Teach your children well, their fathers hell, did slowly go by. And feed them on your dreams, the one they pick’s, the one you’ll know by. Teach the children well Crosby, Stills and Nash
Anybody who was wondering if the young men and women of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school and their friends and supporters had the legs to go the distance can stop wondering. The success of yesterday’s ad hoc school walkouts to protest gun violence were so successful that even some of the organizing students seemed taken aback by the scope.
An estimated 3,100 schools nationwide took part. And it wasn’t just high schools either, middle schools, and even grammar schools stood up and walked out the doors at 10 am local time, to observe 17 minutes of silent protest, one minute for each victim.
And the kids were well prepared. At one California high school, the marching band went to the football field, and formed #enough. Children at one elementary school had interesting homework. They prepared handmade press packets for the reporters who showed up to cover their walkout. Many brought signs, my personal favorite was the one that read, “Take action, before I have to text my mom from under a desk!” And the media was there in full force to cover the events nationwide.
The level of “official” support varied widely. Some schools threatened suspensions for participation in the walkouts. Reporting indicates that the cover for that was for students to walk out in such numbers that if the school carries through on it’s threat, teachers are gonna get a couple of days off, because the classrooms will be empty. In other schools, fire drills were held at 10 am to give students official excuses to exit the school.
The single most telling sign of the success of the walkouts was in Washington DC. The organizers had set the iconic fence outside of the White House as a staging area for the 17 minutes of silence, to be followed by a march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Hill. The organizers had hoped for 1,500 to show up. But a police officer present who regularly works crowd control at White House protests pegged the crowd at more than 4,500. And this comes only 10 days before a planned mass rally on gun violence in DC that organizers now realistically hope will attract more than 500,000 participants.
To appreciate the true magnificence of this, and what it portends for the future, take a step back for a moment from the optics of the walkouts themselves, and look at what it took to make them happen. Yesterday was the one month anniversary of the mass shooting at MSD. In one month, these kids of ours, most of whom aren’t even old enough to vote, set up a nationwide mass event, executed almost flawlessly in more than 3,100 locations.
And they did it without physical travel, hotel accommodations, scheduled in person meetings, or a physical “headquarters.” They made the social media word “viral” a physical reality. And they didn’t skip their freakin’ homework while they were doing it! This is what should terrify the GOP and the NRA. The digital era is here, and these kids are the uncontested world champions of that age.
And God, are they a nightmare for the GOP and the NRA image wise. These are not politicians, with an ideology to push. And they are not anti gun activists, with a specific axe to grind. You know what they are? You should, they keep telling us over and over again. They’re victims. Plain, pure and simple. They’re victims, past, present, and sadly, future. And that’s what they’re marching to stop. And most importantly, they are our own children. Everybody loves kids (Yes, I know “everybody” is a generalization, but it’s close enough). How do you fight that? How do you fight and scorn the very thing that we ourselves created, love, cherish, and strive to protect?
And, oh my Lord, are they good at this. Their tears are real, their words are real, and their pain is real. And they’re not just teary faces and shaking voices. They’re prepared. They are approaching this like final exams, because for some of them, who knows which ones, it may well be. They have facts, figures, and stone cold logic. They don’t cry, they don’t scream, they don’t pump their fists in the air, they calmly and logically lay out a case, and make demands. One protester yesterday openly scorned the President’s new “school safety package,” noting that it not contain the word “gun” once, nor were the words “background check” present in the text. The student dismissively called it a “total baby step” and proclaimed it totally insufficient.
And they have won the “air wars.” Since announcing their lawsuit against the state of Florida for paying attention to their constituents, the NRA has gone radio silent. And the unspeakable Dana Loesch has disappeared, I think she’s still rubbing Gold Bond cream on the scorch marks on her ass provided by the MSD student who made her own ad, side by side with Loesch’s, playing snippets of the NRA sludge, and repeating Loesch’s words verbatim, simply adding in the letters NRA at the appropriate points to give the ad the proper context. And the normally air raid siren sound level GOP NRA shills have crawled back under the kitchen cabinets again. The kids have sole control of the media airwaves, and their message is simple, logical, and compelling. And oh yeah, did I mention that they’re our children?
And please don’t make the mistake of thinking of this as a “one off.” Because it isn’t. Once the issue of guns is settled, there will be other battles to fight, and these kids have found their voice, and are learning with every passing day just how effective it can be. Like politics, music, and sports, activism can be addictive. And it isn’t just the teens either, yesterday we took a step at emboldening the next generation of socially conscious activists. One student spoke yesterday of teachers handing out voter registration forms to students who wanted to fill them out, and who will collect them and turn them in when they’re completed. When we teach middle school, and even elementary school children that it is alright to have an opinion, and that while your own voice is important, that it is even more important when it is a part of a chorus of similar voices, and that it is legal, and even just to gather publicly to express those opinions peacefully, we defeat the “thought police” that Trump would like to unleash on us. Our country is changing before our eyes, and once again it is the children that are leading the way.
You know, maybe history doesn’t exactly repeat itself, but it sure does seem fond of modernizing some of its “golden oldies,” and putting them back on the air again. Back in the 70’s, the “establishment” fought our own “kids,” and they fought them tooth and nail. What were the kids so mad about? They were sick and tired of seeing their friends die for what to them was no good reason. Sound familiar? The tide turned when it became obvious to “the establishment” that it wasn’t just the damn kids, there was a whole country full of people out there who agreed with them. They were tired of the dying, and of being lied to, and they wanted it to stop. Again, sound familiar? Depending on the poll, anywhere from 80-94% of this country supports universal background checks, and closing the gun show and internet loopholes. And 56-65% support banning assault style weapons of mass carnage. When those voices start hitting radio call in shows, and write letters, without organization letterhead, when those bodies start showing up at protests, and candidate town halls, the tide will turn again. And like Vietnam, the war will finally be over, and the dying will stop. It’s just a matter of time.