On the morning of March 14, 2018, students all over the country participated in a school walkout to protest gun violence and to honor the seventeen children killed in Parkland, FL. In a lot of ways, this was inspiring, seeing thousands of kids believe in a cause and actually try to do something about it. But I couldn’t help but think of two questions posed by Hannah Arendt in her “Reflections on Little Rock”, “Have we now come to the point where it is the children who are being asked to change or improve the world? And do we intend to have our political battles fought out in our school yards?” The answer to both of those questions seems to be yes, which is just wrong. Every adult needs to be ashamed.
There are lots of reasons why there is a distinction between children and adults. I don’t think I really need to get into them here, but I’m thinking of things like the fact that, typically, children are not emotionally or intellectually ready to make political decisions. But having this distinction between children and adults has consequences. Children have fewer rights than adults. For example, they cannot vote or work. But there are consequences for the adults, too. In creating this distinction, adults are assuming responsibility for doing the things that children are deemed unable or unprepared to do. It is the responsibility of adults to make political decisions, to care for the children, etc.
It isn’t the first time, and sadly it probably won’t be the last, but it appears the adults of the United States have abdicated their responsibilities. While I agree with the students and admire their courage, I can’t help but think that they should not be in a position where they feel that they need to do this. It’s our job, not theirs. They are covering for us. I find that embarrassing.
It’s not just important to let children be children. Adults need to be adults at the same time. It’s our duty to be political, to make difficult decisions and to protect the children. On the issue of gun violence, we have failed completely. When this issue comes up with my daughter, I will have trouble looking her in the eye as I try to explain that failure.