by Ken Sehested
Saturday 24 March 2018
I am not ashamed to admit it. They made me do it. Cry. More than once. “They” being the uncommonly common students who led the March For Our Lives rally—three-quarters of a million strong—in Washington, DC. The day may well be accounted as among the most significant in our nation’s history.
What makes all of us commoners uncommon is when we experience the pain of trauma up close and personal, find the resilience to endure, take a hammer of righteous rage to that trauma and pound it on the forge of conviction that another world is possible, another way will open if we hold out, hold on, hold up, and hold over—over against those who say things can’t change, that’s the way it is, get over it, in our kiss-up-and-kick-down culture.
I cannot recall the last time a series of commentators and music makers lifted my soul so high, one after another in tight harmony, pulsing drama, such seasoned wisdom from such youthful demeanor, delivered dolce to duramente, pianissimo to fortissimo. Even the screams were winsome.
The racial mix of those on the stage and in the audience was heartening. I was beginning to fear that the Parkland student movement might become segregated by inherited race and class legacies, divorced from the languishing outcry, entangled in a much longer history, from people of color. But time after time, these students expressly acknowledged these fractures and vowed to confront them.
One young speaker was so embroiled in emotion that she threw up; but then, gathering herself, had the presence of mind to evoke laughter from the audience, saying “I just threw up on national television!”
One of her peers stepped forward, silently, encouraging black hand on vulnerable white shoulder. It was an unscripted prophetic moment all by itself.
There were too many splendid moments to name. Here is a sampling of highlights you might want to catch if you didn’t see them:
•Rapper Vic Mensa’s “We Could Be Free,” with these lines, “We could be free / If we only knew we were slaves to the pains of each other / One thing I believe I can learn / To see my enemy as my brother / Then we could be free, truly / Then love could wash away all the sorrows / I'm not afraid to bleed / If it means, we'll make a better today not tomorrow.”
•Nine-year-old Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter, leading the crowd in a chant, “spread the word.” (1:57)
•Emma González, the stunningly articulate Douglas High School shooting survivor, who takes my breath away every time I’ve heard her speak in recent weeks. When she stops and stands motionless and silent, stay with it—what the silence means will be revealed. (7:01)
•Here’s a good summary of the day’s event, from around the country: Michael D. Shear, “Done Hiding’: Students Lead Huge Rallies for Gun Control Across the U.S.” New York Times
What will come of all this? That’s to be determined. The drama of marches must eventually meld into disciplined, strategic actions to affect public policy. If I were a betting man, I’d lay my money on this outcome:
“We’re going to be the generation that takes down the gun lobby.” So said Marisa Pyle, 20, to a group of several hundred people gathered in the North Georgia mountain town of Dahlonega, in one of over 800 parallel March For Our Lives rallies around the nation (and in several other countries).
For now, we pray the Lennon-McCartney prayer: "Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be. Whisper words of wisdom, let it be."
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©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org