Day 74

Wow. Somehow, while I was busy with life and all the craziness that goes along with it -- the winter holidays, full-time day job, and the general anarchy of raising children, three months have slipped past me. Since the last post, I've held Advanced Reader Copies of my book, which was a really surreal moment for me. I've done that uncomfortable bit where I have to ask writers that I really admire to read my book and say nice things about it, and unbelievably, some have! I've seen the final book jacket and began to schedule speaking engagements and author events for around the time of the books release. And frankly, I'm still in shock.

But today, I felt compelled to write a blog post about something other than books. Unless you've been hiding your head under a rock for the last 8 days, you've heard about the horror and tragedy that occurred in Parkland, Florida on Valentine's Day. You've seen mug shots of the man who brought weapons of mass destruction into the school and murdered seventeen children in cold blood. (And yes, he IS a man, and Tamir Rice WAS a boy, even if the media can't keep that straight.) You've seen the family photographs and heard the heart-breaking biographies of the young, vibrant victims that were ripped away from the lives they were meant to live. You've seen their parents and their friends on television and social media begging for someone - ANYONE - in power to please, do something to insure that this doesn't happen to another school. 

And they've said everything that there is to say about that subject much more eloquently than I ever could, so I'm not going to scream about gun control (although I definitely think that toddlers could design a better system of 'control' than we currently have). And I'm not going to lecture about an assault rifle ban (even though the only possible reason to want a weapon that shoots more than a dozen rounds would be to kill a person, and I'm pretty sure that's a no-no in all major religions and cultures). And I'm not going to take the time to state the obvious - that this country failed those 17 kids in Florida, and all the victims of mass shootings that came before them. That we have sold off our democracy to lobbyists who don't rely on morals to guide them, only dollar signs. And I'm not even going to touch the nonsense that our president said about teachers carrying guns to protect their students (even though I can't imagine any of the teachers I know WANTING to carry a gun and certainly not SHOOTING a person, threat or not. Teachers, in case you've not noticed, tend to be empathetic people. They don't generally enjoy the idea of killing anyone.)

Nope. I want to talk about those kids, and all the kids watching them stand up for themselves and each other. I want to talk about the fact that my own children came home and told me about their new lockdown policy, that calls for the students to fight back, should a situation arrive at school. That's where we're at -- OUR CHILDREN ARE TAUGHT TO FIGHT FOR THEIR LIVES WITH STAPLERS AND WATER BOTTLES because adults have failed them. Government has failed them. America has failed them.

But those Parkland kids, and the kids that are walking out of schools all over the country, the kids coming home and having these conversations with their parents -- they already know that anything they want, they'll have to fight for themselves. Adults, especially those of us who are late Gen-Xers to Baby Boomer age, have spent the last decade whining about the entitled millennials and whatever we're going to call the next generation, the one that these teens belong to.

Countless think pieces have declared that technology and helicopter parenting and participation trophies have created generations of entitled snowflakes who believe that they deserve to have things handed to them. But if you look around, if you really listen, you'll see that these kids don't expect anything to be handed to them. They don't expect anyone to listen to them. Because, to be fair, nobody has been. And in truth, the generations before them have no concept of how easy their lives were, in comparison. 

Today's teens are so much more aware of the social and political consequences of the world around them than I was at their age. Or in my twenties. Or in my early thirties. Those smart-phones that their parents and grandparents are blaming for all the ills of the world stream information to these kids, all day, every day. They can't turn it off. They can't bury their head in the sand. My 9-year-old was discussing gerrymandering and the Supreme Court with my husband, last night. And he knew that gerrymandering had unfairly manipulated voting districts to swing heavily in favor of the party in control. He knew, and understood, that this wasn't fair and that it didn't fit into the framework of democracy that our Founding Fathers set up for us. 

He is nine.

For years, maybe decades -- hell, maybe since the stone age -- kids have been misunderstood by the generations that precede them. But this is different than those earlier generations. This is motivated by something very different from misunderstanding. The folks accusing the Parkland teens of being crisis actors don't misunderstand the desires of these kids. The people desperate to keep assault rifles available to the general public don't misunderstand the motivations of these teens. 

This isn't misunderstanding. This is fear. Because those folks know that their death hold on America is slipping, and that what is coming after will be unrecognizable from the America of today. Young people, PoC, women, and the LGBTQ community aren't going to sit quietly for the next 60 years, until it's "THEIR TURN." 

We are watching the human race evolve. Young people -- beginning with the millennials and stretching all the way down to my 9-year-old -- understand the world around them in a way that their predecessors don't. They see each other and even if they don't like one another, they empathize with each other. Because there isn't a single one of them that won't have to pay $100k for a Bachelor's degree. There isn't a single one of them that hasn't watched the world change in this post 9/11 landscape and hatred and racism flare up in our so-called "Melting Pot". There isn't one of them that hasn't been taught from the moment that they entered school that they might die within those halls. And there isn't a single one of them who hasn't seen the people in charge say that their right to live, to be safe at school, was less important than some asshole's right to own a weapon that shoots 6 rounds per second.

Read that sentence again. Go ahead, I'll wait.

And so, they are doing what species do when their existence is threatened. They are evolving. They are getting stronger, and smarter, and braver, in order to stand up for themselves and what they believe. They see what is happening to the world and they're not putting up with it. They will be voters. They will be loud.

The generations before them were isolationist while fascists and Nazis took over Europe. They watched while Wall Street bought our government and sold our country. They looked the other way while civil rights were quietly squashed, one bullet at a time.

These kids have lived through the dystopia and they've already learned that no one else will be the hero in their stories, so they've evolved in order to do it themselves. And I, for one, couldn't be prouder of them.