Colin McEnroe: Kids Go On Guns Where Adults Fear To Tread
Minding your Ps and Qs is so 10 years ago.
In the last seven days, leaders have gotten a snootful of an uppity and morally urgent generation of teenagers.
They carry video cameras in their pockets. They used them to document the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. They live-tweeted and Snapchatted their predicament in real time and, in some cases, connected with other school shooting survivors who talked them through it.
Student journalist David Hogg interviewed frightened fellow students hiding in a closet during the gunfire. They were already eager to talk about gun policy.
When trolls snarked at them for posting to social media in a crisis, they lashed back, using visceral language and explaining that, because 911 was overloaded, they decided to recreate a record, for any possible trial and for history.
When cable news came, these teenagers were comfortable and natural on camera. They have been making YouTube videos for at least half their lives. They know how to talk into a lens.
Hogg began it with: “Please … We’re children … You guys, like, are the adults. You need to take some action play a role, work together, [get] over your politics and get something done.”
Then came Emma Gonzalez with her short, powerful “We call BS” speech.” She told a large crowd that survivors were “up here standing together because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.” She said, “To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you,” and the crowd took up the chant.
This is what activism looks like, and it terrified some of the grownups.
Bill O’Reilly said the media should shut them down because their young emotions were too raw. They tore him apart on Twitter. Former Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston said the students were coached and orchestrated by left-wing grownups, adding cluelessly, “Do we really think 17-year-olds are going to organize a nationwide rally?” They tore him apart on Twitter. Reptilian commentator Dinesh D’Souza attempted to mock their anguish as they watched the Florida legislature turn back their first attempt at an AR-15 ban. “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs,” he said. They tore him apart on Twitter.
Donald Trump knew better than to sass them. The president quickly recognized a group of worthy adversaries. Where do you think these kids learned to throw niceties aside and go for the gut punch? Trump may have been their greatest teacher.
When he offered perfunctory condolences on the day of the shooting, student Sarah Chadwick exploded at him in a way that must have seemed … familiar: “I don’t want your condolences you f---ing piece of s---, my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead. Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But Gun control will prevent it from happening again.”
Chadwick subsequently apologized for her profanity and harshness in a pinned tweet that contained more grace than any utterance, ever, from Trump.
Kingston was right about not relying on 17-year-olds to get something going. Lane Murdock, a 15-year-old sophomore at Ridgefield High School, has organized a National School Walkout on April 20, the anniversary of Columbine.
You kids. You make me proud, excited, hopeful.
They’ll come after you. They’ve already made fake internet accounts to try to discredit people like Chadwick and spread the rumor that Hogg is really a 26-year-old felon from California.
Your best defense is momentum. This has become like the movie “Speed.” If you let the bus slow down, it explodes.
Don’t fall for the Big Lie. If somebody tries to shift the conversation to mental health, ask him if he has ever stood up for mental health funding in any other context except a gun debate. The answer is always no. When you’re not looking, they’ll cut Medicaid mental health money.
Your other big accomplishment is to render people like me meaningless. Nobody cares what Rachel or Sean or Anderson have to say right now. You guys have the spotlight. I’ve never been happier to stand aside and clap.
Colin McEnroe appears from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays on WNPR-FM (90.5). He can be reached at Colin@wnpr.org.