Julie get the gun, Julie throw it in the river
Let it roll far on out to sea
Let it carry the confusion
The hatred and the worry here in me
River rolling out to sea
– John Stewart, “Some Lonesome Picker” (California Bloodlines, 1968)
It was as modern as Instagram yet recalled the best elements of an old-fashioned political rally, with passionate speakers, rousing music, and a crowd electrified by them. The speakers were kids – literally – and brought the incandescence of youth with conviction, ambition, purpose and a fierce dedication to waging a battle they might not be ready for. They brought declarations of sorrow and fear, determination and challenge, and four and a half minutes of silence that seemed to stop the planet on its axis. The images and sounds captivated millions and likely changed a few minds.
Some minds have calcified and cannot change. Where many of us saw a reason to hope the Parkland kids and allies from Chicago, Los Angeles and elsewhere could lead America out of the shadow of gun violence, others saw a threat to their mistaken belief that a society with virtually no control over gun possession is the model of governance. They value their guns over the lives of children, although they try to mask their deficient humanity with the preposterous argument that arming teachers and increasing the presence of guns in schools will guarantee a secure learning environment. They’re arsonists masquerading as firefighters.
Sadly, some of them reside in my town, as demonstrated by their reaction to a Facebook posting from an evangelical conservative who manages local radio stations. He wrote this: “It is encouraging to see young people march in Washington and around the country for gun control. We can argue about whether gun control is the sole issue or even the main issue, but regardless the kids are energized.” He closed by hoping the movement would trigger a “spiritual revival.” Based on the reactions, you’d have thought he denounced motherhood.
Consider the commentator who said the Parkland kids were “lied to, manipulated, and used as pawns to advance the agenda of Socialist-seeking Idealogues (sic).” That was a recurrent theme: that the Parkland kids, apparently unable to think for themselves, are mere pawns of an adult agenda. “(T)hese are under age children according to the laws of the land,” wrote another. “Where are their parents? What has happened to parentis en locus (sic)?” The nastiness was captured in this comment: “It’s not encouraging to see them like ‘sheep.’ I apologize to all the real Sheep (sic), that was a put down, at least you have a brain.”
One of the strangest comments was a question that asked, “How many oddballs, loners and ‘weird’ kids have been embraced, accepted and befriended this week by the marchers?” A few comments down the page the author added, “I doubt very many actually thought critically about the ‘reason’ for the march they joined, most likely just because it was a thing all the other kids were doing.” Another wrote, “I would like to see some evidence that they are not simply running with the herd, and are actually thinking critically and independently.” Was he not watching on Saturday, March 24th?
The most troubling comment came from a prominent local businessman who is a member of the Republican National Committee. “Children are being used as props for leftist gun grabbers,” he wrote. “These children have free speech because of the second amendment they want to throw away.” That suggests the Parkland kids’ most powerful adversary is the Grand Old Party – emphasis on “Old.” But I would not bet against them for three reasons:
The first, and most important, is that the kids understand modern media. For those as old as Donald Trump and Wayne LaPierre, cell phones and the Internet are “technology” because they were invented during their lifetimes. For the kids, these things are not technology, but environment. They grew up with smart phones and understand new media better than older folks. That gives them a power over their message their elders cannot match.
Second, the gun advocates are fighting on the kids’ terms, because both rely on emotional arguments. The kids’ emotional appeal is clear: they want to feel safe in school but the abundance and nature of weaponry in America makes that impossible. The NRA and its fellow travelers rely on emotion as well. They live in a paranoid reality, afraid of their own shadows, grabbing desperately at guns to shield themselves from their inner demons. They concoct enemies they must arm themselves against, including their own government. I have long believed men obsessed with guns conflate them with their male member, as though permissive gun laws will remediate their shortcomings. The kids’ legitimate fears will eclipse the make-believe fears of the gun radicals.
Finally, the kids have time and numbers on their side. Fewer than one-third of Americans own guns and only three percent of the population possess half of them. Most United States citizens support stricter gun controls, a number that accelerated after the Parkland massacre. Gun rights advocates historically vote in higher percentages than the general population, but that won’t matter much longer, not with the culture and demographic and political numbers trending irrevocably against them. America’s future is not their future.
Gun radicals insist the Parkland kids and their young allies should be ignored and shunned, even when their lives are at stake, arguing they cannot think for themselves and are pawns of an anti-American political agenda. In other words: shut up and drop dead.
Children can be so cruel.
© 2018 by Mike Tully