If Not Us, Who? If Not Now, When?

There was another school shooting last week, and it broke me a little, like they all do. Hearing the stories of those who were murdered, but also hearing the stories of those who survived, and permitting myself to mourn for and mourn with these people I’ve never met. What hurts most is knowing that their deaths were so preventable, and knowing that they deserved so much better than what they got from a country which I’m sure they loved but which failed in its duty to protect them.

But my sadness turned to anger this time when seemingly every commentator I listened to stated as fact that still nothing would change. Almost proud of their cynicism, because of some fucked up “fool me once” mentality which reads hope as naiveté. They invariably cited Newtown as being at the root of their cynicism: if 20 murdered babies can’t motivate change, nothing can.

So why would this time be different? The answer is that I don’t know. Maybe because the victims are old enough to speak for themselves and to organize, maybe because there are some particularly competent leaders amongst the victims, maybe because these kids know how to use social media, maybe just because it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back or, maybe, because whereas Newtown made everyone sad, this time made people fucking angry. And anger is a far better motivator to action than sadness. The point is that I’m not willing to prejudice the process by saying that it’s doomed to failure or by saying that it can’t make enough of a difference to prevent similar tragedies in the future. The absolute very least that I can do is to not give up hope. In that small act, I buoy their efforts instead of becoming a further hinderance to their success – which is all the more important when facing incredible odds.

And though they didn’t win their battle today in the Florida legislature, and though they might not see a victory this year or even this decade, I hope that their fire doesn’t go out. And I hope that those who share their vision stop taking it upon themselves to snuff out that fire on the pretence of being “realistic”. Because as one of my favourite songs says: you can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a fire, and as the flames begin to catch the wind just blows them higher. And because giving up is the privilege of those whose lives aren’t on the line.

I am allowed to be a lawyer today because of people who refused to give up in the face of incredible odds, but maybe more importantly because of the people who tried and failed before them. And when children are willing to do the work to protect other children which their elders have failed to do, I must consider it my privilege to stand with them and fail over and over again until I run out of time or until they succeed. Meanwhile, anyone who isn’t even willing to risk being called naive in the fight for what they claim to believe can at the very least shut the fuck up while the children give us a lesson in courage and conviction.

Posted in: Progress

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