Like many others, I’m of two minds when it comes to high school kids acting as the moral compass of the country.
It isn’t that they aren’t capable, but it’s an unprecedented indictment of the adults. If we didn’t realize before the Parkland shooting that we have abdicated our responsibilities, we certainly do now.
It wasn’t bad enough that we elected an unprepared and incapable president, but we’ve allowed our feeble protests to take the form of public weeping on Facebook or angry blogging on the Internet. This is the new “getting things done”—which probably explains why, after a year, Trump is still president, Scott Pruitt hasn’t been fired, John Kelly is running the country, labor unions are about to be decimated, education budgets have been cut, sea levels are rising, racists have been emboldened, we still attach credibility to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the opioid crisis has been noted but not funded, the new tax laws have offered a windfall to the super-rich, fewer Americans have health care, and threats to Medicare and Medicaid hang over our heads. That list hardly scratches the surface.
And yet only two weeks after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, teenagers have taken to the streets and have begun to effect change. Two weeks. The adults in the room must have gone about it wrong, or else instead of whining that the Woman’s March a year ago didn’t accomplish enough (which was not true anyway), maybe there should have been more of them.
But the reason I’m of two minds about this is that the adults have been too willing to let this happen. And I include myself, Facebook weeper and angry blogger.
It’s not that these kids are too young for responsibility, its just that we shouldn’t forget what they’ve been through, especially the ones from Parkland. They may at times be eloquent, appear mature, illustrate a justifiable and concerned anger, even have a logistical pattern for reducing gun violence; but many of them barely escaped with their lives less than two weeks ago. They ran through halls splattered with blood, saw classmates lying dead, heard the sounds of automatic gunfire aimed their way, and even in some cases saw the face of the killer.
Many are now having having trouble sleeping, and that sleep, when it does come, is beset by nightmares. Daylight hours are spent organizing and planning and, by doing so, trying to normalize their lives: evenings have become a constant skein of texting and calling, satisfying a need to feel less alone, less frightened. The situation may improve over time, but will very likely never be the same. Worst of all, they’ll be expected to return to the same building where their classmates were killed and treat it like the safe place it once was. All this is a lot to ask of anybody of any age; and yet the adult leadership seems willing to let the kids lead.
The NRA, the gun lobby, the wingnuts who have usurped the Republican Party—time is on their side. They’re not going anywhere. And the kids aren’t going to push them out of office, though they can make the tenure uncomfortable. So yes, cheer them and encourage them, but do something. Today I sent an email to a company that ships using FedEx, the one major company that has not cut ties with the NRA. I’m sure there aren’t enough zeroes after the decimal point to indicate the percentage of business I provide for this company, but I want them to know that they could have made a sale today and didn’t. And for my one formal complaint, there may have been many more who quietly passed on buying something but did so for the same reason.
In the grand scheme of things, my email was an anemic gesture, but if adults don’t meets the kids halfway, the bad guys will keep winning. They already have a big lead.