I’m not sure many of us saw it coming. Shooting after shooting after deadly shooting in our schools, gun advocates offered the usual unworkable suggestions for stopping the mass-killing epidemic; bought-and-paid for politicians cowered behind “thoughts and prayers” and stood with the killers rather than the victims; students, families and communities grieved and pleaded for meaningful solutions; and the NRA ramped up its vile rhetoric.
Then came Parkland.
This time, it was the targets who took charge of the issue. Tired of waiting for the next bloody assault, fed up with political inaction, vapid assurances and dangerous ideas, outraged that a nation could haplessly accept the rapid-fire murder of its children with another collective shrug, frustrated that Second Amendment extremism continues to be regarded as more important than the right not to be shot, the kids took the initiative.
Thank God for that. Because if the existing political system offers no hope for saving their lives and those of their peers, the only way for the students to fight their way out of constant jeopardy is to change the system. They are promising they will. And they might.
The Parkland survivors’ activism has stirred a broad, visceral response across the country. There’s a reason for that: These kids are genuine. They’re smart. They’re articulate. They are motivated. And they’re not backing down, despite some of the most despicable backlash that any child in this country has had to endure.
Their response was not manufactured by “liberals” or interest groups. They are not puppets for anyone. They spontaneously rose up in anger, fear and frustration, and those emotions are resonating far beyond Florida. If you want to dismiss “not getting killed by a spray of bullets” as self-interest, well that says a lot more about you than it does about the kids. The Parkland kids and their young cohorts aren’t posturing when they say “enough is enough.” They’re stating the obvious.
The Parkland phenomenon played out in the Methow Valley last week, when students, parents and staff joined a short, peaceful walkout in remembrance of the Parkland victims, and in quiet support of sane gun control measures. If you saw who was there, you know that the students who stood in front of the crowd to represent the 17 people who died at Parkland are a remarkable credit to this community. They were scholars, athletes, student leaders, young people with promising futures who will make us proud. They’re not troublemakers, or flaky idealists who don’t know any better. They’ve thought things through a lot more coherently than many of their elders.
They are not particularly afraid of — or interested in — dealing with the NRA, because that organization doesn’t own them, can’t bully them and is irrelevant to their goal, which is getting at the politicians. The young people are promising to vote, with the assurance that they will remember who is saying what about the issues right now.
It’s not just a teenager thing. Adults are also joining the cause. Last weekend, our community turned out in force for the “March for Our Lives” in Twisp. By “our,” they mean everyone who may be threatened with gun-related violence.
There are political forces, and heavily invested interest groups, that are heaping disdain on the kids, with the ominous implication that the kids should just sit down and shut up if they know what’s good for them.
I hope they don’t sit down, shut up or stop pushing. Right now, no one knows what’s better for them than they do.