1968 2.0…2020-2021

As 2020 ended I hoped for a brighter 2021…hoped the cockroaches with 2020 embossed on their backs would scurry for the safety of darkness as the bright sunlight of 2021 hit them.  Then visions of white supremacists and nationalist storming the Capital hit my TV screen and news feed on January 6.   People in red hats and animal skins carrying Confederate Battle Flags among many, made it surreal.  I couldn’t help but think about my earlier year of discontent, 1968. 

Most of us, I hope most of us, will celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday January 18 this year. His life ended with an assassin’s bullet in 1968.  That same bullet triggered national unrest similar to what we saw this past summer. 

Despite being a proponent of nonviolent protest, King’s assassination prompted violent protests and riots in major cities across the US as news of his death led to anger and disillusionment, and feelings that now only violent resistance to white supremacy could be effective.

Known as the “Holy Week Uprising”, the riots and unrest began after the April 4th murder of King lasted well into the remainder of the year.  These uprising weren’t the first expression of unrest and would not be the last in 1968. 

Vietnam protests joined Civil Rights protests, walkouts, sit ins, hostage taking along with the riots that saw Chicago policemen in battle gear wading into crowds and beating Vietnam War protesters and news correspondents, This was during the 1968 Democratic Convention and played out during August on our television sets.

We weren’t alone in our discontent.  Social unrest seemed to grip the world.  Movements sprang up worldwide as protests were registered in over two dozen countries.  Here at home, in addition to our Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements,  Anti-nuclear movement, Environmental movement, Hippie movement, Women’s liberation movement, Chicano movement, and Red Power movements staged protests.  During the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, two medalists raised their glove clad fist in a Black Power protest.  That was in October. 

Some historians believed 1968 saw the greatest wave of social unrest the United States had experienced since the Civil War.  Of course, that was before 2020 and the beginning of 2021.  I don’t know what historians will believe about these, there is so much misinformation to sift through I doubt a consensus will be reached during the remainder of my lifetime.

I also wonder what Dr. King might think had he lived to be ninety-two.  Despite his own move toward greater militancy, I wonder if his influence would have made any difference in what continues to play out on my television. 

Our Capital is locked down. National Guards men are moving to the nation’s capital and sleeping in the building itself.  Buildings being boarded up.  Gunmen have been arrested attempting to breach what is known as the Red Zone…even using descriptors like Red Zone. My depression and anxiety are growing by the minute as the inauguration approaches.

Despite my anxiety, I find comfort and hope in Dr. King’s words.  Yes, I still believe in hope.  In 1964 he closed his Nobel acceptance speech, beginning his final paragraph, “Let me close by saying that I have the personal faith that mankind will somehow rise up to the occasion and give new directions to an age drifting rapidly to its doom. In spite of the tensions and uncertainties of this period something profoundly meaningful is taking place. Old systems of exploitation and oppression are passing away, and out of the womb of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born.”

I have hope that his words will come true and that the reaction to what happened on January, 6, will prove to be an impetus for better days. 

***

Quote is from Dr. King’s Nobel acceptance speech.

His image from his “I have a dream” speech.

Much of my research came from experience but I used Wikipedia to fill in the gaps of my memory.

My own rantings and writings may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1m9HXR3YH52tj33iUxPkzyf1PvTdt2BaXLwT3hka344adJ4sa6n3sIkr4

Historia Arcana

“The deeper you penetrated into the true South, a Protestant land of moral absolutes, Baptist blue laws, tent revivals, fire and brimstone, heaven and hell, good and evil, black and white, and damn little room between.”  Greg Iles, The Bone Tree

And bitter hypocrisy thrown in for good measure.

According to a “too large” number of my Southern brethren, racism hasn’t existed in a while…and if it does it is reverse racism.  All groups supporting social justice and the removal of monuments and flags are Marxist and radical, and the worst danger facing our country has nothing to do with the reactionary right.  Our President has even given us a new group to hate, the “radical fascist” which sets my teeth on edge just thinking about it.

Histories are written by the victors…or are they?

In the middle of the Sixth Century, the last great ancient Western historian, Procopius of Caesarea, wrote Historia Arcana which translates to The Secret History.  He hoped it would never be published, and it was not until well after his death.  It was to be his if needed, ‘get out of jail’ card.

The history chronicled the seedier sides of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and his wife, Empress Theodora.  It is not a glowing history and shows the author’s disillusionment with the Byzantine Empire.  Justinian is portrayed as cruel and incompetent, Theodora, vulgar, and lustfully insatiable.  I feel some of Procopius’ disillusionment today.

No, it is not the history Theodora and Justinian would want to be published and it was not published until nearly a thousand years later.  The sixth-century power couple would go on to be sainted by the Greek Orthodox Church.  Their hidden history remained hidden until it no longer mattered.

I have seen the same with some of our own “sainted” folk.  The heroes of Southern culture and heritage.  In the South, we guard our “historia arcana” with a tenacity unmatched by the rest of our nation.  Families of now-departed men and women hope their histories remain secret.

I’m reading Greg Iles’ Natchez Is Burning trilogy and stumbled upon the above quote on the first page of the second novel, The Bone Tree.  The original book, Natchez is Burning, while fictional, is based on a period in our history that anyone south of the Ohio River would like to forget.

The novel is fictional but based upon historical facts…the treatment of African-Americans during the Fifties and Sixties and how white men got away with the murder of black men and women simply because they could.  A period we are being asked to move on from without recognizing how evil it was or how events from forty or fifty years ago…or one hundred and sixty years ago…or four hundred years ago could actually affect the time we live in now.  Just move on…there is nothing here.

Any Southern town, large or small, has its share of “secret” histories…histories that display our dirty unmentionables, the soiled petticoats displayed as we try to navigate the deep mud puddles of Southern history before quickly dropping our antebellum gown to cover our ankles and muddy shoes.  Like Justinian and Theodora, it is a history we would prefer not to read in print and only speak to in whispered tones if we speak of them at all.

The mud stains are still on our shoes but we do our best to make sure they are out of sight.  Historical accounts we have purged from our memories it seems…or at least the “dark” part of our histories.  Histories so well hidden, a Southern, seventy-year-old retired history teacher didn’t know they existed.

Accounts we claim never existed at worse or were not as bad as were made out at best.  “Why can’t we just move on?” is a question reserved for the propagator, not the victims.  Maybe I should again pick up Faulkner, O’Conner, Williams, Yerby, or Gaines again.  Even in their fiction are large kernels of truth.

Men and women are human, with human failings.  Men and women can be both good and bad at the same time.  Bad…good old Baptist guilt or Calvinist repression, not necessarily the point.  This is more collective guilt…a collective guilt we refuse to accept or acknowledge.  The guilt we have turned into a “Lost Cause” and “Forget Hell” is only reserved for one side of the argument.

As we debate the removal of statues and memorials, the elimination of one hundred and sixty-year-old eulogies made of cloth, disclaimers added to eighty-one-year-old motion pictures, and the changing of aging athletic nicknames and mascots, we pontificate about what seems to be different histories from the same place and from the same time.  Some pray to the gods of the status quo, the good old days, while others are breaking under the burdens we refuse to remove.

Good men doing bad things or is it bad men doing good things…or is it just human nature to cover or change what is unpalatable for us?  Is it human nature to resist change or just a Southern cultural trait?

There is the fear factor too.  Fear that somehow we will lose control of what we have controlled for so long.  Similar to the old question asked by good Protestant ministers so long ago, “What will we do when they run off with our wives and daughters?”  We still look for boogie men under our beds and label them as Marxist or radically “fascist” whatever that is.

I do not know where to stand on statues and memorials.  I know, despite my deep Southern roots, I will not stand next to them in defense.  My great, great and great, great, great grandfathers may be rolling in their graves.

Our statues and memorials are tributes to men and to histories most unsavory but they themselves are not history.  They should not be celebratory, should they? They are reminders of not only heritage but the hate some of that heritage rests upon.

Having taught history, I never used a statue or memorial as a teaching tool but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used as teaching implements…provided those monuments are teaching the “real” histories which are found not on lists of gallant Confederate dead etched in stone or on mountains, but in the pages of primary documents and historical works.

We must focus less on gallant propaganda and more on the facts.  We need to recognize that our history didn’t end with the beginning of the Civil War.  We need to question why some men died to “make men free” and why others resisted…no matter how bitter the taste of the fruit of that resistance might be.

All countries have shame.  We are not unique.  Many countries have tread on the weak for national and economic gain.  We are no different.  We are not even the only country that has not come to grips with the travesties we have committed.  We are not the only country to ignore our travesties and attempt to squash the message of those tread upon.  Unfortunately, as a child in the Fifties, I bought the propaganda of American Exceptionalism.  I really believed we were supposed to be better than other nations.

I  admit to ignoring problems in hopes they might go away.  They do not.  They only grow worse and ours has festered for over one hundred and fifty years.  I have also learned when faced with an issue, the most unappealing and unappetizing option is probably the correct one.

Here in the Bible Belt, we are filled with religious indignation and justification toward anyone who questions authority…unless it is a fellow Christian of a certain race.  It is as if by conforming to a God’s will we give up the right to think on our own.

Here in the Bible Belt, we have tied our Christianity to our politics, and any afront to our politics is perceived as an affront to our religion.  I am seeing this more and more concerning “peaceful” protesters and reactions to “other” religions.  Too many “good” Christians wrapping their Bible in a flag and calling their racism and bigotry patriotism.

As I read Iles’ quote I thought back to my youth and own privilege.  I grew up a Methodist Protestant, graduated from a Lutheran institution of higher learning, and committed the mortal sin of marrying three Baptist women.  If at first, you fail….  I once considered taking up the mantle of religion…God does work in mysterious ways.  It is my historia arcana.

Moral absolutes were something I obviously had a problem with as did others.  I have just now learned others did a better job of covering theirs up and have throughout history.  In towns large and small, men and women have been willing to hide their moral absolutes away when it suited.  Good men and women doing bad things and praying for absolution on Sunday morning? Justinian and Theodora?  Or was I just cursed with the ability to see grays in among the blacks and whites?

I remember the revivals and the Blue Laws, the hellfire and brimstone sermons conjuring the smell of sulfur.  Hot and sticky Southern Sunday morning humidity with funeral fans working against the oppressive heat.  The preacher pounding his Bible before issuing his alter call, a closing hymn…benediction, please.

There was no gray, only heaven or hell, no in-between.  I remember the Wednesday night and Sunday morning Christians, the amen corners, the tv evangelist, and faith healers.  Billy Graham’s piety on display in black and white while George Beverly Shea sang “How Great Thou Art.”

I remember being taught from the pulpit, white was good and black was bad.  When white was virtuous and black was evil.  I remember when we used the same arguments a lifetime ago that we recycle now.  I remember our historia arcana and feel the shame that we can’t seem to overcome it or even admit it.

***

Iles, Greg The Bone Tree: A Novel (Penn Cage Book 5) (p. 1). William Morrow. Kindle Edition

The image is from The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture’s online portal.  https://nmaahc.si.edu/

Don Miller writes on various subjects that bother him so and in various genres.  His author’s page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2syCHGI2Eb96lK63frT528V_cBY995j2m_hd_LOLFPdV4KqqoZQn1J7Fs

Fifty Years Ago…

 

Section 5377 of the Code of Laws of South Carolina of 1942: “It shall be unlawful for pupils of one race to attend the schools provided by boards of trustees for persons of another race.”

Fifty years ago, yesterday, The School District of Greenville County became one of the last school districts in one of the last states to comply with the “spirit” of the Supreme Court Case Brown v Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas.  It had only taken sixteen years to accomplish this compliance.

1954’s Brown v Board included a South Carolina case filed by then Civil Rights lawyer, future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on behalf of Harry and Eliza Briggs and 20 other families living in Summerton, SC, a small town in Clarendon County.  Filed in 1947, Briggs v Elliott challenged school segregation in Clarendon County, South Carolina.  It was the first case filed of five cases combined under the Brown umbrella

Unanimously, the Justices found that separate was inherently unequal and that “public school segregation was unconstitutional.” They also found segregation “fostered feelings of inferiority among black children that could harm their educational futures.”

Brown overthrew Plessy v Ferguson’s “Separate but Equal”, a railroad case from the 1890s that had been applied to education.  Mandated segregation in South Carolina was over…defacto segregation wasn’t.

I used the word “spirit” earlier because for sixteen years South Carolina lawmakers systematically attempted to put off the inevitable by increasing spending on black schools, implementing “pseudo” freedom of choice, and an end-run with what became known as “token” integration.

State Senator Strom Thurmond of Dixiecrat fame helped to pen what became known as the Southern Manifesto, pledging, along with one hundred other federal lawmakers, the intent to resist integration as far as the law would allow.

It seemed South Carolina and other states, mostly Southern, were intent on being deliberate rather than speedy when instructed by the Supreme Court to integrate their schools “with all deliberate speed” in 1954.

With a Mississippi Federal Court ruling, segregation ended over a long weekend in Greenville County on February 17, 1970, with the busing of sixty percent of the black school populations to various schools distant from their own neighborhoods.  Only ten percent of white children were bused.  Five hundred educators found themselves cleaning out their desks and moving to different desks in different schools as well.  This was done to reflect the racial makeup of the county, 80% white, 20% black.

What had been black high schools, some quite new became middle schools or closed that weekend.  These centers of pride for many communities, like Sterling High or Lincoln High, were now empty; only living on in the memories of many people of color.

I was a second semester junior in college at the time and not very concerned about the politics of my state.  The next year, my senior year, I would find myself an unpaid assistant baseball coach while doing my student teaching at a local high school.  It would be my first-time interacting with black students and athletes.  It would probably be some of their first interactions with white teachers and coaches.  Somehow we survived.

From all I can glean from friends and fellow educators who taught during the period, the change was relatively peaceful.  I imagine there was some selective memory loss but unlike other states, few buses, if any, were pelted with rocks. There were no rabid white crowds shouting expletives to little schoolgirls. The governor did not stand on the schoolhouse steps shouting, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Still…I can’t imagine what those thousands of students were thinking at the time as they rode school buses to new locations.  I’m unable to fathom the fear of the unknown that prevailed, both black and white.  I can only imagine what might have gone on in restrooms, locker rooms, in the parking lot, on buses…out of range of teacher’s and administrator’s ears.

By the time I became a full-time teacher and coach in 1973, I found race relations still raw and contentious.  Generally, the question of race relations simmered just beneath the surface on briefly exposing itself.  There were just enough brief flareups to remind us.  Beliefs don’t go gently into the night just because judges tell them to.

For years we had been indoctrinated to believe races should be kept separate as a benefit to both, and then in the blink of an eye it was over…or was it?

There were still arguments made and old white men continued to try and find ways around the law.  Court cases would still be heard, especially over busing.  Isolated areas would still attempt to hang on to the old ways.  Affluent white folk found another way to be separate.

One hundred and thirty-four private schools and academies opened in South Carolina during the period, one hundred and thirty-one were opened to whites only.  Many still exist today, many still are all white with names featuring Lee, Davis or Calhoun.

Over fifty thousand white students fled to private schools and today one in seven public schools in South Carolina are considered “highly segregated” still.  “Separate but equal” seems to have a firm foothold all over the South and it appears the Secretary of Education is intent on strengthening its foothold nationwide while weakening an already weakened public school system.

I often hear or read, “We need to move on.  That was so long ago.  I don’t understand why it is always about race.”  I find it is often people of my race who make these comments.  The same people who insist their heritage is under attack when certain flags are removed from federal buildings.

I point out that Jim Crow was still entrenched during the years of my youth well into my college days.  As I reach a major birthday in a month and a half, I find that 1970 doesn’t seem that long ago.  If it is during my lifetime it can’t be that long ago.

I remember the signs stating, “White’s Only.”  I remember fire hoses, German Shepards and burning buses.  I didn’t fight for my Civil Rights, I didn’t have to.  I’m sure for those who fought for their Civil Rights…continue to fight for their Civil Rights, it seems like only yesterday.

Addendum 

According to various accounts, although Brown resulted in a legal victory against segregation, it was a costly victory for those associated with the Briggs case.

Reverend Joseph De Laine, the generally acknowledged leader of Summerton’s African-American community at the time, was fired from his post as principal at a local school in Silver. His wife Mattie was also fired from her position as a teacher at Scott’s Branch school, as were all the other signers of the original petition.

De Laine’s church was also burned and he moved to Buffalo, New York in 1955 after surviving an attempted drive-by shooting.  He never returned to South Carolina.

Harry and Eliza Briggs, on behalf of whose children the suit was filed, both lost their jobs in what was called “economic retribution.”  They both left South Carolina.

After death threats and by a joint resolution of the South Carolina House of Representatives, Federal Judge Walter Waring was forced to leave South Carolina for good.  He had sided with the petitioners.

An interesting article I just read, https://www.greenvilleonline.com/get-access/?return=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.greenvilleonline.com%2Fstory%2Fnews%2F2020%2F02%2F17%2Fdesegregation-1-out-of-7-south-carolina-schools-highly-segregated%2F2843394001%2F

***

Don Miller is a retired educator and athletic coach.  He writes on various subjects using various genres.  His author’s page can be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is from “A New Wave of School Integration”, The Century Foundation, https://tcf.org/content/report/a-new-wave-of-school-integration/?session=1

***

Sources

https://brownvboard.org/content/brown-case-briggs-v-elliott

http://www.scequalizationschools.org/briggs-v-elliott.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briggs_v._Elliott

 

Is it Always About Race?

 

The question is not mine although I mentally argue the subject with myself quite often.  The person who asked the question pointed out, “You seem to be obsessed by race” meaning race relations.  He is intelligent, both well-read and with common sense.  Because of his intelligence and his view of the world, I had to wonder if he might be correct.  If I am obsessed, what about people of color.

I have been told, “We must move on.  No one alive today has owned slaves or picked cotton as a slaveMove on!”  Having picked cotton as a small child I might dispute that assertion except I was “paid” with a BB Bat occasionally and was not living in a home that sharecropping was an only vocation available.  Okay, for argument’s sake I’ll give you that assertion but would add the word legally…but then there are those prisons who still rent out inmates for profit, the Angola Plantation of modern times.

I would also ask you to shift your thinking to the years of my lifetime.  I began life in the Jim Crow South.  The Brown case that overturned Plessy v Ferguson landed like a wet cow patty in my part of the world in 1954.  Being four at the time, I didn’t notice.  I was much more interested in Tonka Toys, recreating the Gunfight at the Ok Corral, and defeating the Imperial Japanese Army with little green soldiers than worrying about a court case I had no understanding of.  The youngster of color I played with didn’t notice either…until 1956 when we both went off to our still “separate but equal” schools.

For the next fourteen years South Carolina, along with the rest of the South, drug their collective feet, rushing like runaway snails toward complete integration, kicking and screaming all the way.  Southerners heard “deliberate” and ignored “speed” in “with all deliberate speed”1, first ignoring it, then instituting “token” integration before going the whole hog and integrating all public schools in 1970…that was in my little piece of the South…again, during my lifetime.  The last public school to integrate was in Mississippi in 2016, sixty-two years after Brown.  Yes, for some folk, it is still about race.

Desegregation was not well received, integration even worse.  Our collective “white” anger was not just limited to the South.  Some of the most racist areas still exist, and they are not restricted to the states seceding in late 1860 and early 1861.  Boston, Massachusetts, for instance, didn’t integrate their schools until 1976, with rioting in addition to kicking and screaming.

During my lifetime, I have very vivid memories of people who made it about race.  Memories of our “kicking and screaming” in the form of bombs blowing up churches, burning buses, election workers buried under a dam, firehoses and Billy clubs, what was once human beings hung from a tree, and police dogs.  If I have those hateful memories of events during my lifetime…what about people of color?  Should we all ignore these memories or should we approach it head-on and accept our racist past by getting rid of it in our racist present and banning it from our future?

I’ve specified years beginning in 1954.  My lifetime.  Brown in ’54, Little Rock Nine in ’57, the Greensboro sit-ins in ’60, a bomb in Birmingham in ’63, Dr. King’s assassination and a hell of a lot more in ’68, Mother Emmanuel in 2015, Senator Steve King in 2019 wondering when “white nationalist and white supremacist” became offensive words.

I jumped a few years for expediency and just listed a few to make a point.  There are seventy-four million Baby Boomers of all races alive today who have lived through Jim Crow or institutional racism in education, the justice system, prisons, housing, jobs, voting, just to name a few.  Those memories are real as is the discrimination many still face in 2019.

What discrimination?  Before you say, “But….”  I’ve researched the data and you can too.  I’m not going to do it for you.  The numbers are skewed for a reason.  You should research if you still believe in science and data…if not, please go elsewhere and harass some other poor soul.

With forethought, those who came before us, systematically placed restrictions on people they considered the other.  Even “Po white trash” facilitate their own dilemmas by allowing and even assisting in white supremacy.  The least racist of us perpetuate the system covertly because “Those are the lessons we grew up with and learned.”

“But….”  I know.  You have Black or Hispanic friends, maybe po white trash friends too.  Jeffery Dahmer had friends he didn’t eat.  He was still a serial cannibal.

Stereotypes still exist and people around me perpetuate them all the time.  I have been guilty of taking the path of least resistance…and maybe even perpetuating.  No longer.  If we are going to end inequalities in the system who should heft the banner?  Those who are still unequal in the eyes of the ruling class?  White supremacy will not end on its own nor will it end by the efforts of people of color alone.  White supremacy must end with the efforts of whites.

“But….”  I know, there will always be racist people.  Laws passed will not make racism and white supremacy magically disappear.  People with racist attitudes do not need to be in positions of power ala Senator Steve King.  They don’t need to be bosses, policemen or educators either.  It is up to the white race to call out those of our own who are.

I do realize that every action or slight doesn’t have to be about race and there are some who just want to make “everything” about race…certainly our media it would seem.  Until we truly believe, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (people) are created equal”, it will be about race…or bigotry…or misogyny…or…?  Equal must be equal…it cannot be by degrees, by social class or by race.”

Dr. King would have turned ninety-one today had he lived.  One of his most famous quotes, from one of his most famous speeches, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” is oft-repeated. It is a substantial quote but in the light of today’s cultural atmosphere, I believe the final paragraph of the speech is more relevant.  Speaking of freedom, Dr. King said,

“And when this (freedom) happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men, and white men, Jews, and Gentiles, Protestants, and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”2

I don’t know if I will see true freedom for all in my lifetime.  I doubt it.  I pray my daughter and grandchildren see it.  A time when everyone’s children “will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin (or religion, gender, etc.) but by the content of their character.”  

1 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954)

2 Source: Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have A Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World, ed. James Melvin Washington (San Francisco: Harper, 1986), 102-106.

The image is from Richmond 2Day http://richmond2day.com/city-host-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-day-program-encourages-residents-volunteer/mlk/

Further musings may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Tide Pods and Heroes

 

I wasn’t going to react…I really tried hard but the “daddy” teacher in me has reared its ugly head and I will not sit on the sidelines while thousands of young people exercise their First Amendment Rights…and get ridiculed and called names for doing it.  My inner child of the Sixties has stood up and grabbed me by the ass and shook me.  I was young once and so were you…and if you didn’t do stupid things, you should probably head to the doctor and find out what is wrong with your memory.

Yes, some of these youngsters are stupid…no not stupid.  Some are immature and do stupid things.  Like, take the Tide Pod challenge.  Stupid things like goldfish swallowing contests, flagpole sitting, telephone booth stuffing, pet rocks, flappers, zoot suits, platform shoes, lily-white Irishmen in Afros and lime green leisure suits.  Abuses like beer drinking, smoking marijuana and premarital sex with the wrong woman.  Stupid things that immature young people from previous generations did (I know this for a fact)…and went on to do great things.  Before you say that I’m advocating for beer drinking, marijuana use, and premarital sex…JUST STOP IT!  That is not my point.

Growing up is being taught by caring people if you are lucky enough to have them: parents, teachers, family members, the clergy of your choice…the village.  Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, it’s also about ignoring what you were taught, striking out on your own path, and somehow managing to survive it…and learning from it.  I was lucky…I survived.  I didn’t learn much, but I hope the newest generation survives and learns.  I believe the will and that they will go on and do great things too…but they won’t do it our way.

I saw plenty of heroic young people, not one of them had a Tide Pod in their hands…or mouth.  We focus on all the immature actions and fail to recognize that they have a voice that echoes their pain, their concern, and their fear…whether they are high school students or not. They don’t have the life experiences.  Tell that to a kid whose mother works two jobs and leaves him to care for a little brother…no don’t.  You don’t have the right.

Sure, some left just to get out of class and there were, as my brother pointed out, some knuckleheads.  There would have been knuckleheads fifty years ago during YOUR or my generation, and after.

Others knelt in hallways when they weren’t allowed outside.  Peace signs were created by elementary school kids.  Shoes were placed in protest near the capital. Chicago students marched for mental illness awareness, equal educational opportunities, safety in their OWN communities and THE PARKLAND, FLORIDA, DEAD, and SURVIVORS.  I watched one young man march and stand silently…the only person in his march.  I think it was pretty goddammed heroic.

For you deflectors and detractors, sure the problem is more than JUST about gun control.  I don’t want your gun, I have one.  But their march…their conversation was about guns and dying in a school.  Organize your own march…I’ll march with you.

The PROBLEMS are about a failure in a law enforcement and background system that allows a mentally ill youngster to obtain a legal weapon that can kill thirty people in a minute.

It is about bullying, something some people still blame on the victim not being tough enough.

It’s about something being wrong with men of my race and gender who have a need to shoot up things with weapons only one or two steps down from a battlefield…and call it huntin’.

It is about violence in certain cities and the double, the national norm, unemployment figures that go with it…and the inequality in the education they receive.

It’s about prisons for profit that robs families of men who have minor brushes with the law when other men get a slap on the hand and community service.  But that’s something some of us don’t want to hear or even entertain.

It’s about a judicial system that seems to punish, more severely, one group over another.

It’s about moral depredation, Christ follower or Athiest, that must be someone else’s fault cause it ain’t mine.

And, it’s also about smart and consistent gun control, even if it means JUST enforcing the laws already on the books.

There are plenty of facets to the problem…just pick a cause…or not.  But that will be YOUR CAUSE, not theirs.  Or just sit back and denigrate young people who want to start a conversation…one we can’t seem to have without yelling.  I’d say you failed at quieting them and I think that is a good thing.

To quote Buffalo Springfield:

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer who may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image was taken by Amber Nelson Wagner

Video from YouTube