“I’m not learning my subjects — I’m learning how to literally survive,” said Marusya Airumian, a 14-year-old eighth grader at Takoma Park Middle School in Silver Spring, Maryland, cleverly splitting the infinitive in order to make her point.
She was one of thousands of students who walked out of their classrooms into schoolyards and streets to protest gun violence on April 20, the nineteenth anniversary of the school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
Students by the dozens were interviewed by members of the press, but gun violence itself remained aloof, possibly ignoring the entire protest.
“We deserve to live without fear of violence,” said Brianna Lee, 17, a junior at Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, raising the question of what she or any of her classmates has done to deserve anything. They live in the United States of America, where most of the people on this planet would gladly give most or all of what they have to live. There are people who have struggled for a lifetime to support themselves, their children, and their communities who may deserve something, but surely none of them expected a life without struggle or suffering. How do adults define themselves if life is an unending downhill stroll?
It’s part of American advertising culture that we all deserve a life without struggle or suffering — not to mention stomach upsets, or halitosis, or uncomfortable mattresses, or dishpan hands (ugh!), or psoriasis (whatever that is), or ugly handbags, or flat feet, or, if you’re a college snowflake (especially at Yale), safe spaces.
But what has a 17-year-old like Brianna Lee done to deserve anything? Get herself born, fed, inoculated, raised, dressed, and taken to school in the land of the free and home of the brave where 98 percent of the world’s children would like to study; Walter Payton College Prep is a public four-year selective enrollment magnet high school — better make that 99 percent of the world’s children who’d like to study there.
The Washington Post has determined that since the Columbine High shooting in 1999, 131 children, educators and other people have been killed (and another 254 injured) in assaults at schools. Oddly — but not surprisingly? — the Post doesn’t break down the number: lumping “educators and other people” into the count makes it larger.
Now, 131 is not a large number in a country of 350 million people; even so, inserting “only” before it would be considered callous; and of course people have also been injured in the attacks as well as killed. Nevertheless, as perhaps a few students educated in America’s public school system (which is run by and for the teachers unions), may be able determine, 131 is a far smaller number than 572; (Yale snowflake alert!) 572 is the average number of children (not including educators and other people) who are killed each year in automobile accidents, raising the question: Why isn’t 17-year-old Brianna Lee skipping school to demand safer driving in America?
There are two answers to that question, one of which is that adults by the millions like driving too fast and under a bit of influence or on their cell phones and what do you know about driving anyway, kid, and besides it’s my car and I’ve been driving since before you were born, and you’re damn lucky I don’t make you walk to school the way Abe Lincoln did, and if you spend all day frolicking in the park with your greasy classmates you’ll never amount to a hill of beans and get a job and be self-supporting so your mother and I can retire and have some fun.
Second: Cars are far more dangerous than guns, but car control is not chic — yet, so the kids are being used by their elders and the liberal media who, not having been able to win the intellectual argument for gun control, are shamelessly parading the kids around to make the emotional case for limiting the Second Amendment.
Marusya Airumian, of the split infinitive, was also quoted as saying, “Children shouldn’t have to die because people in government are lazy.” As a declarative sentence, that parses (e.g., a child shouldn’t bleed to death because a government doctor wants to finish watching The View), but if that’s Marusya’s understanding of why her favorite piece of gun control legislation hasn’t been enacted, she needs to repeat Government I, and learn also about disagreements, debates, and compromises … and other people’s opinions.
And read Lord of the Flies, and try to understand why children, who aren’t especially good at governing themselves, shouldn’t — until they grow up — have a say in governing a republic whose founding documents were devised to filter and limit the power of the mob to rule the body politic.