I was so glad to hear a young girl’s piping voice—she was in Washington for the march—recite a line from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, as support for the amazing outpouring all over the country of students determined to end gun violence. And while Dr. King’s dream for his children’s future doesn’t quite match up with this young woman’s dream that “Enough is Enough,” her quote shows that some, perhaps many, of these marchers understand their connection with the peaceful demonstrations of the past.
I wish she also had mentioned this movement’s link with the Women’s Rights Movement going back many decades to the first struggles for the vote more than 150 years ago. This link is especially important because so many of the voices I hear belong to young women.
I wish, too, that this speaker or one of the other marchers would express their debt to the modern women’s movement which almost certainly inspired their mothers and grandmothers. And it may not be too much to imagine that the activism of these earlier generations made the students’ outspokenness imaginable and then possible—especially the outspokenness of these young women we once imagined immersed in pink and Disney princess dreams.
And maybe they were for a while. But what has been happening at their schools has woken them. May they stay awake long enough to outlive the disillusion inevitable for all movements that try to change the world. The world is not going to be changed immediately—it never is—especially that version of the world mired in bureaucracy and what we have come to accept as politics as usual. The veneer of public service, which was at times certainly deeper than veneer, has long since worn away and these young people are going to be exposed to greed and entitlement on the part of their elected representatives such as they have never experienced or even imagined.
And not only on the part of public servants—who may possibly be uncomfortable with that title—but in the resistance of fathers and brothers and boyfriends who own and love guns and sometimes insist angrily that guns don’t kill people, people do—which is serving to further stigmatize boys and men suffering from mental illness, although that is not the profile of most killers.
And what about those boys and men? Even those, and there are many of us including me who love our boys and men, must come to understand and express our painful acknowledgment that it is nearly always boys and men who cause death and destruction in our world. And we can’t tame them. We can’t fix them. These killers are the poisonous fruit of a poisoned culture where very few mention the obvious effect of early and total emersion in video games, high school ROTC, violent sports and the ongoing and everlasting assaults on women as both cause and consequence of our poisoned culture.
So, dear Believers, dear Marchers and Speakers, I beg you to immerse yourself in our history, in all the aspects of violence so deeply embedded in money-making and male entitlement. You will have to unearth, examine and eventually pull out some long roots—and this will be both dangerous and painful.