Shoulders and Coattails

Alan and I seem to be competing for who can make the other one cry more, as we share things we’ve read and seen and heard. The planeload of marchers arriving in DC on the Patriots’ plane – of course marked “Patriots.” Emma Gonzalez’ speech. Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter. Kids speaking more clearly, coherently, forcefully and intelligently than most of those in office. In Portland, singing The Times They Are a’Changin’, now 50+ years old, still holding power. We are raw and open, and every little thing that is poignant or beautiful or sad brings us to our knees.

March For Our Lives Portland

March For Our Lives Portland

One internet commenter said that her first response to the Parkland kids was, where were they when Tamir Rice was killed? Where were they when Trayvon Martin was killed? And then realized, oh yeah, they were in elementary school. Apparently it takes growing up in the last 20 years of violence and bloodshed and shootings and lockdown drills and actual lockdowns for a generation to come of age, understanding it all and seeing the big picture. Along with having the tools to discuss and comprehend and debate, they’ve been able to bring together Chicago youth and kids from around the country with upper class kids (of all colors). They understand and accept intersectionality, race, a range of sexual identities and orientations; things that for so many of the older generations are a second language, but for them are their mother tongue.

Thoughts and prayers

These particular teens have been brought up in privilege and wealth. They assume that the same forces that have always given them what they want and need, should also be there for them in this circumstance, and that they deserve to be heard, they deserve answers. The Chicago kids (and black kids elsewhere) never thought anyone would listen to what they think; that’s never been part of their experience, and their expectations are low. Sadly, that is the unique purview of these privileged teens. Fortunately, they see this clearly.

These Florida kids are light years ahead of where students were in the 60s. But I don’t want to join in on blaming past generations for their/our failures. These teens have built what they are on the shoulders of the 60s unrest, on women’s suffrage, on farmworkers’ rights, on desegregation and Jim Crow protests. More recently, they’re building on the Women’s March and the empowerment of #MeToo, and even on the growing horror and dismay of the current administration. This is a unique time, and they’ve taken all these experiences and all this knowledge and used it to catapult themselves into a movement that sure looks like it’s not going to just die out.

Every murder is one more drop in a pool of rage that propels these kids, whose time is now. They grew up with it, and are speaking about it in a way that has swept up the nation. We don’t know what it is that makes a Martin Luther King or an Emma Gonzalez, but the combination of passion, intelligence, and learning combined with the right time and place has given us new leaders that will expand the collective mind of our nation, and the world. It’s up to the rest of us to keep it going.

The NRA is on its heels now, and all they and their supporters seem to be able to do is threaten and make disparaging remarks. Every sally forward is knocked back by these kids who have seen and experienced cyber-bullying for a very long time, and know too well how to deal with trolls and insults. They look at these comments humorously and knock them down with a broad sweep of the back of the hand, and just keep on marching forward. I hope they can stand the onslaught; they’re also wounded and suffering.

It is stunning to watch. Although it’s a horrible time in our nation as the political tenor gets worse every day, it’s also a great time to be alive and I want to get swept up on the coattails of what these kids have created, follow in their path, and lend a hand when asked, when we’re able. They’ll be voting soon, they’ll be running for office soon, and if we can just not completely ruin everything before they get there, we’ll be ok, maybe better than ok.



9 thoughts on “Shoulders and Coattails

  1. Wonderful post! I’ve also been crying a lot, just so moved by what is happening and how incredibly strong and articulate these teens are. I also recently wrote a post for the PP blog on some of these themes.Through the years I’ve often felt discouraged that we baby boomers didn’t change the world as we hoped. But several times, (most recently at a museum exhibit about the 60’s) a young person turned to me and said “Not true!” He credited our generation with many positive changes which he listed. I felt better for sure, and was reminded that the pace of social change is slow and the path extremely crooked.

    Liked by 2 people

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