Young leftists. On the one hand they’re in the news too often as intolerant, illiberal, and not valuing free speech. Some of them get minimum-wage cafeteria workers discharged when their ethnic food comes from the wrong class, make jokes about burning political opponents alive, try to drown out the opposition rather than engaging its ideas, bully professors, and drive well-meaning people who merely suggest you should choose your own damn Hallowe’en costume out of the academy.
But on the other hand, they might just get some movement on gun control.
And strangely enough, that second point is the one I care more about right now.
This surprises the hell out of me. For years my position on campus SJWs and tumblr activists has been Get off my side, please! I felt they drove moderates into the right wing, and that their activities were immoral and cruel. I made all the invidious comparisons to characters out of George Orwell and Chinese communist practices. I still believe all those things.
But when a group from that generation targeted gun manufacturers, I discovered how much pressure had been building up inside me under that veneer of surely we can treat each other like reasonable human beings?
It’s 43 years since I reached voting age, and for every one of those years I have wanted serious, effective gun control, and haven’t been able to get it. For how long have I told myself we can live with it, we can get along, that’s just how it is, to cover the fact that I lived in a country run by the gun lobby, by people who would not allow change no matter how many children were killed? Too long, something inside me said when I saw the Parkland students, and that something inside me will not shut up again. TOO LONG and TOO LATE, it shouts, when right-wing commenters make points about free speech and the twittermob. TOO LONG. TOO LATE.
One of my father’s favorite stories, a bit of gossip from my mother’s old neighborhood, was about these two farm girls who lived up the hill. They had an abusive father, abusive for years and years, until one night those girls got up while he was asleep, got sticks of stovewood, and beat the hell out of the old man.
For how many years had they told themselves we can live with it, we can get along, that’s just how it is?
In the end, it came down to stovewood.
I’m going to have troubles with the activist youth in future, for sure. I’ll never be on board with speech police or no-platforming or class-blind identity politics. There will be another shirtgate and I’ll condemn them for cruelty and for driving people into the alt-right. Get off my side, please! I’ll say. But right now, they’ve picked up the stovewood and I’m rooting for them.