From the Editor: They’re quite aware | CraigDailyPress.com

From the Editor: They’re quite aware

Jim Patterson

"And these children that you spit on, as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations; they’re quite aware of what they’re going through."

Those lyrics, from a 1971 single by David Bowie titled "Changes," wouldn't stop banging around in my head as a read reactions to the National School Walkout, which saw a number of Craig middle-schoolers and a single Moffat County High School student join thousands of American teens in walking out of class for 17 minutes last Wednesday, one minute for each person murdered in the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

The stated goal of the walkout was both to honor the Florida victims and shine a spotlight on the epidemic of school shootings that, somehow — unthinkably — has become business-as-usual in the United States of America.

Some of the comments I read were negative — others were downright cruel.

Following is a sampling:

• Rather than walking out, why don't they "walk up" and try to befriend the outcasts in their classes?

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• They were co-opted into this protest by liberal groups hell-bent on the destruction of the Second Amendment.

• Instead of National Walkout Day, they should have National Grow-The-Hell-Up Day.

• These kids aren't even old enough to understand what they're supposed to be protesting. Two weeks ago, they were eating Tide Pods. They should be in class learning about the Constitution.

As I indicated — these are but a sampling.

Let me be clear about a couple of things before I go an inch further.

First, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, so I'm not trying to change anyone's mind, here. More than five decades as a resident of planet Earth have taught me the futility of any such endeavor, and besides, I might be wrong. I've been wrong before, and I'll be wrong again. Who am I to tell you how to think? That said, I respect everyone's right to believe whatever they wish to believe about the walkout. They have that right … just as I have the right to disagree.

And second, this is not a gun control column, so if you're thinking of writing in to tell me how wrong I am for siding with the gun-grabbers, I'm not. Similarly, I'm not siding with the NRA.

I'm siding with the several million American kids who are tired of going to school every day under the ever-present and darkening cloud that portends they might very well be shot for it, kids who are sick of every school massacre being followed by a sumptuous feast of vitriol and not so much as a crumb of meaningful action, kids who have had it with waiting for politicians to step up and do something — anything — to better ensure their perfectly reasonable expectation of being relatively safe in their classrooms.

It's time we stopped dismissing them as a pack of Tide Pod-eating ingrates and give a fair hearing to what they're trying to tell us. Our children are living in mortal fear, and it’s up to us — the adults charged with protecting and nurturing them — to take tangible steps to alleviate those fears.

"Walking up" and befriending those who have few friends is a fine idea and something we should all try to do more of, but suggesting that as a solution to mass school shootings is tantamount to blaming a rabbit for not having been nicer to the fox that's tearing its throat out.

Perhaps national gun control groups did seize the opportunity to use these protests as a springboard for their own agendas, but that in no way diminishes the importance of the message these kids are trying to get across.

Instead of National Walkout Day, they should have National Grow-The-Hell-Up Day? Well, maybe if we did something to ensure they were going to live long enough to grow up, we could make that happen.

And finally, as to the idea these kids aren't old enough to understand what they're protesting, I couldn't disagree more. In the 19 years since the Columbine High School Massacre of 1999, there have been 10 school shootings in which four or more people were killed, resulting in a collective death toll of 122. That's a little more than six dead kids per year, and honestly, what have we done during those 19 years to change much of anything?

I imagine they understand what they’re protesting better than they want to.

I'm not advocating for gun control. I'm not advocating for metal detectors at all school entrances and a teacher armed with a .44 magnum in every classroom. I'm not advocating for stripping gun rights from anyone younger than 21, and I'm not advocating for banning an entire class of weapons.

I’m advocating for our children … our future.

They're scared, they're desperate and, to again quote Mr. Bowie, they're quite aware of what they're going through.

Are we?

Jim Patterson is editor of the Craig Press. Contact him at 970-875-1790 or jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com.