Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Our Children No Longer Have Time Be Young

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Our Children No Longer Have Time Be Young

Article excerpt

As boy in the early 60s, civil defense drills in school were the norm. This was the height of the Cold War, when the Russians were expected to drop the bomb at any time. There were two variations to the "CD" drill. One involved crouching under your desk. Presumably, the pool-liner blue paint on the body of the desk would repel all radiation. The second variation sent us out into the hallway where we crouched against the wall, hands over our heads.

In my elementary school, the corridors were lined with reproductions of famous paintings. I fully expected to meet my maker after being beaned by a fake Picasso. I can't recall any of us in those low grades taking it too seriously. The idea of a nuclear attack was too abstract for a second-grader to absorb.

Wednesday's mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., has got me to thinking how hard this all must be on children. Instead of "CD" drills they are instructed to respond to lockdowns and reports of active shooters. Their parents supply them with smartphones so they can quickly text what is happening. As much as I hate the intrusiveness of these devices, I realize mobile phones afford so many – too many – victims of horrible crimes the ability to say "I love you" to the person who matters most to them.

We heard those poignant calls after 9/11. We hear them now.

As America refuses to grapple with the severity of gun violence, it is our children who are being shaped in a culture that I would not wish on anyone. Danger is ever-present in the sleepiest of communities. It is no longer restricted to inner cities, as it was in the 60s. It is everywhere. And most horrible to note, it has come to our classrooms.

I offer no solutions for stepping back from the abyss because I am old enough to know that America does not want to step back. Some people do. But not nearly enough. I read the tweets about how black people thought much the same in the South before the Montgomery bus boycott, before sit-ins at Woolworth lunch counters, before the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

But I do not see enough people willing to make those sacrifices to change gun laws. They write letters. They go on television. They tweet until their thumbs are swollen. …

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