The Valentine's Day murders of seventeen and the wounding more than a dozen others in Parkland Florida has generated a furious response from an unexpected quarter: students.
Dominating the news in the days following the attack were high school students. Angry, articulate students.
Students who called "BS" on the weak tea excuses of gun advocates that mental health issues and video games were the causes of the slaughter. They tweeted boldly back at the President of the United States. They conducted interviews with national media with enviable aplomb. They are organizing, planning, plotting and - yes - shaming their elders who to date have been unable to break through NRA sponsored talking points.
Somewhere in the vast beyond, there's an old community organizer smiling down on them. Saul Alinsky is probably whispering "Go. Go. GO." in their ears.
Years before any of those attending Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School were born, Saul Alinsky (1909-1972) encouraged community organizers to "Make the enemy live up to his own rules."
They have already started by making the media and politicians respond to them - the young that pols bleat are so precious, all while they brag, like Governor Rick Scott of passing more gun friendly legislation than any Florida governor ever. The hypocrisy is obvious to high school freshmen. The confrontation is classic Alinsky. While his "Rules for Radicals" never anticipated the tools the young now possess in their smart phones, he would applaud their application. They are a formidable force.
Young people are more social media savvy than any group in the history of the world. Think of that. Many of those they oppose came to the internet as adults. Most politicians barely use Twitter and Facebook. The students who face them have long since mastered those media. They were finding YouTube Thomas the Train videos as toddlers. Not many elected officials can say that.
Students will be successful in moving the needle toward their goals if they can "keep the pressure on" in the face of overwhelming money and a conservative belief that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct. That dogma has been accepted by millions of gun advocates and their mouthpieces.
There will be a concerted campaign to divert attention away from the proliferation of weapons like the AR-15 to an emphasis on mental health.
As their lives return to some semblance of normal, only a dedicated cadre of students and advocates will be able to stick to a campaign. There will be defeats. There will be cynicism. There will also be dances and graduations and college prep courses. Life will move on. It always does.
Alinsky would say that a tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. It is very possible that the shopworn "thoughts and prayers" has become a tactical drag.
This generation of young people when one includes the vast, hungry, angry millenniums has a chance to make the sorts of changes that their elders have given up on.
Making schools safer won't be easy.
The Man says you can't do it.
Saul Alinsky says you can.