It’s been interesting to wake up this morning and discover that the #NEVERAGAIN kids have rattled everyone from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to the National Review‘s Charles W. Cooke, to Marco Rubio, who whined:
The debate after #Parkland reminds us We The People don’t really like each other very much.We smear those who refuse to agree with us.We claim a Judea-Christian heritage but celebrate arrogance & boasting. & worst of all we have infected the next generation with the same disease
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 28, 2018
As fun as it would be to make fun of Rubio’s idea of a “Judea-Christian heritage” (please do!), or to point out that there’s no such thing as the Judeo-Christian heritage, we have other fish to fry here.
First, to Charles W. Cooke’s point, yes, absolutely these young activists can, do, and will make mistakes. As they themselves point out, they are after all only kids. And yes, they should be taken seriously and challenged when necessary. I did so myself the other day when David Hogg suggested taking away guns from “the mentally ill.” But the activists have earned their credibility, and their missteps are no reason to dismiss their message.
It’s that message that we really have to talk about. It’s funny, satisfying, and irritating at the same time to watch conservatives scramble back to process questions, as though they haven’t spent the past twenty years injecting venomous bullshit into the national discourse and demanding that they not be called to account for it. Anybody who wants to hide behind the “Judea-Christian heritage” to throw shade at rude teenagers might want to re-read the prophets. There’s a reason we call angry sermons about the ills of society “jeremiads.”
Despite what the NRA enablers might say, the question of gun politics does not revolve around the morality of being nice to one another in public discourse. If you ask the kids from Parkland, that frame died along with their friends on Valentine’s Day. They’re not here to be nice, and they’re very upfront about that.
But it would be easy to make a similar mistake from the other side of the equation. It’s tempting to conclude that #NEVERAGAIN has changed the terms of the debate by having some kind of superior morality. Some “faith-rooted” lefties already have, apparently, challenging the NRA’s “idolatry”. That places the NRA and their political lackeys in opposition to the authors’ own interpretation of the Judeo-Christian heritage, something I’ve always found corrosive on both sides of the equation. Forced to choose between competing views of a faith, many people will simply walk away instead. (And to be fair, even white evangelicals—among the most conservative demographics in the nation—support stricter gun controls.)
And again, the Parkland activists have made it pretty clear that they don’t see themselves as perfect, much less moral paragons, and certainly not exemplars in any religious sense. You only have to listen to them talk to hear that they’re not interested in being inspirational. They’re interested in change. They seldom, if ever, talk about the morality of gun control. What they do say, a lot, is that they intend to use their power against politicians who don’t do what they want.
The people in office have failed us and if they continue to fail us, then they will no longer be in office because we will soon be given the ability to vote—and we will vote them out. And the people around us will vote them out. They must do right by us or they will lose their jobs. And we have brought that up to them time and time again…
We’ve had enough of ‘thoughts and prayers.’ We’ve had enough of ‘We’re in your consideration, we’re going to think about it, and we’re going to tell you how we feel because we support you so much.’ Because we know that is not true. Because if you supported us, you would have made a change long ago and you would be making changes now.
Conservatives may complain about their rhetoric, and liberals may dream of their moral clarity, but these teenagers have managed to shake up the political scene without the help of faith-based or moral messaging. No, they’ve rattled politicians and lobbyists simply by announcing they have power and they intend to use it, by God or otherwise.