With the forces of division stronger than ever, leave it to the kids to give America what it needs: solidarity.
Students all over the country walked out of class in protest yesterday to bring attention to the fact that no one in power is doing anything to stop the senseless and horrific epidemic of gun violence in America. Tired of thoughts and prayers followed by inaction and neglect, the youth of America have chosen to “be a nuisance when it counts” in an attempt to change the deadly status quo. This symbolic act of political expression was the result of a coordinated, grassroots campaign spearheaded by the students themselves, exactly one month after 17 of their peers were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In Massachusetts, the third nor’easter in as many weeks couldn’t stop thousands of teenagers from making their voices heard. Students in Boston, Somerville, Andover, and elsewhere used their snow day to trudge through the elements in order to deliver their message to lawmakers. And where the weather proved to be too much to safely march, such as in the harder-hit western part of the state, planned protests were rescheduled for today.
Nowhere in the Commonwealth was safe from the wrath of the engaged and energized youth. In Springfield, students gathered outside of the Smith & Wesson headquarters to loudly protest the gunmaker responsible for mass-producing the weapon used to kill 17 people in Parkland.
[fiftystates_blockquote quote=”Students are uniting in solidarity under a common banner: to bring an end to the violence, to push back against the entrenched interests of a brutal and powerful industry of death, to demand that their leaders take them seriously and act as if their lives have value.”]
As a leader in responsible gun control policy, the state of Massachusetts lent a generally receptive ear to the rightfully enraged protesters. But elsewhere, students were met with a less empathetic response — not just from lawmakers, but also teachers and school administrators. One high school superintendent in Texas, who threatened to suspend any and all students wishing to express themselves in peaceful and conscientious demonstration, justified his administration’s zero-tolerance policy by asserting, without a hint of irony, that schools are in fact places “to learn and grow educationally, emotionally and morally.”
But the teens will not be deterred — and they are in good company. History is replete with examples of young people standing up to do the right thing when adults in power have abdicated their shared responsibility to look out for the common good. What is seemingly different this time, at least in modern American history, is the level of solidarity among students from disparate regions of the country, with different backgrounds and life experiences, all uniting under a common banner: to bring an end to the violence, to push back against the entrenched interests of a brutal and powerful industry of death, to demand that their leaders take them seriously and act as if their lives have value.
Such unified, active, and prolonged engagement in a just cause represents the true stuff of American greatness. And the cause is not only just, it is necessary. Whether through apathy or outright hostility, adults in power have failed to adequately protect the interests of the young — including their most basic right of freedom from physical harm.
So the youth of America are taking power unto themselves with an impassioned unity long discarded by the old. From an unceasing refusal to let the conversation die yet again, to yesterday’s walkouts, to the upcoming March for Our Lives, their committed efforts are working where others have failed and when they are most needed.
The kids are more than all right. They are America’s only hope.