I’m pretty old. Like many of us, I’ve been talking a long time. These last few weeks I have realized that it is time to listen.
The older generation often looks on the upcoming generation with curiosity and a dash of terror. How could they be so – fill in the blank — foolish, immature, unfocused, superficial, and on and on. How can they possibly function with their noses (and brains) buried in some device, a device that we in my generation are proud just to be able to turn on and off? They will never learn to communicate, we despair. They will lose all ability to relate to another human being. Look at them, texting each other while sitting shoulder to shoulder on the bus!
I confess I’ve said all this myself, but no more. Since the Parkland shooting, I have closed my gaping jaw and listened to some of the most articulate, smart, committed voices I have heard in a long time. Strong, passionate voices. Fearless, young faces. They command the stage, the podium, the press conference. They demand that we listen. They are laser-focused and they mean it.
I am inspired and I am relieved. All this time I thought it was still my cause to lead, whatever that cause might be. My generation was there to protest the Vietnam war, to fight for civil rights, to defend the environment, to point out injustice where we saw it. As I have aged, inevitably so have my energy and enthusiasm, and for the past many years, I told myself that I was lucky to have lived in a golden age of activism, one that we would not see again. How self-centered! And how delighted I am to be corrected!
The Parkland students have taken the lead, but they have partners all over the country, including from Aztec, a small, rural community in northwestern New Mexico. The community is conservative, many homes have guns and many students have grown up knowing how to handle them. This student population may not have a natural affinity with the mainstream anti-gun crowd, but they share something profound: the terror of gun violence in school.
On December 7, 2017, a young gunman opened fire at Aztec High School, killing two students, Paco Fernandez and Casey Jordan-Marquez. Aztec High immediately became one in a long list of schools suffering the same tragedy – the loss of one or more in their school community to gun violence. School was no longer, and never would be again, the safe place they had known.
Four students from Aztec joined the movement and traveled to Washington DC for the demonstration on March 24 to end gun violence. They were able to connect with others who had survived the same nightmare and feel the strength of their numbers and the power of their message. They also took advantage of being in the Capitol to take their message to their senator. A local TV station, KOB-TV interviewed the four students before they went and covered them at the protest and in the office of their Senator. I am so proud of the Aztec Four. They will become educated on the issue, and in the process find their own messages and voices.
All over the country students are speaking out in a broad, diverse and powerful movement. I am watching and I am listening, with gratitude. I will offer support however I can.
Read about the Aztec High students in DC