March for our Lives: Stop Exploiting our Children

In honor of March for our Lives, I thought I’d share what’s on my mind as I watch the coverage.

Every life affected by gun violence in schools, especially those lost, is tragic beyond description. The country is united in a desire to make sure that the violence and loss stop, here and now. Republican/Democrat, conservative/liberal, male/female, LGBTQ/straight. theist/atheist… There truly is no race, class or creed in the horror over what we have suffered due to gun violence, or the desire to put an end to it. Our hearts go out as one, in love for our children and our fellow human beings, and in a desire to protect every precious life, young and old. The thought of a school shooting sickens me. There is no moral argument, no evolutionary principle in favor of the willful and senseless taking of life.

I turned on the TV this morning, hoping to see a change in the political discourse that we have become accustomed to. I was disappointed, to say the least. Then I felt anger and another, different kind of sick.

I saw young, intelligent people expressing powerful emotion, and laying blame for tragedy at the feet of the NRA, the president, and inanimate objects (guns). I saw an ocean of youth raging at the powers that be. There is a righteous and justified anger moving about, and there should be.

What I did not see or hear was any clear policy recommendation, or discussion of what the majority of Americans believe we should do to protect our kids. Shouting “enough is enough” at a problem, and railing at the president, conservatives and the NRA does not get one any closer to a real solution. While it is good to see America’s youth engaging in political activity, what I saw today was exploitative. The March for our Lives has been a large, very carefully organized political event. The degree to which it helps lawmakers wake up to the need for non-partisan cooperation and legislation has yet to be seen.

We need to find common ground if we are ever to affect change. Most Americans agree that we should find ways to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. According to Reuters, 75% of Americans want armed guards at our schools (Reuters, March 22 2018). There is non-partisan agreement that anyone on the no-fly list should be kept from possessing firearms. So why don’t we start there? Start where we agree, find the best solution for enacting laws to enshrine the principles we agree on and work the political process. By all means engage our kids nationwide in the process of doing so. They cannot vote, but they can certainly use their collective intelligence to learn to examine the data and develop common-sense policy. Their voices need to be heard. They are the ones affected most directly by school shootings, and they fear for their lives. Let’s help them by getting our shit together – and instead of railing at each other from the opposite ends of the political spectrum, work together where we have common ground.

What sickened me today is that I saw our children used as pawns in a political game. Their fear, their pain, and their energy were organized and directed by people who want to advance partisan ideology. That is not fair. It robs kids of their dignity, and encourages the kind of emotional reasoning that will make it impossible to implement solutions.

Many of the young people at today’s march showed great courage in standing up and being heard. The clever ones will eventually see how they have been taken advantage of, and will be wiser for it.