A Thank You to the Young for their March of Hope and Resurrection

The student-led March for Life event that was so wonderfully attended by so many eager citizens in Washington D.C. and in so many other cities around the country and the world was a wonderful moment of Hope.  So fitting for this Passover and Easter season. 

 Emma Gonzalez stands in silent tears as she observes 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence while addressing the March for Our Lives rally, March 24, 2018 in Washington, D.C. - photo by Chip Somodevilla, ABC News/Getty Images

Emma Gonzalez stands in silent tears as she observes 6 minutes and 20 seconds of silence while addressing the March for Our Lives rally, March 24, 2018 in Washington, D.C. - photo by Chip Somodevilla, ABC News/Getty Images

Kudos to the young people who designed and led and spoke at this powerful gathering.  Thank you for speaking from your heart to the hearts of so many of us, elders included.  Thank you for clearing the stage of anyone over 18 years old so that we could all listen to the passion of your generation.  Thank you for challenging politicians to put conscience ahead of money and common sense gun laws ahead of ideological rancor and ranting, for going, as one speaker said, beyond “red” and “blue” posturing to looking at the country as a whole. 

Thank you for calling Senator Marco Rubio out for his selling off the lives of Floridian teenagers (whom he is supposed to represent but clearly puts second place to his love of NRA) for $1.06 each based on the $3 million plus he has taken from NRA.  Behind these smart figures is of course the larger picture: It is thanks to Citizens United that we have this obscene dependence of politicians on the whim of corporations like NRA (and countless others).  Every Supreme Court judge who voted for Citizens United also has blood on his hands as much as the politicians who take the money from NRA to do their bidding.  We need an election system that is free of money dependencies whether from the right or left.  We need a system that is paid for by the peoples’ government and excludes all other money. 

Thank you for calling lazy-minded adults to move beyond hypocritical talk of “thoughts and prayers” to actions and for spelling out what the actions are that can move us beyond military weapons in the hands of everyday citizens and beyond squelching background checks on all gun owners and beyond the recently passed bill that allows mentally disturbed to buy weapons and that invests in assisting the mentally disturbed.

Thank you for bringing morality back into the conversation—as one 11 year old black girl wisely said, “we know what is right and wrong.”  (Many politicians seem to conveniently forget that.)  And Thank You to the speaker who declared, “this is a moral issue, not a red vs blue issue.”  Would that the kept congress people could utter such a sentence and mean it and prove it by his/her actions and votes.  Thank you to the 11 year old boy who reminded us that “I deserve to grow up” and that there is such a thing as “the things that matter.”  Might our politicians meditate on those two sentences for a while--What things DO matter?  What things matter MORE than being re-elected?  And thank you for the youth who said “this is not OK” when speaking of the dangers our children face in schools and on the street due to lack of smart gun restrictions.

Thank you to Emma Gonzalez for daring to lead people in a 6+minute silence to taste and feel the time it took the shooter in Parkland to murder 17 persons and injure many more.  In doing this extended silence she courageously rendered many people in the audience ill at ease—but that is the point, isn’t it?  To get out of our ease at hearing and re-hearing the unacceptable news of still another school (or church or movie theater or Las Vegas parking lot) mass shooting..  In daring to go into extended silence this young woman was leading a grief experience with us all.  We all need to grieve and from that grieving (as in the Passover event and the Good Friday/Holy Saturday events) comes new life, courage, imagination, movements.  In other words, Resurrection.

Thank you to Jennifer Hudson and those who invited her to sing for her stirring rendition of Bob Dylan’s “The Times they are A-changin.”  Speaking as an elder who was affected deeply by that same song and powerful words at a time of protest against the Viet Nam War in the 1960’s, I can say I found it a well-chosen piece to connect the oldest and the youngest generations today.  The times are always a-changin and in need of changing. This kind of intergenerational inspiration and wisdom is so needed. 

The young need to lead.  The old far too often and easily fall into cynicism—we see it in the media, in our politics, in our pulpits, in our schools.  Let the young lead for we all felt it yesterday—there is energy and clarity and courage there.  And they are leading from their sorrow and grief and that is an authentic place to lead from. They are dealing admirably with that first level of grief—anger—and instead of sitting on it or denying it or pouring it exclusively into outrage they are employing it as an energy to organize and speak out and register voters and educate the older ones about the stakes at hand.  Bravo!

In my autobiography some time ago I wrote about the need for a “preferential option for the young.”  These young people yesterday demonstrated the truth of that proposition—the young are less entangled in the corruption and cynicism of our tired institutions and the tired shibboleths we mutter to defend them; they are less invested in the past.  Therefore, as so often happens, the Spirit finds a more ready home in which to dwell and stir things up among the young.  Of course they cannot nor do they want to do it all alone.  They want and deserve the participation of the older ones, mentors and elders alike.  We need intergenerational wisdom where wisdom flows from young to old and back again.  We need the moral awakening of the young.  Hopefully this will come to bear on all our elections in the future.  This too is Resurrection.

One final point: While the young spoke out clearly and forcefully from their hearts and heads about the travesty that passes for law making in our time, they chose a specific topic to address: Gun safety.  This because they were deeply affected directly and indirectly for at least the past 17 years ever since Columbine.  And that is right and appropriate that they addressed that urgent and personal issue.  They showed how to mobilize and how to instruct and how to awaken all ages, classes, ethnicities around that pressing cause. 

But one hopes—and this will be for the future—that that same energy and outrage, anger and passion, will rise also from the young to wake up the older ones and our dying institutions around equally and even more perilous goings on such as climate change for example.  While teen agers are not huddling in a mass sending good bye messages to their parents about climate change like they had to do for an extended time while the shooter roamed the hallways in the Parkland High School, in many ways they ought to be.  The attack is less visible and less dramatic than a 6+minutes of weapons firing, but it is not less deadly.  In fact, climate change will affect far more numbers than can fit into a school in its devastation and capacity to kill off agriculture and plant life and waters and cities near the waters and numerous species that will be rendered extinct and more and more extreme weather systems of hurricanes and tornados that will affect us all. 

So the teen-led March for Life is, as they instructed us, just a “beginning.”  This is a beginning of a Moral Awakening one can hope, one that awakens all adults along with the youth, one that turns the narcissistic plunge our species has engaged in for so long into a different direction: A search for the Common Good, for community, for Justice, for Compassion which of course begins with passion.  Which the youth have exhibited in abundance.  This too is another Resurrection.  A marvel to behold.  A Waking Up that results in wise action. 

There is much to come.  Our politics need never be the same again.  Something may have died this weekend.  Call it indifference.  Call it cynicism.  Call it not caring.  Call it adultism and the tired old goats that supposedly serve us in a supposed democratic system but in fact serve idols and false gods of mammon and greed and power that are so dead they are rotting right before our eyes.

Youth leaders: You have turned your grief and anger into right action and leadership.  Despair into hope.  Good Friday into Easter morning.  Exodus into Passover liberation.  We adults are grateful and awakened.

If this isn’t Resurrection, what is?