Opinion » The Rant

Forward March

The times they are a changin’ — again.

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Before what Life Magazine called, "the largest expression of public dissent ever seen in this country," President Richard Nixon said, "As far as this activity is concerned, we expect it, but under no circumstances will I be affected whatever by it."

The delusional traitor Nixon had previously referred to anti-war protesters as "bums," but half-a-million people were about to descend on Nixon's front yard in a massive march called the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.

On November 15, 1969, hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters began marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Washington Monument. The morning was damn cold. I know because I was there. We listened to speeches by Senator George McGovern and Dr. Benjamin Spock and joined in with Pete Seeger singing John Lennon's tune — "All we are saying is give peace a chance."

March for Our Lives - LAURA JEAN HOCKING
  • Laura Jean Hocking
  • March for Our Lives

Nixon spent the day secluded in the White House watching college football, but his venal Vice President, Spiro "Ted" Agnew, called the protesters "an effete corps of impudent snobs." The work of several anti-war organizations, plus 250 student government officers and student newspaper editors were necessary to draw the massive number of people to Washington. What these young adults from Parkland High School managed to put together last week was nothing short of miraculous.

We are in the midst of an historic moment ... "and a little child shall lead them." These committed students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are an inspiration, and if you're too old or too cynical or too oblivious to grasp the significance of the March For Our Lives against gun violence, you fall in the same category as the cadre of dead-enders that sat on their couches and cheered on the Vietnam War — on the wrong side of history.

These survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, were poised and eloquent beyond their years. There were a few celebrities in attendance, but the march and the program were organized by the students who witnessed this horror. Their impassioned and heartbreaking testimonies brought on more than a few tears in our house. When Jennifer Hudson, who lost her mother, brother, and nephew to gun violence, sang "The Times They Are A-Changin'," that did it for me. That brought me full circle. Back when I heard Bob Dylan sing it, I didn't have to go through half a box of Kleenex. 

These high school kids have started a wave of indignation about this country's gun violence that appears unstoppable. I don't know what the popular term is for this generation, whether it's Millennials or Gen Z or whatever the hell it is, but they are about to effect some real change. Politicians purchased by the NRA have been put on notice by this generation (larger than the Baby-Boomers) and they will vote.

The National Rifle Association's venomous response was predictable: "Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children," while referring to the event as the "March for Their Lies." Videos of their well-paid lackeys, Dana Loesch and Wayne LaPierre, contempt and vitriol dripping from their lips, were regrettably televised. Hate-mongers called the kids "crisis actors." The students were not intimidated. Gun laws will change the moment politicians realize they must face their voting-age children's scorn. Enormous marches were held in hundreds of cities in solidarity with the students from Parkland, including Memphis.

If I were a football game, I'd be in the fourth quarter. I haven't hit the two-minute warning yet, but I can see it out there on the horizon. I figured I had one more march left in me, so Melody and I headed downtown. We gathered at the Clayborn Temple and marched the short distance to the National Civil Rights Museum. I'm not good at estimates, so I'll just say the crowd was enormous. Young students gave testimonies about their first-hand experiences with gun violence that were both emotional and wrenchingly personal, since Memphis is no stranger to firearm violence.

The encouraging takeaway was the determination of these young people to effect change. I did notice a whole lot of gray hair in the crowd and was pleased and proud that everyone's knees still worked. Old hippies never die, they just march on.

The Memphis march was great. What was hard was the walk back, and trying to find where we parked the car. We marched about four blocks longer than we had to. My calves are sore and my back hurts, but I'm happy we attended. As for policy, I agree that the Assault Weapons Ban should be reinstated. The opposing argument is there would still be millions in circulation. Maybe so, but there wouldn't be any new ones for sale so some vengeful teenager with a chip on his shoulder could legally buy and shoot up his school.

If you believe that the Second Amendment entitles you to own a battlefield weapon, where does the right to your firepower end? Grenade launchers? Mortar cannons? Nobody's coming for your guns. Keep your handguns and your long-guns. Go have fun at the range and protect your home. Just spare the life of my child.

Randy Haspel writes the "Recycled Hippies" blog.

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