I went to the March for Our Lives, my first march since Vietnam. I went because my friend Mary was going. If she hadn’t come to pick me up, even though I said two weeks ago that I’d go “to support the kids,” I know I would have decided it was too much trouble and blown it off.
I knew there would be a whole lot of people, no place to pee, miles of walking, and dangerously over-crowded Metro stations. I also knew that it was not inconceivable that someone might decide to express opposition with a gun.
I’m not against guns; I’m a fair shot and have a .22 rifle in the basement that my ex-brother-in-law gave me which hasn’t been fired for 20 years; I used to shoot skeet with a 20-gauge. At the same time, I struggle with being right (a position being against something) about guns vs. taking a stand (a declaration being for something). My stand is that human life is sacred and worth caring for. My liking target practice and my stand do not seem inconsistent.
There is a huge sea of righteous positions in between, however, most of which I never express—not because I’m a nice person but because it seems a waste of time and breath. If I were keeping score, I’d be willing to bet that never in my entire life has one of my opinions changed someone’s mind. Not once.
In expressing those opinions, at the top of my lungs as I did during the Vietnam marches, a certain release came from finally putting it all on loudspeaker. I also have no evidence that that shortened the war by a minute.
And now I know why I was ready to blow off the march: after all the marches in the 60s, resignation finally set in. Watching the movie The Post, I was shocked at how little I remembered about the Pentagon Papers. I lived through the revelations of decades of mendacity and deceit as an adult, and I recalled nothing. The only thing I can think is that I simply stopped paying attention. I had been attached to the end of the Vietnam War instead of being someone who stood for life.
Being right feels good in the moment but isn’t worth much for the long haul. For that, you need a stand. That may be one difference between being a child and being an adult. I may finally be ready to grow up. And many of the “kids” up on stage at the march may be ahead of me.