I was one of the over half a million people who participated in Saturday’s “March for Our Lives.”
Perhaps you were too.
Last year, I traveled to the nation’s capitol for the historic Women’s March. This time, I chose to attend one of the approximately 800 parallel marches, like Paul McCartney did in New York, where he told CNN he was marching partly because his former Beatles band mate and friend, John Lennon, fell victim to gun violence.
Regardless of whether someone lost a friend or family member, or has celebrity credit, the message is now abundantly clear: the times they really are a-changing.
Contrary to what many on the right argue, this is not just a moment.
That’s what critics said about Vietnam war protests in the 1960s. They said the same of the Civil Rights movement before that. From the abolitionist movement, the women’s suffrage movement, the labor movement, to Occupy, people’s effectiveness in forcing legislation to foment change is proven time and again. We integrated schools, buses, restaurants, theaters, and communities; we repealed anti-miscegenation laws and poll taxes; we passed child labor laws were; women and African Americans gained the right to vote; unions secured living wages and humane working conditions; we ended the Vietnam war.
None of these things would have happened if people hadn’t risen up and demanded change.
None of these things would have happened if youth hadn’t risen up and demanded change.
We witnessed history Saturday. We participated in a movement that too will, finally, lead to change.
But don’t take my word for it. I’m just a Gen-X, 40-something public school teacher.
Take Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sophomore Tanzil Philip’s word for it when he said:
“The civil rights movement was started by teenagers. And here we are. Martin Luther King walked down these same streets as we are right now. It’s crazy that we’re doing the same thing that they did. We saw how that turned out. We’re hoping we get the same results.”
In fact, Dr. King’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Yolanda Renee King, spoke at the D.C. rally, and said:
“My grandfather had a dream that his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough, and that this should be a gun-free world, period.”
From Spain, near the U.S. embassy in Madrid, Lucia Smith, 6, carried a sign Saturday that read:
“Your right to rifles. My right to life. Choose.”
Justin Cooper, a chaperone on a bus to D.C. from Pittsburgh with 250 students, said:
“Our youth are being confronted with these shootings and all the violence, and I think they’re looking at it and saying most people support some kind of change…but yet our laws don’t quite seems to be working with the people. So the youth of this country said, ‘Enough is enough.’ The kids are running all this.”
“We had voices and we advocated…but if these kids now can make the voice that makes the change, we have to do this. Adults need to get on board with them and follow them because they’re speaking the truth.”
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School graduate Leslie Chiu said from Boston’s rally:
“This is not just in Parkland. It is in every community, especially those of color. This is not a moment. This is a movement.”
Today, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens called for the Second Amendment’s repeal. Now, no liberal or progressive, candidate or incumbent, has suggested confiscation, contrary to what Fox so-called News pundits insist. But when a Supreme Court justice who sat on the same court that ruled in Heller vs. Washington D.C. that independent gun ownership is a right protected under the Second Amendment, we should take notice.
In an Op-Ed to the New York Times, Stevens asserted gun lobbyists have destroyed the amendment put in place to “maintain a well-regulated militia.”
“Demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform. They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment. “
Referring to the Heller case, Stevens argued the landmark 2008 Court decision he opposed has become a “propaganda weapon of immense power” for the NRA.
“Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.”
No one’s buying the “thoughts and prayers” ruse anymore.
As Fanny Lou Hamer said:
“You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.”
I am filled with nothing but renewed faith in the future after standing among the multitudes that marched Saturday, especially in the kids who put it all together. This is their generation, their movement, their cause.
As Bob Dylan sang:
“Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall, for he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled.”
I am optimistic a new era has come.
Image credit: weprotest.org