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Thank you March For Our Lives kids for giving America hope!

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I love this slide show from the N.Y. Times of March For Our Lives demonstrations from around the U.S. These millions of idealistic, mainly young people marched in cities large and small: from New York to tiny little Pacifica, on the coast south of San Francisco, where my friend Marilyn lives. Included in the roster of cities is my own town, Oakland.

Much commentary has focused on the similarities between Saturday’s marchers and the anti-Viet Nam demonstrators of the late 1960s-early 1970s. Certainly the two groups have much in common, but there are profound differences. For one thing, the legal voting age in America was not lowered from 21 to 18 until July, 1971, meaning that, until that November’s elections, young people between 18-21 years of age were denied the franchise. That is no longer the case; we can expect voters in that age bracket to turn out by the millions this November—and my bet is that they will be overwhelmingly Democratic.

For another thing, back at the height of Vietnam there was no social media: young voters had very little opportunity of speaking to their peers who lived in isolated, remote rural communities, who were more impacted by what the adults around them said. That is no longer true. A kid in Sartell, Minnesota (pop. 17,147) is just as tuned into what his age group is thinking as one in midtown Manhattan.

And what the kids are thinking is bad news for Trump and the Republican Party. These kids don’t like guns. They recognize that the Second Amendment exists, and that it probably protects handguns, but they also know that there’s no place in civil society for machine guns whose sole purpose is to slaughter large numbers of humans. And it’s not just guns the kids care about. They all have friends and relatives who are gay, or bi, or even transgender. They simply do not understand hating on somebody just because of their private sexual preference. They want (for the most part) to preserve a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, and they want (for the most part) to protect the natural environment so that Earth will remain a pleasant place to live for their own children and grandchildren. The kids want, also, to live in a country that is free from religious domination, especially the irrational, hateful type of religion exemplified by evangelicalism. Finally, the kids—in their spirit of inclusion and compassion—welcome immigrants into their communities.

All of these concerns put the kids at odds with the Republican Party. Indeed, it would be hard to invent a political party more out of step with the younger generation than the Republicans. Kids take note of what goes on around them; Republicans wish they remained ignorant and unaware, but that’s not going to happen. Just the reverse. With every hideous act Republican politicians craft, with every disgusting remark, the party alienates more and more young people. And their leader, Donald Trump, in the eyes of young people is the most egregious of all. He’s just an overweight, amoral, nasty, bullying, sexually abusive old white guy who reminds them of every crappy adult they ever hated or were afraid of.

The March For Our Lives kids are an outgrowth of the Occupy movement that swept the nation in 2011-2013, but with a huge difference. Occupy thrilled me: even though it arose before the current era of Trumpism, it was in opposition to the nascent forces of reaction and fascism that gave birth to Trump. I welcomed it mightily, particularly since the West Coast version of Occupy was centered in Oakland, just blocks from my house. Unfortunately, what began with the most hopeful and optimistic of visions ended in self-inflicted tragedy: Occupy allowed itself to be overrun by a violent element of anarchists and refused to do anything to purge them. It quickly ran out of steam, as the vast majority of middle-of-the-road Americans, including me, grew appalled by its hateful, destructive behavior.

These March For Our Lives kids aren’t making the same mistake. In all of the hundreds of demonstrations last Saturday, there was not a single report of violence or vandalism. The March For Our Lives kids have leavened their movement with Love, adapting the peaceful techniques Gandhi and Dr. King preached. This is something the Republican Party scarcely comprehends, much less is prepared to grapple with. Republicans are being swept away by History; like yesterday’s trash, they are useless for solving today’s problems, and worse: they contribute to the problems with incredibly stupid, obstinate, exclusionary political positions dictated by the N.R.A., Christian fanatics like Franklin Graham, and the white supremacist-nationalists at Breitbart.

Thank heavens young people are getting their brooms out and sweeping away the riff-raff! It’s a wonderful moment to be alive.


  1. Let’s hope the movement continues and that we see some positive results.

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