Sunday, February 18, 2018

Fear and Loathing 2018: Why The Future Is Literally Our Only Hope

It's nearly midnight on Saturday, February the 17th.  I've had an extremely messed-up-week this week; so has my housemate; so have a lot of people I know and care about deeply.  Some of those messed up weeks have been interconnected, but many of them haven't been, and really, who can spot the difference?  I'd say "2018 can go fuck itself!", but I said that about 2017, and 2016, and maybe there was some moment in my life when things didn't feel like I was in a constant state of crisis.  But maybe not?  My earliest memory is of stepping on a cactus needle, maybe pain is all I know?  All times are end times, after all.

I swear, I'm not going all "goth kid" on you here, this is just the preamble.

Regardless of all the people I know who have had shitty weeks, I think all our nonsense pails in comparison to the horrifying times a bunch of kids in Florida had this week.  And I thought about listing a bunch of other recent school shooting incidents, but it's late, and come on; you know all about them, I know you know; let's skip the pretext.  And this isn't exactly an anti gun post (at least, not yet, with just 3 paragraphs in so far), but just to skip over some bastards who will have stupid opinions: if you honestly believe there is no problem with all the assault weapons in America, you are wrong.  Please go away.  The NRA (in it's current form, at least) can fuck off, and this isn't an article for you. Here's a website all about puppies to distract you instead of reading this.

Right, now that all that negative stuff is out of the way, I promise, I mostly want to talk about positive stuff tonight, because despite everything, I am a hopeful person.  I want to talk about how annoyingly good the kids in America are right now, and no, I won't apologize if Kim Wilde is playing in your head right now.

6 years ago I took a job where basically my main priority was managing college students and the various shit in their lives that they had to deal with. I was 25, and didn't really think too much about it at the time.  After all, I wasn't much older than these kids were, I didn't think it would be that big a deal.  But holy shit, I had no idea.  There were all the things I expected- awkward breakups, interoffice arguments, confusion about where they wanted to take their lives post-university.  But there was so much more.  Deaths, both of staff members their dads' ages and in their immediate family.  Surprised realizations about apartments complexes fucking them over for more money.  Questions about, off the record, how to make the best beverages to get shitfaced on.

I don't mean to suggest all the emotional impact of these various items have been equal, they were just never things I considered before I was asked about them.

It's been a trip, is my point.  But the one thing that struck me the most from the get go was how much nicer these kids were than we were in my day, not much longer ago.  I went to a pretty pretentious high school, and there were still days when I left the library checking to see if any blood was on my clothes from the fight that just happened before I left.

(I'd like to stress, right now, that *I* would never get in a fight in a library.  I have far too much respect for libraries and books in general to do that.)

But these kids?  The were pussy cats.  They were so much nicer and more polite than I expected, even after I'd gotten past that phase you have with people where you pretend you're much less of a bastard than you really are.  But no, really, they were all so fucking nice.  And if anything, 6 years later, they've gotten nicer.  I have my (unjustified by any actual information) theories why, but who fucking cares why?  20 year olds are as naive and stupid as they ever have been, but they care so much more than they did 10 years ago, I'm pretty sure.

I realize, of course, I may be full of shit here, maybe some how the 50 or so 20 year olds I've managed to be in charge of over 6 years were the outliers.  But I've been constantly impressed by their output of politeness and their weird-ass lack of cynicism that everyone I know my age just sort of takes as rote.  I said it about a teenager a few weeks ago, and I still strongly stand by it: these kids are going to save us all, assuming we don't blow up the whole god damn planet first.  And this weekend I was brought to tears, not by my students, but a girl a little younger, a survivor of this shit in Florida.

Nothing about the actual shooting in Parkland is surprising.  An unbalanced white male terrorizing his old school, murdering people for no god damn good reason beyond being yet another awkward kid with assault weapons (somehow?) and a fucked up sense of masculinity?  A guy who hates minorities because that's a pass time for a third of this country, so why not kill children?  Yeah, that's literally the design of America by this point, and also fuck him.  Fuck this system, fuck all of it.  I could look up his name, and give you better facts, but I don't care and I don't want to.  That's not a name I care about.  I care about kids like Emma and Kyra.

Kyra's birthday was the day after the shooting at her school.  The day of, noted hate goblin/Ghost-of-Christmas-Past-version-of-Ann-Coulter Tomi Lahren spouted off her normal "it's not about guns" bullshit, and Kyra replied "A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates.  A gun has traumatized my friends.  My entire school, traumatized from this tragedy.  This could have been prevented.  Please shut the fuck up, Tomi."  This is a child, who's friends were murdered earlier in the day, mind you.  And she's right, recent reports from the FBI state that they kind of knew this could happen, and they didn't stop it.  (Dear right-wingers hate reading this, I know it's not that fucking simple.  I'm actually mostly with you on this *very* specific point.  But the kid a'int wrong.)

And the first response?  Literally, the first thing someone said to her after that: "It was a person not a Gun".  Emphasis theirs.  That was the response to a grieving child, and it didn't really get better from there.  And holy shit, the next day, HER BIRTHDAY remember, she responded with far more grace than I could have. "For those in my mentions, telling me I don't know what I'm talking about, and many other things.  Know that I stand my ground, as a Douglas student.  A student who's lost classmates, friends, and coaches.  For the rest of my life, I will demand change."

Holy shit, this girl is amazing.

And then there's Emma.  Jesus Christ, just.... jut google "Emma Gonzalez speech" and watch it when you've got eleven minutes and forty seconds, because you NEED to watch it.  But if you some how REALLY can't, here are a couple exerts:

"Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see. Since the time of the Founding Fathers and since they added the Second Amendment to the Constitution, our guns have developed at a rate that leaves me dizzy. The guns have changed but our laws have not."

...

"I found out today there's a website shootingtracker.com. Nothing in the title suggests that it is exclusively tracking the USA's shootings and yet does it need to address that? Because Australia had one mass shooting in 1999 in Port Arthur (and after the) massacre introduced gun safety, and it hasn't had one since. Japan has never had a mass shooting. Canada has had three and the UK had one and they both introduced gun control and yet here we are, with websites dedicated to reporting these tragedies so that they can be formulated into statistics for your convenience.

"I watched an interview this morning and noticed that one of the questions was, do you think your children will have to go through other school shooter drills? And our response is that our neighbors will not have to go through other school shooter drills. When we've had our say with the government -- and maybe the adults have gotten used to saying 'it is what it is,' but if us students have learned anything, it's that if you don't study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it's time to start doing something.

"We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we're going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because, just as David said, we are going to be the last mass shooting. Just like Tinker v. Des Moines, we are going to change the law. That's going to be Marjory Stoneman Douglas in that textbook and it's going to be due to the tireless effort of the school board, the faculty members, the family members and most of all the students. The students who are dead, the students still in the hospital, the student now suffering PTSD, the students who had panic attacks during the vigil because the helicopters would not leave us alone, hovering over the school for 24 hours a day.

"There is one tweet I would like to call attention to. 'So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities again and again.' We did, time and time again. Since he was in middle school, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him to hear that he was the shooter. Those talking about how we should have not ostracized him, you didn't know this kid. OK, we did. We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife.

"And how about we stop blaming the victims for something that was the student's fault, the fault of the people who let him buy the guns in the first place, those at the gun shows, the people who encouraged him to buy accessories for his guns to make them fully automatic, the people who didn't take them away from him when they knew he expressed homicidal tendencies, and I am not talking about the FBI. I'm talking about the people he lived with. I'm talking about the neighbors who saw him outside holding guns.

"If the President wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should never have happened and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I'm going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association.

"You want to know something? It doesn't matter, because I already know. Thirty million dollars. And divided by the number of gunshot victims in the United States in the one and one-half months in 2018 alone, that comes out to being $5,800. Is that how much these people are worth to you, Trump? If you don't do anything to prevent this from continuing to occur, that number of gunshot victims will go up and the number that they are worth will go down. And we will be worthless to you.

"To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you."

...

"Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he's stating for the record, 'Well, it's a shame the FBI isn't doing background checks on these mentally ill people.' Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.

"The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice and our parents to call BS.  Companies trying to make caricatures of the teenagers these days, saying that all we are self-involved and trend-obsessed and they hush us into submission when our message doesn't reach the ears of the nation, we are prepared to call BS. 

"Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.

"If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind."

...

Ok, I cheated, I quoted almost all of the speech, but that's what you jerks get for not watching it like I told you to.  And it's so fucking good!  This girl deserves a fucking medal in speaking truth to power, and that's before you remember she's saying this just days after her friends have died.  Can we amend the constitution to allow high school seniors to be president already or what?  I can't be the only Prez fan here (kudos if you get that extremely specific reference), but my god, this girl is clearly a better candidate than anyone in congress right now, let alone that bald ass bitch at 1600 Pennsylvania.

These girls are amazing, and they are far from the only ones.  And no, not every amazing kid-who-may-save-us has to be formed by tragedy. But these girls, and the many other kids like them, all across the nation and the world.... they deserve our respect and admiration.  They might be young and come off as naive, but they're often so earnest that it warms the heart of this old asshole.  And I'd far rather have naive earnest kids in charge than the old-ass out of touch fuckers in Congress or the White House right now.

Go get 'em, kiddos.  You deserve a better world than we've given you.

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