by the Editor [American Infrasound] * 20 March, 2018
It was spontaneous. A natural, inevitable groundswell of popular discontent. Kids across America were just fed up – with the fear, the shootings, even The System. They banded together across the land, with no professional political organizers’ help or funding, to take the courageous risk of walking out of school during class hours on March 14 for seventeen minutes – to honor the 17 students murdered in Parkland, Florida by a twisted, rage-filled gunman. They risked everything to speak their minds freely, to not be silenced by the authorities, to #NeverForget.
At least that’s the way it was portrayed by a media practically salivating onto their microphones, solemn-faced school authorities, and many politicians. But the “Enough! Walkout” was not all it was pre-announced to be. First of all it wasn’t a walkout at all but a formally sanctioned event in the school day, highly advertised in advance, and blessed and encouraged by school authorities. (Like many principals across the country, my daughter’s principal sent out a pleasant email to parents the day before the event describing it as non-political, optional, and highly approved by the administration.) It wasn’t exactly required to walk out, but there was definitely something riskier about being one of the few choosing to remain in the classroom than the bravery of the vast majority of the student body walking out, led by their teachers and administrators.
What was courageous or dangerous here?
Anyone who read or watched media coverage of these events, or who heard their own teenagers’ reports that evening about what happened at their school, heard very little about the actual students in Florida who were killed but a whole lot about “what to do” about it. And a lot of what not to do about it. Aspiring young politicians took the stage and made passionate speeches suggesting they were risking something by being outside the school or were being brave for expressing their opinions. Many were resolute that they would not be silenced – they would be heard.
But why would any of that come into the picture if the purpose was simply to honor the lives of murdered students and their grieving families? And why would such an occasion be uniformly labeled a “walkout” rather than a “memorial”, or a “remembrance”? And why outside the building, if so approved of by school authorities, rather than in the auditorium? Walkouts are understood to be against the rules, acts of disobedience. And what courage must be summoned up just to show honor to the innocent youths with their whole lives ahead of them tragically, viciously murdered for no other reason than they came into the crosshairs of a deranged killer’s gun? Why would any student feel fear to “speak out”?
Everything we saw and heard about the “Enough! Walkout” was just a little odd. From the media build-up in the preceding days, to the near orgasmic coverage by the national press as if it were a historic moment, to the high profile discussion panels in the days following, showed the occasion was not primarily (and in some cases only barely) about honoring the murdered children and their families. It was largely about national politics.
Organizing is half the battle
Like the Women’s March (whose organizing body coincidentally also organized the “Enough! Walkout” as a Weekly Standard article notes), the event was almost entirely political in purpose – but not for the purpose of presenting multiple political viewpoints. Remember how the Women’s March was for ALL women? Unless you were pro-Life? In which case you were not welcome to join in. Or if you disapproved of sanctuary cities, or supported the president in any noticeable way, or were worried about Islamic terrorism, or held other key opinions that would muddy the organizers’ message, which was the whole point of having their march in the first place. It was always political. And it was politically narrow: they billed it as by and for women, yet only the right kind of women were allowed.
Before the Enough! Walkout, conservative students, as is typical of conservatives in general, naively expected the event would be what it was publicized to be: non-political, just respectful. Something we all agree on. They brought no placards, planned no stump speeches. But on March 14 the microphones, cameras, and platforms at most schools were dedicated to students whose practiced oratories sounded almost identical to each other’s. Countless speakers featured on later news broadcasts…
- …claimed bravery by speaking (at an event warmly supported by school authorities)
- …made resolutions not to be silenced (at an event warmly supported by school authorities)
- …and – here was where the slight variation came in – pleaded for the federal government to stop the madness.
Sometimes #3 was just that and nothing more, which is vague and makes no sense unless specific solutions are in mind. Others went further in their #3 point to demand further restrictions on gun ownership. A few called essentially for the abolition of the right of any law abiding citizen from owning a gun. Nearly all of them designated the federal government as the “who” to do it, whatever it is. Not state governments, not county governments, not school systems, not communities, not families. So whether you devoured every news story and broadcast or simply heard about the day’s gatherings third hand from others, the message we all got from the Enough! Walkout was a distinctly political “to-do” message spoken as if with one voice: American kids want common sense gun control.
If the purpose of the event had been to honor those who lost their lives, you’d be able to name from memory any three of the seventeen victims of the Parkland shooting. But I’ll bet you can’t do that.
Though many individual participants were sincere, the orchestration of the walkout was disingenuous
Many kids standing outside their schools on March 14 didn’t care a whole lot one way or the other. But many others did care, were genuinely grieved about the actual, human tragedies in Florida, and are frightened about the continuing risk they personally face with these senseless mass shootings that show no signs of ending. They recognize there’s not presently any “answer” that will protect them, and their passionate appeals both for safety and justice should never be discounted; on the contrary they should be honored.
But whether American kids all want exactly the same public policy, whether they agree on what constitutes “common sense” gun control, whether many of them know much about the issue of gun control at all yet, can never be known from disingenuous events like this and from the national reporting of them. Events that pretend not to be orchestrated but are. That claim to be counter-cultural but actually bolster and stylize conformity. That state they’re not political when they obviously are. And that use teens as pawns, flattering them as rebels or courageous while they’re simultaneously praised by all the cultural authorities that matter – their school administrators, celebrities, and the national media with its glowing spotlight.
As Barton Swaim, author of the aforementioned Weekly Standard article concluded, “Modern American high schools are places of intense conformity. Fear of exclusion cripples and terrorizes its young victims; often you can see it on their faces. They do and think what they’re told. They even protest as they’re told. Some rebellion.”