled.
How often do we hear about lazy, entitled kids who whine about everything and can’t take their eyes off of their phones long enough to do anything but watch some reality television show? To hear some (probably old) people talk, there hasn’t been a decent kid born in this country since the 1960s.
But to describe kids in such a manner is to ignore the fact that they’re doing the exact thing that adults always want them to do. They’re paying attention. They’re using their brains. They’re getting involved with their community. They’re caring about something other than themselves.
They’re taking matters into their own hands, and I think that’s what alarms a certain segment of the adult population.
It’s commonly expected that adults should take care of and protect kids. So it’s only natural for kids to think that adults will solve a problem as deadly serious as America’s gun problem. They wait for us to act. They wait for us to investigate, debate, and pass legislation that will help protect them.
Yet we do nothing.
We offer thoughts and prayers, and we tell them that we can’t talk about protecting them too soon after kids their age are cut down by some madman. We hide behind the Second Amendment, and we kowtow to a fringe group who we would label as a terrorist organization if it existed in a Muslim country.
So what choice do they have?
We won’t protect the kids, so the kids are protecting themselves. They’re demanding that we protect them.
Yet some see their protests as useless, as just an excuse to get out of class. Maybe that’s the case for some of the kids, but that’s no reason to stop the protests.
The best way to change things in this country is to protest. Nothing ever changes if we just accept the blows to the head. Before something can change, the people who want it changed have to stand up and say, “We’re not happy about this, and we demand that it change.”
If one person does that, nothing will happen. Two, three, four, a hundred. Maybe nothing will change. But when hundreds of thousands, or millions of people rise up and demand the same thing, change will come. That’s how African Americans secured civil rights in this country. That’s how the Vietnam War ended. That’s how women secured the right to vote.
That’s how the country was founded!
So anyone who says that children walking out of school won’t accomplish anything is wrong. Anyone who says it’s not the right way to go about it is wrong. It’s a most American expression of a most American concept.
Over the past few days I’ve read a number of suggestions that instead of walking out of class in protest students should befriend a kid at lunch who has no one to eat with, or a kid who gets made fun of, or a kid who doesn’t have a partner in science class. The implication is that befriending fellow students will prevent them from becoming loner outcasts who go on shooting rampages.
While I certainly encourage every student to befriend another lonely student at school, and we’ve made certain to instill such ideas in our own kids, countering the idea of this protest with a suggestion that kids should just become friends with outcasts at school seems very close to blaming the victims.
“That kid just killed a dozen of your classmates. If only you would have been nice to him the past couple of years your classmates would still be alive.”
It’s bad enough that adults in this country have basically told our kids that they’re on their own when it comes to ending gun violence, but insinuating that they’re somehow to blame for this violence is insulting.
Young people aren’t hijacked by the same jaded, cynical view of the world that infects so many adults. It’s that cynicism, that resistance to change, that belief that the world and the country will never be as good as it used to be (even though it was never as good as they think it used to be) that prevents adults from seeing the value of protest, or believing that they and few million of their friends can change things for the better.
But on this issue, the kids are alright.
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