What would happen if the youth of America boycotted their schools for so long that U.S. President Trump would put the safety of children before the interests of the gun lobby? A thought experiment.
Imagine the following – it is April 20, 2018, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. All is quiet outside the schools of America. Inside, classes are taking place. Perhaps the sky is blue, perhaps the sun is shining, perhaps birds are singing. Then suddenly the classroom doors open – in Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Umpqua Community College, in Stoneman Douglas High School, in schools from New York to Los Angeles, from Seattle to Miami.
Students march out, at first in scattered groups, somewhat unsure. But soon there are more, where there were once individuals, now there are streams of girls and boys, children and teenagers, streams which spill out onto the streets. Hundreds from every high school, every elementary school. Thousands, tens of thousands in the whole country leaving their schools.
It is a sign, a nationwide protest against the gun laws which have allowed 170 school shootings to take place since Columbine, allowed so many people to die and forced so many students and teachers to huddle in their classrooms in fear for their lives.
They are leaving their schools until it is finally over, and they will not return until the U.S. has tightened its gun laws.
Writing Angry Speeches Instead of Class Tests
One tweet brought about this idea: "On the Internet high school students are talking about making April 20 the day when they leave their schools and don't come back until Congress updates their gun laws because it is their lives on the line." A misunderstanding which was quickly clarified in the comments – and a remarkable idea.
Gun laws in the U.S. are a problem which has been argued ad nauseam. After every one of the many shooting sprees that have taken place, journalists and intellectuals composed appeals to reason, developed enlightening arguments on the subject and presented persuasive statistics. For decades, politicians, voters, gun control lobbyists, activists, victims and opponents have fought bitterly over U.S. gun laws. It has done little. Trump may now have said that he would possibly consider tightening background checks for gun purchases in the U.S.; however it remains to be seen how long he holds to this idea.
Meanwhile, students are siding against gun laws. They are organizing themselves, making their voices heard and sending clear signals to Trump. The rebellion of youth is in full swing. But will enough change — or will they perhaps have to go even further?
Young people are the most important asset of any country. What would happen if students really were to rise up and leave their schools? For a day, a week, months. If they were to demonstrate instead of hitting the books? If they were to write angry speeches instead of class tests? If in art class, they were to create protest banners instead of pictures? Or if they just stayed at home? What would happen? How long would it be until politicians had to acquiesce to public pressure if all the classrooms were childless? Undoubtedly not long.
"We Are Going To Be the Kids You Read About in Textbooks"
And if it should take months, will the children not then be forced to repeat a grade? But then they will lose a year. That won't do. Possibly, but they will also be writing history. Then they will succeed in doing what no politician seemed able to – they will not only make their schools safer places, but the whole of America.
Would politicians resolve to force each and every student back to their desk using police violence? Unlikely. Would parents attempt to talk their kids out of revolution? Almost certainly. But it is almost as certain that many politicians would jump at a chance such as this to finally bring about some changes.
In her speech at the anti-gun demonstration in Fort Lauderdale, one student, Emma Gonzalez, shouted: "We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks." And then: "Not because we're going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because […] we are going to be the last mass shooting."
Sure, this may be optimistic – some may even call it naïve. But it is a vision of an America beyond the madness of U.S. gun laws, something worth fighting for – and that is more than American politics has to offer.