Tomorrow, Saturday, March 24, high school students from across the United States and their supporters will march through the streets of Washington, D.C. and in cities all over America to demand gun reforms in the wake of the 17 deaths at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14.
At the same time, solidarity marches are planned across the globe, on every inhabited continent. Africa’s lone march is sheduled to take place on the island nation of Mauritius.
In Canada there will be marches from Vancouver in the west, all the way to St. John’s Nfld. and as far north as Thompson, Man.
Granted, protests held outside of the U.S. can have little real effect on gun laws within that nation, but they are vital nonetheless, because they serve as a massive show of support for the student leaders who are being maligned at every turn by powerful politicians and the media outlets who support the current administration.
The students have been called naive, uninformed and disrespectful for their loud and unceasing call for change.
For the past 20 years, since Columbine, in fact, “Now is not the appropriate time to talk about gun reform” has been the mantra of the gun lobby and its supporters after every mass shooting.
This generation has news for them.
It is the children who have stared down the barrel of an automatic weapon and survived, or who have spent hours hiding silently inside a closet, wondering whether that is where their lives will end, who get to choose the time and place for the discussion.
They choose now.
Certainly, as teenagers, they have little to lose in the way of material wealth, but the movement’s leaders are still taking a bit of chance with their futures. They could be blacklisted as troublemakers or malcontents.
They don’t seem to care.
That might be because there are also plenty of people out there in positions of power who support their efforts and will be only too happy to hire them or help them along in years to come.
The level of initiative they are showing certainly deserves to be rewarded.
But what, exactly, has changed? Why was this specific tragedy the tipping point?
Maybe it’s because this particular generation, as derided as they have been for their perceived sense of entitlement or self-importance, has been taught from the outset that they do, in fact, matter and that their opinions are valid, regardless of the fact they can’t yet vote.
Or perhaps it’s because we’ve always been taught to believe it’s the government’s job to address these issues on our behalf — that’s why they’re elected after all.
But when it’s made abundantly clear that the government has more interest in actively opposing their efforts than in protecting their lives, what other choice do they have?