Staff Columnist

Can the kids, at long last, shake things up?

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School get ready to board a bus for a trip to Tallahassee, Fla. on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 to talk with lawmakers about the recent rampage at their school and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS)
Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School get ready to board a bus for a trip to Tallahassee, Fla. on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 to talk with lawmakers about the recent rampage at their school and what needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

I’m rooting for the kids.

The kids are from Parkland, Fla., students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who faced yet another hail of gunfire in an American school and are now telling anyone who will listen something needs to be done about it. Now. There also are the kids from Boca Raton, who defied their school’s staff and marched 10 miles to Parkland in solidarity and protest.

Kids marched in Iowa City to decry gun violence, and our leaders’ inability and unwillingness to tackle the issue. More marches are planned locally and across the country. These kids who are often maligned for rarely looking up from their phones are using their digital connections to loudly cajole and condemn the powers that be.

Something is happening.

I’ve grown pretty cynical in recent years. Deep down, I doubt the kids truly will be heard or heeded by democratic institutions that seem deaf and dumb. I’m skeptical the well-meaning gun control measures being advocated will do much good in a nation already armed to the teeth. Our mass-shooting-thoughts-prayers-shrug-move-on cycle seems unbreakable. If Sandy Hook or Las Vegas changed nothing, what changes now?

I grew up in a home where firearms were useful tools subject to reasonable restriction. But our tribal politics has transformed them into untouchable, sacred objects, bestowed with mystical powers by the Founding Fathers, and maybe Charlton Heston. Rational debate has ground to a halt. How do a bunch of teenagers break through?

We send our two kids to school each day, assuming they’ll return safely, knowing that’s the same assumption now-grieving parents made. Our kids have grown up in an America where mass violence, active shooter drills and political dysfunction are the default settings.

But they haven’t given up hope. So now they’re watching, closely. Will the adults in charge respond to the latest massacre of children with more bickering and blindness, or will they do something? Will Republicans lashed so tightly to the fortunes of the NRA and gun manufacturers keep repeating the maddening mantra of “Blame mental health. Sell more guns?”

I’d like my kids to see our leaders actually come together and work together. Show them that we’re capable of responding to cries of anguish and pleas for help with action. Show them getting involved, speaking out and standing up for what they believe might actually matter more than allegiances to tribal partisanship and raising piles of campaign cash.

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Of course, the right-wing media machine is busy tarring Parkland kids as scripted pawns in the service of liberal handlers or, gasp, George Soros. They’re being rudely dismissed, crudely labeled and cruelly lampooned.

And that’s how you can tell the kids are making a dent.

The president now is talking about gun regulations. Politicians who once wore A-grades from the NRA so proudly are catching hell and taking cover. Polls suggest the public wants action.

A real, open debate aimed at actually finding solutions might yield new ideas and strategies beyond the usual exchange of talking points. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. I’d love to see the kids make it work again.

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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