Second Amendment Supporters Are Shooting Themselves in the Foot
teach your children well
I saw a meme the other day blaming school shootings on "Generation Brat" and bad parenting. Painful oversimplification aside, it made me wonder, have the people sharing this meme heard any of the speeches given by these students, some of whom are only 12? Speaking in public can be very daunting, even for a seasoned pro, so the thoughtfulness and poise expressed by these children is evidence that they have been taught well - be that by parents, the school system or both. The digital age can show us so many negative stories that we may start to think of those bad stories as a representation of the whole. While I have always understood this to be true, the student movement is proving it to me in many ways. It is incredibly dangerous to dismiss millennials as "entitled" or "generation brat" just because some of them are...
As a parent to young children myself, I am trying to teach my children not what to learn but how to learn. I want them to question how the world works and become passionate about different topics. When they overstep, I want to try to coach them, rather than shut them down. My oldest is six and he is the master at testing my patience. I will admit that sometimes we get into some pretty good rows but I later realize that stubbornness in a child is actually a good thing. It means that he is willing to stand up for himself and push back against real or perceived injustices. The most important thing I can do to quell these outbursts is to listen to him. Make him understand that I actually hear him. Most times, it ends in a pouting session while he sulkily absorbs his dose of "Mama knows best." But sometimes - sometimes, I am the one who ends up having to back down. Sometimes, I am the one who must admit defeat because sometimes, my six-year-old is right.
These moments are making me a better listener and, I believe, a better parent. These moments are teaching him that a well-constructed argument, rather than a temper tantrum, is far more likely to get him what he wants. It also is teaching him about compromise. While I do sometimes give in, I almost never do so completely. He has to give in just a little too. But this way, we get to have a conversation.
The student movement has been met with support from one side and anger from another. If nothing substantive ever comes of their protests, what does this teach them?
if you love something, let it go
One group that I have seen lashing out at the student movement is gun rights advocates.
Full disclosure: I am a moderate on this topic. I live in a very rural area where there are a lot of hunters. I know and am friends with many responsible gun owners and I see no reason why any of them should ever surrender their guns. That being said, I also see no reason for anything other than straight-forward hunting rifles and hand guns to ever exist outside of the police or military. If you want to "play" with a high-powered weapon, go to a range. I feel that arming more people only makes for more targets during a hostile situation. But that is actually beside the point. I don't want to talk about which side of the argument is more correct - I want to talk about how people are responding to the argument to begin with.
Our children are protesting. Responding to their actions by calling them stupid serves only one purpose: to prove to them that they are unworthy of love. It doesn't make any difference what they are protesting for or against. Activists on the other side are calling our (their own!) children stupid. This response is knee-jerk: don't you dare take my guns away! But step back for a moment and look at the bigger picture. Students - children - are protesting... they are pleading with the country as a whole to listen to them. And the reaction from the "responsible" adults in the room is to call them stupid and say that they are entitled and they have been poorly parented. To me, it seems like the responsible adults are having a bit of a tantrum. And if I have learned anything from my six-year-old, it is that you always ignore the tantrums.
Whether they like it or not, gun rights advocates are doing themselves a huge disservice by dismissing these kids. As someone in the middle-ground of this issue, I sometimes feel very exposed but I always try to be diplomatic. I reminded the person who posted it that these kids are eloquent and passionate and would not be ignored. The response from someone else was not altogether unexpected and yet another knee-jerk: "The same kids eating Tide Pods, and not knowing what bathrooms to use?"
A deflection, and an insulting one. I'm not even going to touch the bathroom issue - shame on that person for trying to go there - but to dismiss all millennials because some of them eat Tide pods is equivalent to dismissing all baby boomers because some of them dropped acid. Both incredibly stupid, neither representative of the generation.
But this person is not alone. I have seen an increasing number of posts that try to minimize the importance of what these kids are doing.
Something else my six-year-old has taught me: if he knows he is right and I am not backing down, he will dig in his heels even harder. These kids have a right to be heard and, most importantly, they have a right to feel safe. If you don't agree with how they are approaching the subject, then don't call them stupid, don't call them entitled, don't demean them in any way. Because fighting them on this issue will only get them to dig in their heels and guess what: they have passion as well as time on their side.
The best way to reach a middle-ground between gun control and gun rights is for the gun rights advocates to start taking these kids much more seriously. Otherwise, they are going to shoot themselves in the foot and lose the battle altogether.
The geek in me can't help but come up with the perfect Star Wars quote:
The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.— Princess Leia
So, who wants to step up to the table and have a real conversation? Gun rights advocates need to let it go or risk losing it all.