There’s no shortage of disparaging adjectives that older people regularly heap on today’s youth.
None of those words describe youth that I know or the huge crowd that gathered outside of Madison East High School on Wednesday, March 14, for the National School Walkout. Loud and excited, music playing, jumping around to stay warm, this giant mob of young people was eager to walk the long two miles down E. Wash in the 32-degree weather to take part in what will one day be seen as a flashpoint in United States’ history. The crowd was massive and it was electric. When they met up with other young people from other schools in the area at the state Capitol building, even more so.
All told, millions of young people flooded the streets across the United States from about 3,000 schools on that day – a remarkable response from today’s youth to America’s ongoing, embarrassing and unimaginable political inaction on gun violence.
There was no stopping this movement, which was a long time coming. Yet some people tried. Mainly through a last-second, cockamamie “Walk Up/NOT Out” campaign that instructed young people to not protest but to – instead – be nicer in order to solve the awful gun violence that specifically plagues the children of America.
“Walk up to the kid who sits alone and ask him to join your group.”
“Walk up to the kid who never has a voluntary partner and offer to be hers.”
“Walk up to your teachers and thank them.”
“Walk up to someone and just be nice.”
There was something incredibly fishy about that right away. First and foremost, if there was a Venn diagram of people who posted the “Walk up; NOT out” meme to social media and of avid supporters of President Trump, the two circles would be almost completely overlapping each other. Which made the irony that more rich. You want us to drop this huge national protest and “be nice” and to practice empathy and kindness for other human beings? You’re the guy that loves the man with at least 19 current sexual assault/harrassment allegations made against him by women? You’re the woman that loves the guy that openly mocks people with disabilities and belittles people who are different? The guy that regularly tries to isolate, bully, and humiliate minorities and women? The guy that’s currently bullying a woman over talking about the sex she allegedly never had with him?
“Show more empathy” was, indeed, very strange coming from the people who only watch a certain television station where they consistently have people telling its millions of viewers that the Parkland students – who saw 17 of their dear friends mowed down – were faking it? “Be nicer” from the same group who 50 times a day derides young people “snowflakes” for expressing their feelings? Your M.O. is empathy now? Kindness? The very same people who mocked former First Lady Michelle Obama and her anti-bullying campaign and (anti-bullying campaigns, in general) as a soft response from everybody-gets-a-trophy Millennials?
Young people saw right through that B.S. It was a silly idea to think that fifteen-year-olds are responsible for school massacres. “Walk Up; NOT Out” is a cowardly campaign unleashed on us by cowardly older people that have spent a lifetime doing nothing when faced with crisis. And they want young people to do the same.
The young people rightly and soundly rejected it. Most kids saw right through this powerfully dangerous deflection. “Being nice” is not a policy plan to deal with massive gun violence towards kids and the gun massacres that happen in our American schools regularly.
There were classmates throughout my childhood in school who were extremely mean and cliquey who isolated and tortured other students. They ostracized and made them feel small. They were brutal. But we didn’t have any mass shootings. Likewise, there are mean kids in every country outside the United States who behave exactly the same way. Again, no mass shootings.
At it’s core, the problem is simple in America – we have way too many guns and they’re way too easy to get. That’s the main difference.
Oh, that, and the NRA spends millions and millions of dollars to make sure our politicians do absolutely nothing about kids getting regularly slaughtered in our country.
This amazing, immoral inaction on gun violence is just one of a slew of problems created by Baby Boomers (and, yes, Xers, too). The Boomers – born between 1946 and 1964 – have dominated politics and the economy for years. They inherited an affluent country and have gradually depleted it. Boomers regularly cut their own taxes, put repeated multi-trillion-dollar Middle Eastern quagmires on the credit card for future generations to pay for while gutting and demonizing unions and watching America’s manufacturing die. They ignored climate change. They caused the Great Recession. They killed the middle class as we know it, and, along with that, the American Dream.
Because of all this Boomer greed and apathy, young people today are, unfortunately, the first generation in the modern era to have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty and unemployment, and lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations (Gen Xers and Boomers) had at the same stage of their life cycles.
“Young people: Keep marching. Keep shouting. Keep questioning. Keep making noise. Keep offering solutions. Keep fighting. And, very soon, vote. There is so much to fix but first things first … you need to feel safe in your own schools. And you’re going to need to do it mostly by yourself because old people faced with the choice of money vs. helping humans have repeatedly chosen money.”
Author Sean Illing put it best: “I’ve always seen the boomers as a generational trust-fund baby: They inherited a country they had no part in building, failed to appreciate it, and seized on all the benefits while leaving nothing behind.”
It’s not really that every Boomers purposely performed these atrocities. But, ironically, enough stood idly by over the years and decades – I guess you could say they “Walked up instead of walking out” – as the top 1 percent pillaged, ravaged, bankrupted and killed the American middle class. (But they got theirs!)
And now they have the audacity to tell kids facing wildly affordable college tuition, wildly affordable health care, declining wages, mass incarceration, unafforable housing, systematic racism, massive income inequality, crumbling infrastructure, and a myriad of other terrible problems cause Boomer greed and Boomer apathy – to shut up.
The kids soundly rejected that nonsense last Wednesday. And, by the looks of it, there is more rejection of last-minute cockamamie schemes to shut them up coming down the road as they prepare for this weekend’s March for Our Lives.
I can’t tell you what all of the kids’ solutions will do or what kind of effect they will have on the bottom line of massacres that we see regularly in America. I can tell you that doing nothing like we have for decades and hiding your head in the sand accomplishes nothing and will, in the end, make it worse. I’m sure older people know this. Weird that older Americans are so apathetic to our children’s gun deaths (Welp. Nothing we can do! Let’s not politicize this. #Thoughts&Prayers, etc.) but immediately made sure that every person at every airport every time they fly has to take their shoes off because one idiot tried to put a bomb in his shoe on an airplane one time.
Somebody’s puppy died on a plane last week and we immediately had laws to fix it so it never happened again.
But … kids slaughtered by gun violence again – only in America … always in America …every time in America?
Kids: “Your #Thoughts&Prayers are not enough. We are still getting slaughtered.”
Older adults: “#Thoughts&Prayers and ……be nice?”
The upcoming “March for Our Lives” this weekend in Washington D.C. organized by students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is going to be the likes of something we have never seen in America. That and hundreds of “sibling marches” that will take place in cities around the United States and around the world. The movement has just begun. It is huge right now but it will just be getting bigger.
Old people: Don’t try to stop it. Because you can’t. All you will be doing is stamping your own comments and signature on the wrong side of history.
Young people: Keep marching. Keep shouting. Keep questioning. Keep making noise. Keep offering solutions. Keep fighting. And, very soon, vote. There is so much to fix but first things first … you need to feel safe in your own schools. And you’re going to need to do it mostly by yourself because old people faced with the choice of money vs. helping humans have repeatedly chosen money.
It will take a lot of work and struggle and perseverance, but someday I hope you can fix the mountain of things we’ve have broken because older people in this country have been, for decades and decades, apathetic, selfish, ignorant, and spoiled.