A month ago, young American high school students in Parkland, Florida (PUBLIC high school students – I’m talking to you, DeVos) faced an unspeakable tragedy when one of their own took a military-grade rifle to school with the express intention of killing as many people as possible. Their response was to say, loudly and in unison, “ENOUGH”, and today, a chorus of young voices from not only around the country but also around the world have joined their powerful voices. If adults can’t act like adults and do something – ANYTHING – to stop or at least minimize these tragedies, then maybe a bunch of loud, passionate kids can do something. After all, a lot of these high school kids will be able to vote in the 2020 election – and who do you think they’re going to vote for? True, the NRA funds politicians from both parties, but the vast majority of NRA dollars go to members of the Republican party, which in recent years –since they became the majority in Congress, and especially since the invasion of Trump – has become the party of the mean, petty and spiteful.
And their incessant mouthpieces, in the form of Fox News and Breitbart and Info Wars, had to belittle the admirable efforts of these young people. These lunatics with their conspiracy theories! They’d rather create elaborate fictions than admit to the truth they hear and see right in front of their eyes. Like clockwork, here come Alex Jones and the tinfoil-hat brigade (or might it even be the Russians?), spouting nonsense that these kids aren’t real high school students and they’ve just seized on this shooting to further their left-wing agenda. What contortions they go through to provide “evidence” for their insanity!
What might be a normal person’s reaction upon seeing these earnest young people who want to be the agents of change for a broken system, when it’s their futures that are at stake? They are the largest stakeholders in ALL of these laws and regulations that aren’t serving them or their futures one iota. My feeling – and the feelings of all reasonable people, from Rachel Maddow to Bernie Sanders – is that, it’s a shame that it took a massacre of innocents to prompt them to action, but good on ‘em for doing everything in their power (which admittedly isn’t much – that is, unless you accumulate enough voices and enough allies to become an immovable force, which is hopefully the way this will go) to get someone to fix the problems.
I am inspired by these grieving and traumatized and, frankly, furious young people who are FED UP with the complete lack of action by the people elected to protect and serve them (and in countless ways actually hinder efforts to protect and serve them) all over TV, finally getting HEARD and SEEN and resisting things as they are, in their horrible and horrifying state. They are picking up the mantle from the women’s march(es), the Charlottesville protests, all those regular folks speaking out at town halls and picketing outside their representatives’ offices – people who are supposed to REPRESENT those regular folks!! –to preserve the Affordable Care Act and attempt to save the Dreamers. But more and more, elected officials, especially at the Federal level, don’t act for the people who elected them, or even their children, as evidenced by the current waves of protests and picketing.
I happen to know first-hand that, given an opportunity, kids of all ages, but especially high school students, have a LOT to say about their schools, their communities, their countries and the world. I spent four of the first five years of its existence working closely with the founder of Global Kids, Inc., an inspirational woman named Carole Artigiani. Carole started Global Kids back in 1989 with the express purpose of giving young people a voice. Global Kids’ motto was (and continues to be – the organization, based in New York City and Washington, D.C., still thrives) “Youth turning hope into action.” Through Carole’s connections and her tireless outreach (and that of her enthusiastic staff and the teachers at the schools where Global Kids is embedded as an after-school program), the students were given platforms at local community board and city council meetings, the governor’s office, Congress, and even the Council on Foreign Relations and the United Nations. They’ve met with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. They’ve traveled the world. For over 25 years, Carole’s aspirational little after-school program has produced generations of “woke” young people who have gone on to become teachers and activists and performers and leaders and lifelong speakers of their minds. [www.globalkids.org]
And what about those teenagers in Kansas who want to run for governor who aren’t even old enough to vote? It wasn’t a joke or a publicity stunt – they sincerely believe that their interests are not being addressed. Something they learned from American history is the “No taxation without representation” protest – well, this is their way of saying, “Don’t make rules for me if my voice isn’t represented. We may just be kids, but it’s our planet, our future.” There’s even a 13-year-old political savant in Vermont who wants to run for office there and who already knows exponentially more about how our government works than the abomination who currently occupies in the Oval Office.
LET THE KIDS SPEAK – and actually LISTEN TO THEM. Government at all levels needs an influx of young people, and soon, before the bitter, close-minded old folks in power now destroy the planet entirely, which seems more and more likely given Trump, and the obstructionist Republicans and the impotent, in-fighting Democrats. There’s GOT to be a better way – so why not listen to the young inheritors of this planet when they actually have something to say about it?