Editor’s Notebook: Seeding of democracy

David N. Young

For every generation, there is seemingly a seminal moment. These moments come unannounced, yet seem to transcend and outlast the average importance otherwise connected to them. Almost always, they portend exciting social developments yet to unfold.

The national student walkout and upcoming march could in the context of history be considered as such a moment; but perhaps not for the reasons that immediately come to mind.

Hundreds of students at Los Alamitos High School walked out for 17 minutes on March 14 (see coverage page 5). Good for them. Many more did not walk out. They had a choice, and made a decision not to walk out, good for them too. Either way, there is something to celebrate. The long-term ramifications are far more valuable than to be mired into a gun rights debate. To be sure, this is not to minimize the gun rights issue. Every citizen is indeed entitled to their own convictions and should be invited to pursue them. In this case, f or a moment we can look beyond the issue to harvest new value from a historical perspective.

Smart technologies and popular indifference have, for decades, disengaged many of us from the political process. Sad to say apathy is perhaps the thing we now have most in common. Nevertheless, we are slowly beginning to see our citizens re-engage in the political process, even as partisan division is at an all-time high. It is rather easy to view the current student activism as solely about President Trump, the NRA and/or gun laws. Look deeper and there is much more.

When the shots rang out in Parkland, Florida, things this time were different. Those echoes, coast to coast, inspired students to be heard.

Irrespective of the gun rights issue, what should encourage all of us is that these young Americans have put leaders on notice that they plan to make a difference.

Once upon a time in America there was an imperceptible force of “public interest.” Each side would listen to the other, exchange views, on every issue, then take action in the ‘best interest’ of everyone involved. Compromise, then, was the goal, not the enemy.

A variety of sequential factors have seemingly allowed the country’s public interest to be hijacked by special interests on BOTH sides of the political aisle. Both sides enjoy their own echo chambers, who convinced us we are right and therefore, in no mood to compromise.

Into this breach steps enthusiastic young Americans across the country whose future ambitions were wounded by the senseless deaths of fellow students and teachers.

Looking ahead, these are the young leaders of tomorrow, representing the left and the right. Thankfully, they will be around long after this group of Congressmen, state senators, activists to whom the students have appealed have moved on to other endeavors.

At a very early age, they have hopefully learned what many of us have seemingly forgotten. One person, one class; one school; one district, united to amplify their voices, can make a difference. Maybe in their quest for a better society they will learn to listen to one another and restore what is truly in the public interest. A strong democracy, like a mature forest, needs constant seeding to preserve all of its strength and glory for the future. Whether you are for, or against the gun rights issue, student activism can be viewed as a harbinger of hope.

In their seminal moment, this generation of Americans has at least found the courage to speak out in an attempt to create the kind of society in which they hope to live. Their passions will persist and empower them as agents of change. They will outlive our current dysfunction. This awakening has taught them lessons that civics class alone could never have accomplished.

We can only hope that they continue to push hard for what they believe but somehow realize the importance of finding common ground and accommodating the public interest, not necessarily the special interests. Civil discourse and objective engagement is the best course for a healthy nation. At the very least, the movement should give us comfort to know that the seeding of democracy has been achieved for a new generation of Americans.

Sometimes, children do have lessons for parents.

David N. Young is editor of the Seal Beach Sun. His email is editor@sunnews.org.