No different than in the era of the 1960’s with the vaulted civil rights movement, history should shows us that if you want to create systematic societal change you need to get young people focused on it. Young people, time and time again, change the world. Why? Because they are not distracted by biased economic and other interest. And because they are the truly innocent amongst us. And because when we don’t show love for each other, most of us still reserve love and reverence for them. They are our future, after all.
This time their optimistic, idealistic energy is focused on gun control (thankfully), but in the 1960’s this same multi-cultural, multi-racial, inclusive leadership energy was trained on the issue of civil rights (for all) in America’s southern states. Dignity for African-Americans in America inspired thousands of white and black youth alike to march and sit in, travel, even put their lives at risk for the cause of our civil rights. And precisely because it is young people, it just may work.
The magic sauce is not just that kids were the unspeakable victims of the crime this time, nor just that they are idealistic, and literally represent our future — but because they can talk to their parents and grandparents in a way where both groups listen.
When I ask people I meet what they are passionate about, to the person they almost always say ‘their family,’ or ‘their children.’ And herein lies our potential salvation from the out of control access to high caliber guns, and the seemingly increasing levels of unstable human behavior, the culture of violence and the violence-with-guns crisis that has taken root for far too long in civilized society over the past three decades.
It has often been said that the only problem with a new idea is the death of the old one. And likewise, the challenge of today’s gun control debate is not whether the young people have a point — because they do — it is rather the biased, vested interest of the many adults and institutions who claim to represent them.
Former President Bill Clinton once said, ‘it is hard to get someone to agree to the truth when the lie is paying their paycheck.’ This is literally true. Or said differently, ‘to rationalize is to tell rational lies.’ We need to stop rationalizing bad behavior, and offer our children the future they so rightly deserve.
I am all for reasonable and rational access to guns for defensive purposes, hunting and sport, but no average citizen can (nor should be able to) rationalize the ‘need’ for automatic weapons in a modern, civilized society.
Maybe our young people can get a job done that the adult generation — my generation — has failed miserably in trying to do. Namely, creating a balanced environment of basic human dignity for all. And so, today tens of thousands of young people are marching across the United States, and I for one say ‘bravo, commendation and thank you.’ I am with you.
Let’s see if we, the adult generation, can muster enough courage to first get out of the way of our young people, then to listen and hear them, and then to act.
John Hope Bryant