Bear with me. That was the title of a short play in three acts, meant to be performed during the 55-minute duration of a class period, which I cranked out in the waning days of my senior year in high school — Yorktown High, if anyone cares, in Arlington, Virginia, 1971. I was sixteen.
The plot barely returns to me. There were stock college characters like the chubby guy who drinks a lot. There was an ill-starred romance involving a couple who had mistakenly used Crest instead of contraceptive jelly with a diaphragm and so she was knocked up and he was panicky and they were trying to strategize (it was a couple years before Roe v. Wade), and she had a pet parakeet named Mr. Bumby, who was represented by a covered cage and the cast’s reactions to an imaginary escaped bird who shat on them at the conclusion of the second act, and there was campus activism planned in the third.
At the moment that the war protest became a fracas our heroes retreated from the clash point, but for whatever reason, because I was being snarky and socially conscious all at once, one of our posse who was tall and buff but couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag entered in fatigues wearing a legacy Army helmet from some past generation of his family and sporting a toy rifle, and voices off shouted “Bang” as virtually every cast member in the production fell to the ground, shot, by the peacekeeping National Guard. Because Kent State, if you remember?
I wasn’t even that much of a firebrand. I had never stood on a protest line. (That happened later, with the Hyde Amendment,) I just knew at the rough age of consent in my state that something was fucked, very fucked, about a point in history where kids saying we don’t want to die don’t send us to die don’t send our friends to die was greeted with the killing breath of National Guard rifles.
A few years later a book was published with the title “Don’t Shoot — We Are Your Children!” The New York Times uttered a rather patronizing review, commenting on the extremism of Jerry Rubin and the drug habits of some of the young people profiled. Bleh.
Here we are in 2018 and the children are both shooting and being shot. But also the adults. Both ends. It just seems to take the young uns, who’ve grown up doing active shooter drills, to stand up and say hey, it stops here, and also we can now VOTE.
Pushback is predictable. The National Review scorned one of the survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting for “inserting himself” into the firearms debate, as if he had a fucking choice.
Don’t shoot, we are your children.
Don’t shoot, we are you and you are we.
America needs to come to the end of its love affair with the thing that goes bang. A hundred Indians bite the dust, right? Well it’s 2018 and we’re all out of Indians, who didn’t ask for it in the first place, and it’s us. It’s some asshole with a grievance and access to a killing machine and it’s us. I think twice about going to movies. It needs to stop.
Bye to the avocadoes of indifference. Welcome anyone who seriously, earnestly gives a shit. I’ve gone all political here. I can’t help it. I’m past clever belles lettres and cat stories, though there will be more of those; I just can’t deal blithely with my nation any more.
Do what you can, American readers, to support the people marching on March 24.