Welcome, children, to the world we so-called adults are handing over to you—a planetary culture of lies and power. The greater the power, the bigger the lie. The Russian lie that a “special military operation” is not a war, and that the Ukrainians brought this on themselves. The Chinese lie that the Uyghurs are being well cared for in education camps. The American lies that Trump actually won re-election, or that the Congress is helpless to do anything about school massacres. And maybe the biggest lie of all, that real security can come from having more world-destroying weapons than the other guy.
American children, welcome to the shame of a country that, outrageously, requires you to endure lock-down drills against a random lottery of death for the sake of Second Amendment “freedom.” Those in power fanatically deny the root cause of massacres, which is, obviously, the sheer number and availability of guns in our country—400 million of them.
Welcome to a culture that is beyond embarrassing in its hypocrisy, that fusses and fumes and even kills over the rights of fetal life but is apparently indifferent to your safety in the classroom. Where an infantile ex-president panders to the NRA by nattering on about mental illness when he himself is in dire need of intervention for pathological malignant narcissism.
Children, your classmates keep dying because the pretty obvious 18th century meaning of the Second Amendment has been grossly perverted by that NRA, accommodated by empty suits like Messrs. Cruz and McConnell along with empty robes like judges Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.
21st century gun safety is surely not that difficult. Adults wishing to exercise their privilege to possess a gun need a kind of training similar to what the law requires to license, register, insure and drive a car. Potential gun owners need to be run through an instant national background check, including at gun fairs, and wait 48 hours, and if no red flags come up, they can present documents that confirm that they have had safety training, and then properly register their gun—as long as it’s a civilian and not a military weapon. It is now technically feasible to render a gun unusable without its sensing a particular fingerprint, just as we each have unique keys to our car. These reasonable hoops are a minor adjustment and not some slippery slope toward the moment they come to take our guns.
Children, sorry to let you in on a disconcerting aspect of adulthood: violent power, unaccountable power, leads to lies on every level, such as: a good guy with a gun is the best antidote to a bad guy with a gun—or a good guy with a nuclear weapon is the best antidote to a bad guy with a nuclear weapon. Back in the 1950s when I was a child, we practiced “duck and cover,” a futile insult to our budding intelligence, supposedly protective against a nuclear explosion, but just as disheartening as your lockdown drills. If we do not change direction on this planet, what is coming will make Uvalde look like a garden party. Those experts who say that safety lies in having more weapons than our adversaries forget that there are already more than enough weapons to destroy life on earth.
We can do better on every level. But only when power becomes accountable, and that is up to all of us, those who have the privilege of voting and those who act courageously and resourcefully even without the vote, like the Russians who risk jail to protest a dirty war.
You yourselves have demonstrated that resourcefulness, such as when Miah Cerrillo, an 11 year old survivor of the Uvalde massacre, smeared blood on herself, played dead, and dialed 911 for help. Her fear did not paralyze her the way it paralyzes too many hapless politicians.
Or Zander Moricz, the gay president of his high school class, who gracefully sidestepped his principle’s ham-handed efforts to censor his use of the word “gay” by talking instead in his graduation speech about learning to feel pride in his curly hair.
Children, we are part of a great contest, but it is not the war that so many politicians and nuclear strategy experts and arms manufacturers tell you we are fighting. We are in a world war against violence and monetized hate and unaccountable power, power that rationalizes any lie to justify itself.
A big part of winning this war for truth and accountability is our willingness to see in ourselves what we criticize in others. We are all human and imperfect. When we admit this, our hearts expand enough to feel pity not only for all the dead children, whether in Uvalde or Mariupol, but even for the powerful who may never know the joys of servant leadership, of making a positive difference in the lives of their constituents.
Too many of us hate our enemies more than we love our children. That fear helps create a planetary culture of bullies who are obsessed with obtaining the kind of total control that puts them above accountability, even if it means indifference to the massacre of the innocent, by assault rifle or artillery or nuclear bomb.
It is not a sign of weakness to sit down with others, even others with very different views, to look searchingly together at what is our true and shared self-interest. When we do, we can move beyond empty posturing and begin to see how we might make the world a safer place for children—a world that permits children to live to be adults.