The Culture War is Also Generational

March 27, 2018 (Analysis) The children will be all right. They took to the streets en-mass on Saturday, and they made their point: They want gun reform now, and if the current batch of politicians will not do it, they intend to vote for people who will. I am predicting that some of these people will run for office, once they are eligible to run. This is a new civil rights movement. One led by the the youth who grew up scarred with the fear of going to school, and not coming home. They self identify as the “mass shooting generation.”

Adults who dismiss them as tools of the left are tone deaf. Adults who dismiss them because they are mere children are also showing a deep disdain for civic engagement, and lack of historical knowledge. Young people have led the way into a new country a few times. They were integral to stopping the Vietnam War, and they were part of the ranks of the civil rights movement. It was young people who were part of the Grape Boycott that Cesar Chavez led in California. This generation is also the product of a multicultural society. They are not afraid of the other as much as many of their parents.

While schools have become more segregated along class and racial lines, they are conscious of their privilege. David Hogg challenged the media for silencing the voices of many of his minority classmates. However, Emma Gonzales has been at the forefront as well. She is a young Latina woman, who also happens to be transexual. Her speech was very powerful, and she honored her dead classmates:

”Six minutes and twenty seconds with an AR-15 and my friend Carmen would never complain to me about piano practice. Aaron Feis would never call Kira, ‘Miss Sunshine.’ Alex Schachter would never walk into school with his brother Ryan. Scott Beigel would never joke around with Cameron at camp. Helena Ramsey would never hang out after school with Max. Gina Montalto would never wave to her friend Liam at lunch. Joaquin Oliver would never play basketball with Sam or Dylan. Alaina Petty would never. Cara Loughran would never. Chris Hixon would never. Luke Hoyer would never. Martin Duque Anguiano would never. Peter Wang would never. Alyssa Alhadeff would never. Jamie Guttenberg would never. Meadow Pollack would never.”

The reaction to what they have done is coming from a place of fear. Some statistics are relevant to this. Merely three percent of all gun owners own over fifty percent of all guns. The rest of gun owners are people who have one or two guns, mostly for home defense or hunting. These super-collectors were the ones who showed up at rallies all over the country to try to scare the youth. They were, from all photos I have seen on-line, white. This is hardly accidental. These super collectors tend to be white, rural, and also trend conservative. Chiefly, they are also older.

The kids who were marching were far more multicultural, and far less white. They are also urban and their politics are trending far more open to change than that of their parents. What we are seeing is a culture clash. One that is not unlike other culture clashes in American history.

There is one critical aspect to the Marjorie Stoneman students. They received a civics education, something that many school districts no longer have. They also came from a well to do public school. These young men and women are exercising their rights, as understood in the Bill of Rights.

What we are also seeing is a series of believes that are clashing, some of which are not even based on historical fact. Some of these super-collectors believe the Second Amendment has primacy over the rest of the Bill of Rights. It does not. Also they believe that they have the right to have any weapon they own. Again, the courts have found otherwise, and even the Heller decision found that there are limits and that the right to own guns is far from absolute.

However, there is something else going on. It is the mythic space in which many super collectors, partly out of fear of emasculation and loss of power, operate. This is the actual seditious belief that they can take on the government if it becomes tyrannical. Given that the Second was created to form and protect militias, as a form of universal military draft, this is funny. Also those militias were to be used to suppress seditious action, such as the Whiskey rebellion where militias were deployed.

The reference in early writings to “bear arms” was in a military sense, not your right to have a gun at home. You were supposed to have a military grade musket, in good order and to report for drill with your militia unit. This argument, on the usefulness of militias, was settled in 1812. Militias faded from American history, only to reappear in the 1990s, when fear gripped the middle of the country. None of theses militias is recognized by the federal government as an actual military force. However, the goal of these militias could be construed as seditious. Most of these militias are also working from a sense of persecution and paranoia.

There are militias that believe that if need be they will be able to take on the American Army, to restore liberty. This is a deep animating principle, and while guerrillas have defeated a far more technologically advanced army, this is not generally the rule. Especially when that army is fighting on home turf.

Yes, the US Army lost in Vietnam, they were not fighting at home, nor did we understand what we were fighting. Or why, for that matter, why the Vietcong was so ferocious. It was not about communism, but independence. That started well before the US Army showed up on the scene.

You could say the same about the Taliban, and we have yet to understand what we are fighting in Afghanistan. Or for that matter, why they are so committed to the cause. To put it in terms even militia members might be familiar, both the Vietcong and the Taliban are closer to the Revolutionary war armies that fought the British, starting technically, in 1775 near Boston.

What militias are proposing is far closer to Colombia, which faced a 50 year insurgency. War crimes were committed on all sides, and in the end the Central Government still maintains control. The FARC agreed to disarm and engage in the political process. It is also closer to the American Civil War. Last time I checked, the Federal Government won that war, and it was not militias that fought on for five years. It was two professional armies.

We have a very small group, animated by fear, that has collected over half the weapons that exist in civilian hands. They could be a problem, however, what we refuse to speak about is that this group has become increasingly radicalized. What is at the heart of their fear? To be blunt, they are facing a changing world, less jobs, a worst future for their children. They are also facing a multicultural society, and deep poverty. Until we as a society face to these facts, these people will continue to retreat into fear and the National Rifle Association will continue to whip them along.

More critically, we are seeing more “lone wolves” but none in media or other bodies is asking why? We are still dealing with this as if this was not a problem. Partly it is because they are white. This could be a more serious issue than just random bombers and mass shooters. They are well armed. Granted, fighting a modern army on home turf is silly, but they live with that fantasy. Fear is a powerful drug, and it is well past time we enact policies that will lessen the effects of the dramatic changes we are living through. It is also well past time to admit that some WHITE people are getting radicalized, and they will move from talking sedition to committing actual sedition.

As to the young men and women who led the marches on Saturday. Yes, the next generation is going to be ok. They also are going to be politically engaged, from the looks of it. We will know for sure in November. If they start voting now, they will break a historic pattern as well.

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.