Politicians love to say that kids are the future and that nothing matters more than helping them be safe, happy and prosperous. Now the kids are talking back, telling politicians they just want to survive.
After the latest “new normal school shooting” (kill, grieve, pray, repeat), the script was as predictable as it was pathetic: a moment of silence, obligatory thoughts and prayers and “This is no time to politicize this tragedy,” which is precisely a political position. However, one thing did change. The kids spoke up. They loaded into buses and headed to Tallahassee, Florida, and just last week held protests around the country to ask lawmakers to pay more attention to their lives than to the National Rifle Association (NRA).
In many states, an 18-year-old cannot buy beer or rent a car, but he or she can purchase a machine gun before their frontal lobes have completely developed. One young woman in the Tallahassee crowd held a sign that said: Why am I the adult here?
In Oklahoma, we set the standard for the NRA vision of gun worship and Second Amendment idolatry, no matter how many of our fellow Americans are slaughtered as an offering to that golden calf. Then we send our kids to what is left of our hollowed-out schools and teach them to think critically. Some of them are so smart that the first thing they realize is that the Second Amendment is a conditional statement. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
They get it.
Before domestic law enforcement and a standing military, farmers had to be able to grab their muskets in a hurry because the British might still be coming. They are smart enough to know that the framers of the Constitution could never have imagined these weapons or this carnage, not to mention a Congress so corrupted by special interests that they would do nothing to stop it.
These smart kids also know that the major premise of the NRA is patently false, even demonically so. “More guns will make us safer” is the credo of the fear-mongering NRA.
In a 2012 press conference, NRA chief executive officer Wayne LaPierre said, “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
As the late Sarah Brady once said, “If guns made you safer, we’d be the safest nation on Earth.”
The NRA has convinced a majority of Oklahomans that any gun regulation is a slippery slope and restrictions on any type of gun will lead to the banning of all guns.
But we regulate all kinds of dangerous consumer products without banning them because as a civilized society, we respond proportionately to the threats we face.
Meanwhile the airwaves are full of anti-government hatred and paranoia, stand-your-ground masculinity and resurgent nationalism steeped in racism. We spend more on sports than on our students, and when someone goes on a killing spree with a military assault weapon that no private citizen should ever be able to own, the grown-ups call for more emphasis on mental health and safer schools while cutting funds for mental health and education. Arm teachers? You have got to be kidding.
Guess what; the kids are “woke,” and they are right again. As they walk out of classes, organize rallies and refuse to take no for an answer, don’t ask, What’s gotten into them? Give thanks for what’s gotten into them. We might have given up, but they haven’t.
Thanks be to God.
Robin Meyers is senior minister of Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ and distinguished professor of social justice in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University.