DeFrates column: Don’t let past become the future for tomorrow’s youth
I want to thank every student in this community and around the country who protested during the last few weeks to bring national attention to the festering sore that is gun violence in our nation. Thank you, each of you who is finally sick of watching the flimsy Band-Aids our society tries to paste over the problem fall off again and again. And thank you for refusing to believe that the status quo is the only possibility.
Thank you for taking a stand and being ready to accept the consequences of your actions despite pressure from peers, community leaders, the media, teachers, and even parents. Thank you for ignoring the voices meant to divide you, to silence you and to tell you that you are just a kid and don’t know what you are talking about. Thank you for choosing your own path and sticking to it.
I am so deeply grateful to you for an entirely selfish, very honest, reason. You see, right now all three of my children are young enough that their biggest concern is whether they got the larger piece of a granola bar, or who didn’t share the new slinky. They aren’t worried about violence. Their “guns” mostly shoot rotten spaghetti. But my oldest will begin kindergarten in August of this year, and by 2022, they will all three be in school.
I am heartbroken that, along with the standard parental butterflies regarding bullies, academic challenges and worries about whether he is getting enough rest, this fall, whenever I drop my son off in the building, I will have to wonder, even for a second, that today could be the day when horrific, real-life not-pretend bullets find their way into his classroom.
And I absolutely acknowledge that many parents have felt this gut-wrenching fear for their children every day of their lives in communities not as privileged as my own — communities which have gone so long without a voice.
Students, I am so deeply sorry that my generation left this for you to deal with. We witnessed Columbine at your age. We were deeply shaken, but when it wasn’t our family, our community, we moved on, assuming that it was an isolated incident related only to the individuals who perpetrated it. We got busy with our lives — most of which weren’t impacted by gun violence. And, we let other communities, other students, other families suffer the heartbreak of our inaction.
Now, truthfully, it is too late for our generation to make the change. We are too deeply mired in partisan arguments, too corrupted by our own selfish choices and mistakes. If we were to attempt to lead this revolution, our pasts would easily overtake us.
So it falls on you. Teenagers. Youth. Young people who understand the very real challenges of life better than I ever did at your age. You know that even though it is not our community, today, it could be tomorrow. And even if it never is, the value of the lives being lost for our senseless adoration of violence far outweighs the political points to be scored by old men and women who have lost touch with reality.
So even though the headlines are fading, do not forget. Even though the naysayers are speaking more boldly, do not listen. Even though change will be slow, inch by inch, do not give up.
It is in no way fair to beg you to solve this problem for us, but our nation will only listen to you. You must keep speaking. Your words, your demands and your uncompromising commitment is what will create a country in which you want to spend the rest of your lives.
When you go silent, the past will become the future for my children and yours.
Lindsay DeFrates lives in Glenwood Springs and is a sleep-deprived freelance writer who once wrote a ridiculous satire about this, and fervently wishes it wasn’t slowly coming true.