Gun Control: The Times are A-Changin’ as the Young Say Never Again

When the youth took to the streets over Vietnam, they were protesting over life and death issues. Their own. Now, teenagers who should be worrying about the prom are instead mourning friends and being attacked for advocating for gun control.

In Vietnam, the old sent the young to die in a proxy war with the Soviet Union. Now, Republican politicians look the other way when Russian makes a direct attack against our electoral system as our schools become war zones.

School hallways have become killing fields in which children are slain by weapons designed for the battlefield.

High schoolers across the land take to the streets demonstrating for gun control. Now it's the NRA and their GOP lackies ducking for cover.
Students protesting for gun control at the White House after the Parkland, Florida massacre, via Lorie Shaull, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Can you blame the grief-stricken Parkland teens for their disbelief at the resignation of adults after every heart-wrenching massacre? At their cowering in the face of the NRA’s power?

They’re too young to be jaded, accepting the unacceptable. It’s always too soon to talk about taking measures to prevent the next tragedy.

And when it strikes, it’s literally rinse and repeat. By the time the blood stains are scrubbed, the pressure for change has passed.

Sandy Hook Elementary after the massacre, via VOA, Public Domain.

It seemed that finally some mild gun control measures might be passed after twenty children and six adults were killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School.

A six-year-old girl survived by playing dead. All fourteen of her classmates were killed. When she was reunited with her mom, she said,

Mommy, I’m okay, but all my friends are dead.

Six- and seven-year-olds sprayed by bullets as if from an atomizer. If that couldn’t spur even modest gun control legislation, surely nothing would.

That poor girl was too young to lobby for gun reform. The parents of the children who lost their lives, however, formed Sandy Hook Promise to advocate for sensible gun control and safety measures, channeling their heartbreak into activism.

If Sandy Hook couldn’t inspire modest changes to our gun laws then surely nothing could.

Gun Control: A New Generation Takin’ It to the Streets

So why would this time be any different? How could grieving classmates of the seventeen dead Marjory Stoneman Douglas High students cause the NRA and their GOP lackies break into a sweat?

What in the world made Marco Rubio submit to a grilling by students and parents of the killed in a CNN town hall? And why did President Trump hold a “listening session” with a carefully selected group of survivors?

Obama would’ve been in tears. Even George W. Bush probably would’ve, even while remaining joined at the hip with the NRA. Instead, Trump needed an empathy crib sheet, complete with a prompt to say, “I hear you.”

We see you, too.

And so do the Parkland survivors who have been unexpectedly thrust into the role of gun control activists. Sorry, gun reform, as they’ve cannily recast the ossified debate.

These kids grew up in a social media landscape, nursed on a diet of always-public, pervasive media. Almost as soon as they could talk their thoughts and feelings were broadcast to the world.

In a sense, they’ve always held a megaphone. And it’s therefore it’s no surprise that when the sadly all-too-thinkable happened to them they would step up and lead the charge for change.

These teens are too young to know that achieving gun control is impossible. And thus it has always been.

Change has always come from those not yet old enough to be jaded into complacency.

Just as the Vietnam generation grew up with duck-and-cover drills, the Parkland survivors prepped with active shooter lockdowns. Yet, they’re old enough to know it hasn’t always been this way. And they’re still idealistic enough to believe in possibility of change.

These teens are saying, this is not normal. High-schoolers across the country are organizing vigils and marches. A Texas school superintendent threatened to suspend any students who protest gun laws.

Yes, this position is hardly a shocker in Texas. What is surprising is that fear of student gun control protests would arise deep in the heart of Texas.

Parkland survivors are organizing a planned 500,000 person march on Washington on March 24, complete with 2000 chairs and 14 Jumbotrons. (As befits kids who grew up expecting Bouncy Castles for their birthday parties).

It’s titled March for Our Lives. And that it is. Just as the cannon fodder among the Vietnam generation rose up to save their own lives, these kids determined to drag their parents’ generation along with them.

Mugshot of Nikolas Cruz via the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Florida, public domain.

This is beginning to feel less like the usual brief glimmer of doomed hope than the beginning spark of a movement. And that explains the timid edging of Florida politicians like Rubio and governor Rick Scott toward supporting a minor gun control measures like raising the age of gun ownership to 21. (Nikolas Cruz, the Stoneman High shooter, is only two years shy of 21.)

Politicians have a Spidey sense for shifts in the political winds.

Meanwhile, corporations are divesting from the NRA right and left.

Could this be a flash in the pan — the latest teen rage until the next fad? Absolutely.

But we’re living in an activist era, where millions of women march in protest of President Trump’s inauguration. And in which people are picketing for Muslim immigrants and to protect the innocent Dreamers who have known no other land but the one their parents brought them to through no fault of their own.

I missed the era of hippie idealism. Mine is the generation disparaged as slackers. Gen-Xers, in turn, have slimed Millennials as entitled.

I did it myself when I snarkily mocked bouncy castles.

Though I think that Millennials are often maligned unfairly, these teens are post-Millennials. History moves in cycles. Are we seeing the awakening of an new activist era?

President Trump has so often cribbed from the Richard Nixon playbook, even to point of facing a special council and flirting with a Saturday Night Massacre of his own. History may be completing the reiteration with massive protests on the street.

Famous photo of a flower child Vietnam protest via S.Sgt. Albert R. Simpson, public domain.
As Bob Dylan warned as the Vietnam War raged:
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

The young are once again takin’ it to the streets. They are indeed fighting for their lives as they hashtag their plea: #NeverAgain.

And the NRA and their GOP lackies are now the ones running for their lives.


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