cannot help but be riveted by the outstanding response from the young
survivors of the carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in
Parkland, Florida, and their absolute audacity in confronting both
Florida legislators and the President with their frustration at the
absence of common sense gun control. During a CNN Town Hall, student
Cameron Kasky asked Senator Marco Rubio whether he would continue to
take money from the National Rifle Association, the organization
students have focused on as one of the reason there are no common
sense gun laws. Rubio said he would continue to take money from the
NRA (they own a $3 million slice of his hide), but that he would
agree to change laws so no one under 21 could purchase an automatic
weapon, and that he would agree to outlaw the bump stocks that
transform semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons.
of the students who have spoken up have been impressive, so much so
that CNN commentator Jack Kingston (former Georgia Republican
congressman) and other of his ilk have asserted that these students
are “crisis actors” who are being “manipulated”
by “liberals” and “Democrats”. All you have
to do is listen to one of these young people, hear the tears trailing
at the end of their voices, and hear their frustrated voices rising
into yelling, to know they have not been coached. The emotion is too
raw, the feelings are too real, and one young woman told a CNN
reporter that she “resented” the notion of manipulation.
These young people are between 14 and 18, middle and
upper-middle-class young people who have had the benefit of a civics
education. They plan to March on Washington on March 14th, and have
already attracted support from Oprah Winfrey, George and Amal
Clooney, and others.
Parkland young people have been savvy enough to note that their
school was not shot up by an immigrant but by a homegrown terrorist.
They have implicitly rejected the rhetoric that comes from 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue about dangerous immigrants. Imagine that they
actively reached out to some of the dreamers and encouraged them to
be part of the youth movement for common sense gun laws. If these
youth can combine their movements with their demands, they could
develop a very powerful movement.
further, that the young people who have been exposed to gun violence
on the streets of cities like Chicago and Washington, DC joined the
Parkland movement, and that a group of diverse young people came
together to push politicians to do better on legislation that affects
their generation. This includes gun laws, but may also include
health care, and access to education. Even though the Parkland
young’uns come from middle-class backgrounds, they are surely
aware of the narrowing of opportunities for the middle class. If
these mostly white young people could join with youth of color, they
could mirror the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King had when he talked
about multiracial coalitions.
I’m being overly optimistic about the possibility of a
multiracial youth coalition. We have seen several young white men
pick up automatic weapons and kill multiple people. Dylan Roof was
just 21 when he killed nine African Americans at Emanuel African
American Episcopal Church. Nikolas Cruz, the killer In Parkland, is
19. Even as the Parkland students galvanize, there are forces that
are also galvanizing young people. These are the neo-Nazis, the
white supremacists, and the downright racists who appeal to young
white men who somehow feel that others have more opportunity than
they do. These are the folks who listen to the siren call of 45’s
rhetoric and eagerly embrace his divisiveness.
if we believe, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “the
arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”,
then we must be optimistic about positive developments in the
political arena. The young people who have risen up are a positive
development. If they are able to join with young people of color to
push politicians in the right direction, we will all be better off!