I did not attend my local March for Our Lives. Originally, I had planned to be in D.C., but decided a couple of weeks ago not to travel for the March. Then my plans to attend a local March were scuttled when I had to take my son, who is autistic, for a trial class in a program I was hoping might be a good fit for him, and give him–and me–something for him to look forward to in a week with lots of inactivity in it.
I thought I might feel guilty not being at any of the marches, but I didn’t. I felt almost relieved. I’ve attended many marches through the years, including one in D.C. I helped organize when I worked for a human rights organization focused on the plight of refuseniks in the Former Soviet Union. I understand the power of masses, the cathartic and inspiring sense of being part of a big movement, and of walking and chanting for change. But I also appreciate the other side, the air coming out of the balloon, as it has at least for me vis a vis the Women’s March. I attended the first one shortly after the 2016 election, and a second march more recently. The first had energy and a kind of excitement, with even a hint of revolution in the air. The second was anti-climactic, to say the least. I thought, “Why am I here and what is this accomplishing? And what’s been accomplished since the one I attended a year ago?”
But that’s not why I didn’t attend the March for Our Lives. I really didn’t attend because I needed to put my son’s needs first. And for me, I know that was the right thing to do. I think the young people who have taken the lead vis a vis gun reform are extraordinary. I think they may well change the trajectory on guns in America in very consequential ways. And I applaud them loudly and sincerely. I especially value the way they don’t back down when challenged/heckled/threatened by adults who try to question/demean/undermine their efforts. No one calls bullshit like young people. They just won’t have it. And that’s magnificent.
But I also realize that another reason why these young people might succeed is that they’ve got nothing to lose. What I mean is that as teenagers, they are at a point in their lives where their feet move freely and quickly. They are not tied down by a host of obligations that makes dividing their attention a necessity, albeit a frustrating one. I’m not saying that they have no responsibilities, just that the ones they have put less at risk than what might be the case for adults who cannot afford to quit jobs, leave kids behind, and make this their singular cause. Sure, some adults have done that, by founding organizations in the wake of gun-related and other kinds of tragedies. But the ability to focus on the gun issue through the continuous, active engagement of massive numbers of young people is something that, well, might be possible only for young people. And that is fine.
We adults have failed them over and over again, on this and many other issues. Let them take the lead. Let them set the agenda. They might have nothing to lose in terms of life’s obligations at this age and stage, but they have everything to lose in terms of the possibility of having futures to look forward to if they don’t get this right. I wish I could join them at every turn. But my days of being able to say that I can pick up and go where I need to go and be where I need to be are entirely constrained by having others depend on me. And that’s ok. Because having those others depend on me is in large part why I hope these kids succeed. I want my loved ones to be free to live in a country that values their lives. Full stop. And if it takes the kids who have everything and nothing to lose to get it done, then no one will be more thrilled and grateful than this one woman/citizen/wife/mother who sat this one out.