Blog Disclaimer: I’m a white, middle class, cis-het woman writing out of my own experience. I try, in the moments and unfinished places where I am Woke, to use language that acknowledges this, and to honor the skills and experience of folks/folx who are not within my own familiar cohort. Because your voices matter. They are needed. More than mine. Louder than mine.
To all my inter-sectional siblings, I see you. I’m doing my best here to awaken myself, and anyone my voice can influence. I’m sorry we’re so far behind.
Friends, what I want to tell you is this.
Our country is being saved by theater kids.
I don’t know what to do about the state of our nation right now. I’m not the first to say it, but I heartily concur, that after Sandy Hook our leaders decided they care more about money and so-called “power” than about the lives of our children. Or rather, they’d already decided. But it was then that we realized the depth of their commitment to preserving their own cash, their own titles.
I hope those of us who get to camp-out in the privileged places of our country realized something about ourselves too. I hope we realized, like the slap of cold water, that we have not learned how to lead. Our muscles for dissent have atrophied. We’ve acquiesced. (And largely, we continue to do so.)
So I’m ashamed, in the most converting kind of way, of the apathy of so many in the adult generations. Of my own incapacity to know what to do.
Just after the P45 election, my college roommate who is a long time ex-pat in Thailand came back to the states for a visit. We spoke of the disintegration of our nation. Of healthcare, and housing, and guns. And she said, “You know, in Thailand, people would be setting themselves on fire.”
We have not been setting ourselves on fire.
We’ve just been watching our children’s future burn.
I don’t know what else to say about the complacency of people and generations — including me. Especially me. But I do know that I’m in awe of our children.
At Stoneman Douglas and across the nation, our young adults are stepping into the line of fire. With clarity and deep knowledge, they are speaking truth to power. I recently heard Malcom Gladwell say the story of David and Goliath is a story about blindness on the part of the Giant. Our Giant, our politicians, have elected to be blind. And our children are standing in front of Giants with a microphone for a slingshot, and winning the day.
Many of these kids are theater kids, are school newspaper editors, are student council and debate team members — are part of the Humanities. Which confirms what I’ve always conjectured. That you have to use art to preach. That poets are our prophets. (Don’t believe me? Just look at Dr. Martin Luther King.)
It’s amazing to me that this generation can still find art — without funding, without cultural support.
But it does not surprise me that art helps them lead.
Because theater kids sit in a circle on the regular and figure out how to put on a show in the old barn. Theater kids know how to find way — to build sets and costume characters with nothing but thrift stores finds and street-corner furniture. Theater kids know how to start something and not be that good at it — but to receive instruction and grow. Kids in theater — and all who write, and paint, and photograph, and craft debates, and make art of any kind — they know how to access their voice. They understand resilience. They understand what can be done if you tap into passion.
Next week my theater kid, my young newspaper editor, will march with her peers across an overpass. Lukas, and Aiden, and Ally, and Cecilia, and Cate — the full cast of Rosencratz, and Hairspray, and Fiddler, and How to Succeed — they will all be there. In the face of fear they will stand in the open. In the absence of adults they will step up.
Faced with the sheer stunning reality that 17 year old’s are doing what ALL THE ADULTS IN THE NATION could not, I am indescribably proud. I am grateful. I am humbled. And above all, I am ready to follow.
Set the world on fire, young folx. We’re with you.
With Warmth and Fire,
*your magpie girl
Students nation-wide are staging school walk-outs on March 14th. Some, especially some of the student leaders in Florida, will not return to school until legislation is passed to reform gun laws. Some colleges have vowed to honor the admissions of high school seniors who abdicate the rest of their senior year in order to advocate for gun and mental health care reform. A larger, parent/adult-inclusive march is scheduled for March 24th. Find your local march here.