A friend of mine said he saw photos from the March, 24th protest and was impressed, but he wanted to know, really, what kind of effect it might have.
I told him the truth, I didn’t know. But I thought there were some important points to be made that apparently a million plus people marching through DC needed to make. So here are the relevant points, I believe, with accompanying photos to keep things interesting.
- Point 1, This march should NOT have been necessary.
This march is actually a shameful spectacle. High school kids whose best friends have been slaughtered by someone with ridiculously easy access to a weapon of war have been forced to channel their grief into political action because for decades now politicians– who are supposed to represent us — have not.
Poll after poll shows this: Background checks are favored by the majority of Americans. Weapons registration is favored by the majority of Americans. Semi-automatic assault weapons ban is favored by the majority of Americans. Age limits for purchasing weapons are favored by the majority of Americans. These could have been relatively non-controversial laws passed decades ago, but our politicians cowed by the NRA decided to continue as though a slaughter wasn’t occurring daily in our neighborhoods and our schools. As Dana Loesch so rabidly put it in her most recent foray into NRA propaganda, “time is up”; but not for gun control advocates. Rather “time is up” for those who refuse to listen to the clamoring voices of the majority of Americans who want sensible gun laws. A tipping point has been reached and finally, one suspects (one hopes, one pleads) the will of the vast majority of Americans will be heard over the brattling arguments of a decidedly obtuse minority.
- Point 2, This march is not about gun confiscation or a threat to Second Amendment rights.
Despite what the zealots at the NRA would have folks believe, neither the speakers at the march or the participants favored gun confiscation, or nonchalant rebukes to the Second Amendment. To reiterate the first point, the majority of folks there stood for rational gun laws. The SCOTUS Heller decision, whose majority opinion was written by the wildly conservative Antonio Scalia, loosened DC’s handgun ban, but made clear that the government has a role in regulating weapons across the United States consistent with a very conservative reading of the Second Amendment. There is nothing in the Heller decision that would prevent background checks, an assault weapons ban, national weapons registry, age checks or even weapon’s insurance.
The reason this is even a point of discussion is because of the continued misreading of the Second Amendment and subsequent case law by the NRA and their affiliates which have effectively cowed politicians across our country, allowing for decades of slaughter in our schools, our churches, our playgrounds and our homes. To quote their spokesperson, “Time is up.”
- Point 3, This march was not political, at least not in any conventional partisan sense.
While at its heart it wanted to effect modest political change in gun law, we did not see political figures from either party take the stage or make any grand political speeches. Thank God. The young voices I heard were raw, authentic and powerful. It was one of the most focused marches in recent memory, and its focus was on violence prevention, gun control, and providing emotional space for mourning recent and past deaths by unnecessary gun violence.
In this vein, I think of Samantha Fuentes, who was forced to interrupt her emotional speech at the march, when she suddenly needed to throw up. What would be an embarrassing moment for anyone, however, was quickly transformed into triumph when the plucky teenager bounced right back, quipping, “I just threw up on international television, and it feels great!”
The crowd applauded and in that fragile moment of vulnerability, Samantha Fuentes did more to counter the myth of ‘crisis actors’ than any press release. During the march and later, folks noted and commented to me on the absence of the Obamas. I told them Obama speaking there (or any noted Democratic or politician) would have killed the moment. It wasn’t about building up a party, and getting someone into office. It was singularly focused on preventing gun violence.
Besides, I noted, even though these kids may not have had the eloquence of an Obama, everyone speaking about the school shootings sounded more adult and certainly more Presidential than Trump has ever sounded in his life.
Even not speaking held a kind of eloquence: Emma Gonzalez’s 6 minutes of silence to commemorate the 6 minutes it took for the Parkland shooter to kill 17 of her schoolmates was as emotionally taut and compelling as any political speech I have heard, including MLK’s iconic, “I have a dream,” which was referenced by these kids more than once: which bring us to our last point.
- Point 4, This march was as much about processing grief as it was about political action
Many times these marches, especially on the Left, have a kind of circus feel to them. You arrive equipped with witty signs, and ready to engage in political banter, gamesmanship and analysis, depending on your interests.
This had little of that circus feel, there were a few ‘witty’ signs, but many were simply bold statements of grief; or more pointed statements of anger at having lost someone to unnecessary gun violence.
In Emma’s six minutes of silence, there were attempts by the crowd to convert it into a kind of cheer “Never again” or “Enough is Enough,” but ultimately, her tear streaked face gazing across those hundreds of thousands of participants in grieving silence summed up this moment, and this movement, better than any words could.