Opinion: Young people speak their minds

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On March 24, I joined thousands of others in Santa Fe for the "March For Our Lives" to protest the epidemic of gun violence in America.

The first speakers at the Plaza were the adults, including the Mayor of Santa Fe (Alan Webber), but they were soon shouted down with cries of "We want to hear the kids!"

About 20 students from various regional high schools were sitting on the podium awaiting their time to share. And when they did, they inspired, humbled and amazed the crowd with their passion and eloquence.

I've been around children professionally for more than 30 years, but nothing prepared me for what I heard that day. These students believe that we, as adults, have failed them.

They will not accept as normal attending schools that have been transformed into barricaded prisons. They will not allow themselves to spend four years being terrorized every time they hear a bell ring and wonder if they will not get home alive.

They are tired of lockdowns, active-shooter alerts, drills to block the doors and to hide under their desks. They are heartbroken that they might have to attend the mass funerals of their friends. As one girl said, "We feel more like survivors than kids."

Most important, they will not support the arming of teachers.

Although they read from written speeches, it was impossible to doubt the sincerity of these young people. Many wept as they spoke.

They are aware, too, of the vicious accusations they and national leaders, such as Emma Gonzalez have received from the NRA and its supporters. One complaint is that they, as children, should shut up, sit obediently in their classrooms and get back to learning.

Well, they've learned all right. They have learned that their so-called "leaders" in Congress are gutless cowards who care more about the blood money they receive from the National Rifle Association than the lives of our children.

They have learned that when you speak truth to power in this country, the blowback is ugly, relentless and dehumanizing.

They have learned that the NRA has degenerated from an organization that once focused on gun safety into some kind of rabid cult that values weapons of mass murder over their safety. They have learned that the Second Amendment of the Constitution has been corrupted and misinterpreted to allow anyone, no matter how mentally unbalanced, to obtain a military-style assault weapon that can kill or maim 500 people in the space of minutes.

Mass movements are sparked awake by those who appear at the right moment in history. The Civil Rights struggle exploded when the then-unknown Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat.

The #MeToo movement arose when several women decided they would expose the depredations of Harvey Weinstein. Now, our young people are rising up and demanding, "Why aren't you protecting us? What do you care more about guns than our lives?"

Surprisingly, this is not an anti-gun rant. Guns don't bother me.

I have friends with arsenals in their homes. I have always supported hunters and hunting and even earned a "Marksman" certificate from the NRA when I was kid at summer camp where I enjoyed my time at the rifle range.

What I am condemning is a mentality that values guns over people and the craven corruption of our government that allows itself to be bought by lobbyists and the insane idea that AR-15s and other mass murder weapons are legitimate for civilians.

The Founding Fathers of the Constitution were highly intelligent men who were guided by the values of the Enlightenment. At the time they crafted the Second Amendment, state militias functioned as the National Guard does today, and even a trained soldier could fire only three shots a minute with a musket.

Were they to travel to the present and see the mass slaughters committed in our classrooms, I have no doubt they would have hurried back to their time period and reworded or even deleted the amendment in question.

That, however, is in the past. The present calls for our support of these amazing high school students who are indeed, marching for their lives. Despite the resistance to young people speaking their minds, they aren't going away.

Even if our leaders are too corrupt to hear their pleas, the children of our country have claimed the moral high ground and will be immortalized by history.

Daniel A. Brown is an artist, writer and former public school teacher living in Arroyo Seco.

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