Muftic: ‘The old order changeth, yielding place to new’
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new.” In Alfred Lord Tennyson’s classic poem, “Morte d’Arthur,” these dying words of King Arthur are his realization that there will be a change in generations with views different from his. This is what is happening before our very eyes for this is the long term significance of the movement to which the Parkland kids have contributed. The kickoff event was March 24, 2018 March for Our Lives. There are good reasons to believe the movement against gun violence begun by the Parkland students will have long term staying power beyond the 2018 and 2020 elections. These are troubling implications for a GOP that yearns to return to the past.
The impressive turnout, very sophisticated political awareness, and skills of the speakers left pundits scrambling to predict the near term effect of the event. Was this the beginning of a movement that would change the makeup of Congress in 2018 or the White House in 2020, or was it just a flash in the pan that would fizzle? There is a case to be made that this is a continuing of generational changes and that in the very long term the color of American politics will turn bluer and bluer. The generation that the Parkland kids represent and the ones just two generations older, the millennials, and the Gen Xers, have much in common in their social and political values. They have bucked prior trends to become more conservative as voters got older. Instead, they have remained or have become more liberal. Older, more conservative generations are dying off.
I am from the cusp between the generation born before World War II and the generation that experienced the cultural revolt of young people against the old order. The Vietnam War protests of the 1960’s led to the embrace of the multi cultural vibrancy of the civil rights movement , of tolerance and inclusiveness of “others”, economic populism, environmentalism, the feminist movement, and a dedication to peace instead of war.
Like the Parkland kids, the Vietnam War generation’s participation in politics was sparked initially by self interest in a single issue. They did not want to be drafted .The Parkland kids are motivated by their experience of finding themselves at the business end of an AR 15 and grieving for those they knew who met a violent, senseless death they themselves narrowly escaped. They helped the rest of their generation realize that all kids could also be in the same danger unless this epidemic of school shootings and gun violence was stopped.
The millennial and Gen Xers are showing no signs of becoming more conservative as they get older, per a recent PEW poll. The millennials had added more respect of gender diversities to the trends. The more liberal values of inclusiveness and anti-violence were on display in the multi-cultural, gender diverse, and racial participants of this newest generation in the Saturday march event . Parkland students were aware they were suburban kids of privilege but that the issues of urban gun violence in Chicago and other cities were closely related. They joined the two together, urban, suburban, in powerful statements, eliminating class, racial and partisan divisions in a common cause.
Because of the kind of education they had received, training in media, journalism, debate, and stage performance, and their generation’s expertise in the use of social media, the Parkland students had the tools to carry off the marches. They built on the organizational template of the women’s marches and the protest traditions of Martin Luther King. Their generation has unprecedented skills and experience that will translate into effective political leadership down the road and the continuation of political trends they represent.
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