Maybe it’s just me, but this one felt a little different, didn’t it? High School students walking out of class in protest is nothing new, there were even a few way back when I was attending, something about the cafeteria workers if I remember correctly. A bunch of kids stand around in the parking lot for a little while, maybe the local newspaper shows up and takes a few pictures, and then everybody goes back inside feeling proud of themselves while the adults shake their heads and decide whether or not any punishment is applicable.
These felt different, tens of thousands of students, numbers not seen since the anti-war movement of the ’60s. They began at 10 AM in each time zone, moving like a wave across the country and then around the world. As far away as Great Britain, Switzerland, Iceland, Israel and Tanzania. They lasted for 17 minutes, one for each of Parkland, Florida victims. A coming together of our youth in grief and solidarity, as much tribute as it was protest.
It felt like we should be paying attention, like we owed them that. The students that walked out of Columbine High School this week, adding an extra thirteen minutes for the lives lost there, weren’t even alive yet when that massacre happened. Stop and let that sit in for a minute.
One place where the students didn’t return to their classrooms was Washington, DC. There they kept right on going, seventeen minutes of silence and then hundreds marched right up to the capital steps where they were met by about a dozen congressional leaders, overwhelmingly Democrat.
These aren’t a bunch of kids, taking a break from eating tide pods and taking selfies with snapchat filters. These are impassioned, articulate young adults like Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and Jaclyn Corin. They have grown up in the era of social media and aren’t afraid of the camara, amassing massive social influence since they have stepped forward.
The message of the movement is simple; “Never Again.” They are calling for a ban on AR-15 sales, requiring universal background checks before gun sales and passage of a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to seize the weapons of those that display warning signs of violent behavior.
Not everyone is as impressed with these kids as I am, of course. A state representative from Maine actually said about Emma Gonzalez that “there is nothing about this skinhead lesbian that impresses me.” Florida representative Elizabeth Porter made sure to remind everybody that “adults make the laws” and asked if they should “allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says no homework?” When my friend Ashley posted the above picture to her alumnae page, at Smith of all places, she was called a bad mother for encouraging and being proud of her brilliant daughter.
The always classy NRA tweeted out this picture on the day of the walkouts, surprising absolutely no one.
Not everyone may agree with everything that these students are saying but Washington would be wise to listen, to take notice. Not all of them will be able to vote in the mid-term elections this year but it feels like something is building. This walk out, this movement, feels different. I have a feeling that they will be a force in 2020 and 2022.
The next generation is speaking up. They are loud, they are intelligent, and they are committed. They also seem a little pissed, and frankly, I don’t blame them.