I remember when my oldest children were in elementary school and I was just learning about lockdown drills and the imaginary terror that small children act out three times a year.
The kind that turns into low-level subconscious terror. The terror that is differentiated by a code over the loud speaker — one that means “this is only a drill” and the other that means “get ready to maybe die.”
Everyone acts like active-shooter drills are part of a new normal. But teens’ passionate activism rising up from Florida and spreading with unstoppable force-out tells adults this: They are a big deal . And the kids are sick and tired of it.
Yesterday, my middle schooler asked me if I would come supporting him at his school when he and his classmates walked out. He was fretted the security guards wouldn’t let them out and worried if they get by, they wouldn’t be let back in. There were about five parents to the 500 kids at my middle schooler’s walkout. Most of us were there to proponent for the kids if they needed it, but it turned out they had support from their school.
The kids are no longer waiting for adults to wring our hands, to fight with each other for a week, to do a few forms of passive activism for a few days until we feel a little better.
Kids are weighing the results of their actions because the issue of school shootings affects them the most, and adults have failed them in creating change.
A newsperson hoisted his camera over his head to scan the crowd and the reporter approached me. “Are you a mother? ” she asked. “Would you like to be interviewed? ”
It struck me how odd it was that they were choosing to centre the votes of the handful adults when there were hundreds of screaming, chanting children around them. “I’d rather see you interview one of the students, ” I responded. “This effort was altogether student-organized and student-led. Theirs are the voices that need to be heard.”
During the 2016 election, my oldest, then 14 years old, campaigned for a local candidate. On election night, he and I attended the county Democratic watch party together. I was eager to celebrate his hard work.
When the election didn’t turn our route, we sat, mouths agape, before staggering off in defeat and embarrassment. It was bitter cold that night, the walking to the car too far. When the car wouldn’t start, I cursed, banged hard on the wheel, then slumped my head onto the frigid driver’s side window and wept.
“How could this happen? ” I screamed.
My kid, with eyes as deep as the ocean, looked at me and said, “I don’t know, Mom. It’s going to be OK.” He placed his hand on my limb, and I took a deep breath.
Parents are supposed to be able to endlessly muster optimism in every situation. It felt like a failing when I couldn’t. But my son, somehow , did not lose his fire of hope.
He’s one of the co-organizers for the upcoming national walkouts at his school. He plans to campaign in this upcoming election cycle.
American kids know about the issue of handgun violence and its effects better than most of their peers all over the world. I’m ashamed that they do. We all should be ashamed.
My kids, along with thousands and thousands of American teens, are fed up.
They’re not here for nonsensical debates about arming both teachers and militarizing their schools. They know this isn’t the Wild West, and they know more handguns followed by prayer-filled condolences are not the solution to America’s horrific school massacre problem.
Direct action is often met with criticism. People say that sit-ins, boycott, blocking traffic, and yes, even school walkouts aren’t effective, that the way to effect change is to hall lawmakers, to vote for the right nominees. But, mass interruptions have never been about changing a law in that moment. They are a tactic in meeting that end. They are a show of force-out. Mass interruptions make a scene; mass resistance forces a hand.
School walkouts are a tantrum that calls, “FIX THIS NOW! ”
I never would have never supposed I’d be rallying for my kids to throw a tantrum. But I am. I’m rallying for the entire country of teens to have fits because their channeled fury only might be the thing that solves this.
It dawned on me the other day when my children were talking about their walkout schemes that my oldest will be 18 when November 2020 rolls around.
So will a whole slew of teens who are taking to the streets today. Legislator better listen and respond like their jobs depend on it.
These children aren’t going anywhere.
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