When we take a closer look at American history, we realize that the youth of America may have been, and may be in the future, this country’s remaining saving grace. Despite their multiple, virtually countless faults, the so-called Founding Fathers devised a form of governance that, when practiced according to principle, is a virtual work of art. And those “Founding Fathers” were primarily men in their twenties and thirties. Similarly, the epic civil rights movement and episodically heroic Vietnam War protest were led by young men and women (Martin Luther King was 34 when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech). And now, this past weekend, we witnessed the youth of America seize the mantle of leadership and take up battle against gun insanity in the United States.
There is no need, and this is not an attempt, to romanticize or rationalize American history or the American present. But it is a truth that in the history of this planet younger generations of any era have translated the change into their lives into the changes of society and the world in which we live. In the current era there has been such an emphasis on self-comfort, self-aggrandizement and just plain self, that there should be no surprise in learning that it has taken the current generation of youth more than a minute to climb out of their digitized rabbit holes and confront the world with their vision of today and tomorrow.
The awful and bloody reality of living in the United States of Gun has been with us for the better part of this country’s existence. But it has been during the past half century that the glorification of the God of Gun has been commercialized to the point that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is seen by too many as an advertisement for gun ownership and more importantly, gun sales.
But the generation of young people with the most potent voices last weekend are the first generation to literally grow up from the cradle to skateboard with regular visitations of mass gun violence in schools. These boys and girls and young women and young men have not known a time when a year could go by without death by automatic weapons fire in some school somewhere in these United States. Theirs is a generation that lives in an America where bullets know no boundaries – from the suburbs to the inner cities to the farmland – and where bullets cannot distinguish between black and white, male or female, rich or poor. Bullets in their world kill without discrimination and seemingly without pause.
This past Saturday we may have witnessed a generation of young people realizing that the world is theirs to change and that they have the power to cast off the painful yoke of endurance and pain and quite simply change the world. With their capacity to communicate globally and instantaneously and their discovery that they have (or will have) the right to vote, this young generation of new warriors may be able to do something that past generations have been unable to do – stop the worship of the gun and revisit the notion of reverence for life and peace.
We should be glad that they are not listening when they are told that they are too young to express their opinion, much less seek to change the world. Of course, that is what was said to Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Rosa Parks and the generation of war protesters whose voices drove a President from office and started this country on the path of peace and away from useless and bloody war.
Last week we may have watched the dawning of a new day in America and in the world.
Time will tell. As it always does – because actions will always speak louder than words, no matter how noble and eloquent those words might be.