As we report elsewhere today, our regional high school’s student council is organizing a walkout this Friday, and Charter School students are chartering a bus to go to a march on Washington, both efforts as symbols of support for students in Lakeland, Fla., just now finishing burying their dead. These survivors and all of us, but perhaps especially our children, are also the victims.
Vineyard high school students and their cohorts around the country are fighting as best they can to get legislators, presidents, governors and other leaders to do more than tweet their thoughts and prayers. It is at first shocking but on second thought encouraging and affirming that a major burden of this moment of inexplicable sadness falls on the shoulders of our young people — as it did throughout the civil rights struggle, and the tragedy of Vietnam, and the fight for personhood for LGBTQ Americans.
At moments of broad shift in our values, regular Americans pivot far faster than politicians. Demonstrations like this, both larger and smaller, are an essential part of forcing long overdue political action. Abhorrence at too-easy access to guns and our obvious inability to protect our citizens, neighbors, and children from slaughter could propel us to such a moment. We say could, because experience — after Sandy Hook and Las Vegas and on and on and on — cautions us to expect that the soulless indifference of those who do not see and will not act will usually prevail. Wasting no time, the Florida legislature has already voted down the idea of debating a ban on assault weapons,
But if experience encourages skepticism it also teaches that change doesn’t come from cynical disengagement. It comes from regular citizens relentlessly confronting those in power who temporize, rationalize and consciously choose to protect their tribes, their donors, and their personal ambitions rather than protect our children and families.