Thoughts and prayers and rocks

There has been an ongoing debate in the progressive community about whether our current moment of resistance and activism will turn into a movement or fizzle away into apathy and cynicism about the ability to create change in our country. After all, recent polling showed 45 percent of Nevadans still support President Trump, an unfathomable percentage for progressives to comprehend. Among people who admit to voting for Trump, a huge number—95 percent—still think he’s doing a wonderful job. It makes you wonder how much attention they’re paying to the gridlock in Washington, Trump’s ongoing scandalous behavior, or our reputation on the world stage, but it seems nothing will dissuade them from supporting their President.

But after the March for Our Lives this past weekend, progressives might be allowed a moment of joy, watching the movement arrive in the form of millions of young people and their allies taking to the streets to peacefully protest the lack of action in Congress and state legislatures in altering our nation’s gun laws to keep us safer.

The students on the national stage were truly inspiring, especially the survivors of school shootings. The public presence of the Parkland students in Washington, D.C., seems destined to change the conversation, although the death grip of the NRA on Congress cannot be underestimated. These young people, most still under 18, are incredibly impressive, and their activism and political will to force change will reverberate across our nation well beyond the March for Our Lives.

Reno hosted its own celebrity student at the local march, Noah Christiansen, who was suspended from McQueen High School for two days after he used profanity in a phone call to U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei’s office during the March 14 school walkouts, urging Congress to “get off their fucking asses and do something” about gun violence. The offended staffer contacted the high school to report the conversation and Christiansen was subsequently punished for his remarks. After a week of negative national attention and a huge outpouring of local support for Christiansen, the threat of a lawsuit from the ACLU convinced the school district to cancel the suspension while righteously maintaining its right to censure political speech by students as a way to teach decorum, respect and civility.

Amodei refused to apologize for the overreaction of his office which led to the suspension and managed to completely ignore the retaliatory nature of the staffer’s actions by suggesting the staffer’s first amendment rights were somehow breached, a red herring that added little to the community conversation. Amodei also ignored his own penchant to use profanity in his public interactions—unprofessional speech it’s likely the long-term staffer has heard repeatedly throughout his career.

Amodei’s inconsistency and absurd remarks were typical of the Republican viewpoint on guns. The most common response of the NRA-led GOP to the gun violence protests was to belittle the students, and offer insulting and ridiculous alternatives to combat school shooters, such as placing buckets of rocks in every classroom for students to disable the seemingly inevitable shooter. Former senator Rick Santorum suggested that students learn CPR instead of proposing changes in gun laws. He accused students of “ignoring those problems and saying they’re not going to come to me and saying some phony gun law is gonna solve it. Phony gun laws don’t solve these problems.” And buckets of rocks will?

Young people led the national and local marches and spoke eloquently about their cause. Across the nation, thousands of youth registered to vote and committed to working against candidates who refuse to do anything meaningful about gun violence. Republicans ignore this activism at their peril as the Never Again movement leads emphatically toward November 6. The GOP may be in for a huge mid-term wake-up call.