In Defiance: Of youth activism, guns, listening and learning |

In Defiance: Of youth activism, guns, listening and learning

The wave of political activism sweeping over the nation led by young people is encouraging, if not a little too single-issue focused. Not that the single issue of better gun regulation shouldn’t receive some focus.

The mass of humanity marching over the weekend as part of the nationwide “March for Our Lives,” including sister marches here in the Roaring Fork Valley in Basalt and Carbondale, reminded me of a 1992 U2 concert at old Mile High Stadium in Denver.

No particular connection between a rock concert and students marching and walking out of school to protest gun violence in this country, except that Bono no doubt embraces the message and would offer an encouraging word for youth to raise their voices in loud unison.

It’s just that as I scanned the mass of mostly young people who attended that concert back in the day, it hit me that a wave of change was coming. At that time, MTV was our “social media.” It was in large part due to the cable TV network’s “Rock the Vote” campaign that young voters were called to action following the relative complacency of the 1980s.

And, sure enough, a few months later Bill Clinton pulled off what just a few months earlier had seemed unthinkable after 12 years of Reagan-Bush. Granted, Clinton was for the most part a disappointment in the long run, just as most of the annointed two-party Republicrat oligarchs and their congressional cronies end up being.

But that particular uprising proved, as it had during the Vietnam War era, that the louder the voices of youth, the more those in charge better start listening. Otherwise, the wave will come crashing down hard.

Guns and their connection to school violence is the issue du jour, as well it should be given recent and all-too-often-repeated events. But the youth of today, just like the youth of yesteryear, would be wise to study up, listen and try to understand those who might not fully agree with them, including their peers.

They could very well hold the key to making some real change.

For the past week or so, the Post Independent’s online poll has asked readers what they think of the recent student walkouts in protest of gun violence. So far, the two responses arguably most aligned with the gun rights crowd have been leading the way. In fact, the response “They should stay in school and study the Constitution” has the most votes so far.

There’s something to be said for that, just as there’s something to be said for standing up and giving voice to an issue. It’s hard to argue a point without fully understanding the issue, and few issues are more complicated than gun rights, the Second Amendment and constitutional law.

AP News coverage from the various marches across the country on Saturday included a lot of youth voices on the issue, including some opinions from counter protesters in places like Utah and Montana who marched in favor of gun rights. They would tell you it’s not as easy as “banning guns,” even assault rifles.

Like Braxton Shewalter, who commented while attending a counter demonstration in Helena, Montana, “I’ve been an NRA member since I was little. … That’s just kind of our way of life down here, to own a gun. … Our voices deserve to be heard, too.”

You’re right, Mr. Shewalter, you do deserve to be heard. And we have to recognize that this same opinion is a dominant one right here in Garfield County.

Then there’s Grace Bender, who also marched in Helena, and offered maybe the best comment of them all. “I think that it’s absolutely necessary for people who own guns who are responsible gun owners to also be advocating for this because I don’t think there are two sides,” she said. “I think that if you want to find solutions, you can do that really easily.”

That’s it! Thank you, Ms. Bender.

You see, maybe if our young people can reach across the hallways of our high schools or across the campus quad to try to understand each others’ point of view and find some common ground, maybe, just maybe, our elected officials can reach across the aisle and do the same.

Calling for an outright ban on certain types of guns and refusing to back down from that position maybe isn’t the best approach, any more than spewing the far-right rhetoric of no gun control at all. There’s a middle ground here, and maybe our youth are better equipped to listen, learn from each other and come together on some reasonable solutions than any of the adults in the room.

Imagine the power of that collective wave.

John Stroud is editor of the Post Independent.

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