On March 14th students around the country will leave school to protest the latest school massacre, at the Parkland Florida high school, and all the others. Teachers and administrators are being invited to walk out, too. But the students apparently aren’t asking permission to do this.If this shows disrespect for their elders, so be it. When your life is in danger you don’t ask permission from those who, by action or inaction, are the source of the danger.
(Other #enough events are planned.)
In a widely viewed YouTube, Emma Gonzalez, a senior at the school, responds with articulate outrage to the usual adult bleating of adults about our powerlessness to prevent school shootings. You say there’s nothing you can do to p rotect us as other countries have done? “We call BS.”
It’s very moving to behold this teenager shrugging off our usual idea of teen age. This girl is on fire.
One of the reasons such a logical phenomenon as youth organizing in their own behalf has been so slow—so many massacres– in coming may be a culture-wide notion, bought into by middleclass parents and kids alike, that as kids they shouldn’t have to be bothered about such stuff.
It seems a nice gift we can give our kids, even something we owe them: an extended period in the nest: A time of peace and security in which the grownups are in charge, modelling how to run the world.
I know that as a parent I was deeply grateful that my son did not have to register for the draft at age 18 and have that hanging over his head. It seemed a gift our generation had given his. But it was the existence of that sobering limit on childhood that led to the last massive mobilization of youth in their own behalf, against having to be cannon fodder in a indefensible war kept going by inept, immoral grownups. Hell no, we wouldn’t go.
Though a nice idea, this gift of extended fallowness, through college and years beyond, may have more of a downside than we have been thinking. Years dedicated to “finding oneself” ,(often looking for oneself in all the wrong places, to p araphrase the song), may be depriving youth of a key ingredient of a meaningful life, political engagement. It is even possible that the drug epidemic has more to do with this problematic gift of prolonged childhood than with the sheer availability of drugs.
“Childhood” and “adulthood” are of course concepts only loosely related to biological maturity. It may be that there is no substitute for meaningful engagement of the world around us, including political engagement, even for the young.
We could use organized youthful energy on many fronts. It seems ridiculous, for instance, that for decades the movement to close down Pilgrim for all the good reasons so often rehearsed in these pages,.has been conducted almost exclusively by retirement-age people. We owe a lot to those grayhairs who have turned much of their lives over to this good work, often with little encouragement in the form of success. But I have no doubt that a massive effort of awakened young people, people who have by far the most to lose, would have long since gotten the job done of removing this menace..
Conservative pundits are predictably doing their best to kill off the seedling #Enough movement, portraying its powerful and articulate leaders such as Ms. Gonzalez as necessarily puppets in a plot orchestrated by old liberals.
On CNN Jack Kingston, a former representative from Georgia asked “do we really think 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?” I guess we’ll be seeing what motivated students and other members of the demographic future can do to correct the heartlessness and incompetence of our so-called leaders with a badly needed and, here’s hoping, far-reaching youth movement.