Editor: Robin and I attended The March for Our Lives. The crowd has been estimated to be about 800,000. MSNBC also reported that there were more than 800 such events all over the world. We were pretty far down PA. Ave–near the Archives, I think– where there were so many people jammed together that it was impossible to move and we couldn’t see the end of that sea of humanity.
The speeches the Parkland students and the other young people gave (one was 11) from such places as Chicago and South LA, were all remarkable. All spoke about the normalization of violence in their lives, and its consequences for their families.It was the highlight of the event. They were so articulate and sophisticated and offered such powerful personal witness that the crowds around us were silent, engrossed in what they were saying.
The enthusiastic response to their eloquence was evidence that those speeches hit home. The young Latina who spoke about the death of her brother, Ricardo, was so moving–as was the crowd response, repeating his name over and over in a chant by hundreds of thousands of people! To be in the midst of that chant, was emotionally overwhelming. David Hoog, who has emerged as the de facto leader of the Movement was very impressive defining the stakes and the hopes for the future. (It has been reported that he hasn’t been accepted yet by any of the schools to which he’s applied. I bet that’ll change, if the leadership qualities of applicants count for anything.)
Today’s March reinforced my sense that there is something happening all over this country–the Zeitgeist is changing in a way I haven’t seen since MLK and the Poor People’s March. (America’s Third Great Awakening?) There was a similar local event today in Winchester, VA [!] that was organized by the local Young Democrats, largely local high school students. Winchester is a small city, largely rural, conservative, blue collar, and Republican in a western part of the state. I saw a photo taken today of the very large, impressive crowd listening to the cadre of young organizers who spoke.
However, we need to go much further than celebrating our hopeful re-generation. I think we need to frame the “gun violence debate” from a non-technocratic perspective, i.e., as a discrete problem to be “fixed.” It is not a “tendency,” or a phenomenon that periodically “breaks out,” “caused” by mental illness, or character flaws. Rather, it’s an expression of a long-standing historically consistent official policy “reflex” since the Founding. It has cultural and structural permutations attributing moral legitimacy–with appropriately lofty goals– to such official policies as Indian Removal, Manifest Destiny, Slavery, or “Anti-Communism,” even the revered Second Amendment. In other words, we need to develop a more robust, critical understanding of official violence as something other than an epiphenomenon. We need to consider whether our historical preference for official violence is related to our current gun violence malaise. This is not to excuse our well-documented propensity to private violence as a society, but to find a path to a society more accommodating to our historical aspirations to equality, justice and liberty.
I don’t think we can understand or adequately “address” our “gun violence problem” without honestly confronting our Nation’s history and reconciling our “Will to Power” with our lofty moral aspirations, that too often consisted of transparent moral “cover” for the official perpetration of humanitarian atrocities. This might begin by acknowledging that Slavery was NOT America’s “Original Sin.” It was an historically-specific expression OF our Original Sin– the doctrine of “White Supremacy.” This has been the predicate for such official historical monstrosities as Sand Creek, Hiroshima, Mi Lai and other such examples that run through our history like a raging underground river.
Granted, I’m assuming that exposure to “sunlight” will miraculously work its curative powers. It could undermine the reflexive, self-congratulatory habit of too many that assume a posture of moral superiority over the “deplorables” among us. The ground of innocence is now vanishingly small.) Yet it could nourish our capacity as a people for unabashed self-conscious reflection. It is my hope that armed with an expanded capacity to articulate an unflinching, historical awareness sharpening our moral sensibilities, we could acknowledge our failures, yet sustain an unflagging commitment to the Sysiphean task of redeeming America’s moral promise so clearly stated in our Founding documents.
Randy Ihara, South Riding