I was born in 1949. I was old enough but too immature, too sheltered and insufficiently civic-minded to join protests for civil rights and against the Vietnam War mounted by braver people my age during the late 1960s.
Those protests were among the best things my generation ever did, and I regret my cowardice.
Had I expressed an interest in joining the protests, my parents, teachers and neighbors would have tried to talk me out of it. Even those who might have agreed with the sentiment of the protesters would have said it wasn’t safe to participate in anti-war sit-ins, mixed-racial bus rides or the march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Those people would have been right. Some of the demonstrators were hurt; some jailed; a few killed. But because of the courage and conviction of those young people, the carnage in Vietnam eventually stopped and civil rights at least began to move in the right direction.
It’s remarkable, but when societal change is called for, the passion of the young usually prevails – eventually – over the entrenched political power of the old.
I just read an article (Herald, Feb. 28) about a planned nation-wide student walkout to protest gun violence in schools. The school superintendent says La Plata County students shouldn’t participate in the walkout because the date and time have been widely publicized on the internet and it wouldn’t be safe for kids to be milling around outside.
A comment on the article expressed another concern: “How do all these young people learn these Far Left ways in our schools?”
If school kids can’t safely assemble in public in La Plata County, the national problem is even bigger than I thought. If freedoms of speech and assembly have become “Far Left ways,” the national problem is even bigger than I thought.
I hope school kids all across the country participate in the walkout. I hope they keep up the pressure until all assault weapons are banned and background checks are universal.
I’m not naïve. I know even the most extreme steps anyone has proposed wouldn’t eliminate gun violence. This country has a cultural fascination with guns that will take the passing of several more generations to undo.
I know some bad guys would still obtain or secrete assault weapons regardless of a ban.
I know we have no mental health screening tool that can accurately distinguish between a crazy person who might perpetrate mass murder and a crazy person who will never do so in a million years.
Bans and universal screening wouldn’t be perfect solutions, but they would help. In the gun law debate, the perfect has become the enemy of the good.
I once owned an AR-15 assault rifle. I bought it because it looked cool. I bought it because I could. I wouldn’t buy one now.
Nobody in the general public has any legitimate need for an assault rifle. Because we insist on the right to own such weapons and because we have neither the good sense nor the will to ban them even after the school massacre in Parkland, Fla., we look like idiots to the rest of the world.
The rest of the world is right. America does not prove itself great by caring more about the right to own a useless thing than about the safety of school children.
I’m plenty old enough, though still insufficiently civic-minded to join marches or public protests, but at least I wrote this column.
Dr. Carol J. Huser, a forensic pathologist, served as the La Plata County Coroner from 2003-12. She writes the monthly Monday column, Coroner’s Report, from Florida and Maryland. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.