The start of America’s rebirth didn’t begin with the election of Donald Trump regardless of his slogan “Make America Great Again.”
As so often happens, it began with a tragedy, the massacre of 17 students and teachers on Valentine’s Day 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It is the reaction to that tragedy that has set in motion an unprecedented counter-reaction which I hope will change forever, the America we have known for the past four decades.
That America lives a myth about guns. The myth teaches its citizens that guns are a necessity if the citizenry is to be able to overthrow its legislators. It simply ignores that even with the inclusion of military-style weaponry citizens could not stand against the firepower of the most advanced armed fighting force the world has ever created.
What the myth has done is put into the hands of young angry white men weapons of such power they can destroy the lives of hundreds in a matter of minutes. All too often those young men are still in school, and the school becomes their target for revenge.
It is a myth perpetrated and kept alive by the National Rifle Association. It is a myth so powerful that even when six-year-old children died at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the adults and the legislators did nothing to curb military-style weapons in the hands of older children.
Why then are the children of Marjory Stoneman Douglas H. S. able to do what their parents and grandparents failed to do?
Primarily it is their lack of baggage. Today’s children are not old enough to be sucked into the BS machine that is the bain of American politics. They haven’t yet succumbed to the bitter feud that is symbolised by right and left, blue and red, socialist and capitalist and the myriad of other isms that so divide the nation.
America’s youth can decode the BS that surrounds each of those dichotomies, like no other generation before them. It is a new type of literacy. They are likely the first generation steeped in decoding lies.
They are even better than Rotarians at smelling out the essence of “The Truth”. Check out the slogans on these protest signs.
Guns kill the signs scream. In so doing, America’s children fired a volley across the deck of the SS-NRA and their BS that “People kill people.” The children of America have asked the question “Is it the truth?” And the truth has replied. “Guns kill people”.
This sign tells you why I am so angry that there is even one Rotarian who thinks the second amendment right takes precedence over the life of even one child.
Nothing can take precedence over this simple fact. Guns are physical objects. They have only one purpose: to “kill”. Nothing else! No more BS is what America’s children are saying. Are you listening to them? Have you heard them? Are you going to do anything to change the situation?
The second characteristic of the Stoneman children is their focus on action, follow-through, and the long view. You would almost think they had a “strategic plan”.
Thirdly, if those demonstrating public leadership are the face of their movement, then diversity is a key feature. Emma González and Edna Chavez are Mexican Americans; Yolanda Renee King, Naomi Wilder, and Mya Middleton are Black Americans, and Cameron Kasky, Samantha Fuentes and David Hogg present as White Americans.
I watched speeches on CNN and at the Washington Post, There was Emma González, Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr, Samantha Fuentes, an 18-year-old senior, Edna Chavez, 17, from Los Angeles, Cameron Kasky, and Naomi Wilder, an 11-year-old from Alexandria.
What struck me the most was the anger and the eloquence of the young women who spoke. Listen to Samantha Fuentes. Listen to Edna Chavez, 17, from Los Angeles. Listen to the anguish in the voice of Mya Middleton, a 16-year-old student from Chicago. And then tell me as Rotarians we can’t do anything for these children of America.
David Hogg in his speech says:
“We will come together. We will get rid of these public servants that only serve the gun lobby. And we will save lives. You are those heroes. Lastly, let’s put the USA over the NRA. This is the start of the spring and the blossoming of our democracy. So, let’s take this to our local legislators; let’s take this to midterm elections, because without the persistent heat because without the persistence of voters and Americans everywhere getting out to elections democracy will not flourish, but it can and it will. So, I say to those politicians that say change cannot come, I say that we will not stop until every man, every woman and every child, and every American can live without fear of gun violence. No More!”
America hasn’t needed a polio eradication program for decades. Everyone is literate. Everywhere has safe drinkable water. Financing is available for new entrepreneurs. Health serves are available for nearly everyone.
But America’s children need help of a different kind. They need Rotarians to put aside, just this once their aversion to political issues. Because this aversion is killing them and thousands of others like them every year. It is killing them more frequently than anyone anywhere dies from polio. It is killing them the same way as contaminated water kills, or as the lack of health services kills.
America’s Children and the March for Our Live, have rightly and bravely called out the NRA as the enemy of peace and their safety. I can just imagine the shock it would be for the NRA if Rotary came out-four-square-and-ten in support of the student’s agenda. Yes, we would lose some members but that is the price one pays for a principled stand.
The NRA needs new leadership. It is a leadership that has lost all sense of proportion in a truly democratic state. It has abused the Second Amendment for its own self-aggrandizement. It has put the ownership of guns ahead of the safety of its citizens, most especially its children. For that, the children of America are justified in condemning them. As Rotarians, we should be appalled that the NRA leadership advocates for guns in every classroom. We should be appalled when they unleash hate mongering speeches by the likes of Dana Loesch. And Rotarians who are NRA members could at the very least work from within to advocate for new responsible leaders. And if they fear to do so then surely that is a sign they should get out of a quasi-terrorist cult.
Just image what Rotary would do if another young male with an AR 15 walked into an Interact meeting and opened fire. Would we act then? Is that what it would take? Most Interact Clubs aren’t much larger than the seventeen students who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school.
Quite frankly I am not delusional, so I do not have very high expectations that Rotary will approach this issue other than with further silence. I hold little expectation that Rotary will be there to help. None-the-less the children who demonstrated this past weekend whether we as Rotarians, politicians or NRA members, like it or not have started something, not unlike the movement which brought about the end of the Vietnam war. And we know how that changed America. I suspect this was just the first shot (forgive the pun) across the bow of those who advocate for the violence which comes with an armed citizenry.
If American is even going to be great again, it has to accept that what America’s children did this past weekend was advocate for Peace. Yes, this is a struggle for peace and that is something Rotary should support.