Recent Comments

    Gen Z Is Taking Down Barriers to Gun Control

    By Andrea Shorter–

    As much as I love my home here in San Francisco, at heart I will always be a Hoosier from Indiana. As a Hoosier, I love that as a kid in Indiana, the Jackson 5 shot a rocket out from Gary to the Motor City to take over the radio airwaves as well as Soul Train, American Bandstand, and eventually Saturday morning cartoons with their big afros, striped bell bottoms, and signature pop songs that still make you jump up at 50 plus years old and bust into those synchronized dance moves to “ABC” and “I Want You Back.”

    As a young, Black kid, it would be expected that I was a huge Jackson 5 fan. No surprises there. It might be of surprise that I am also a fan of another Indiana native who took over the Top Ten a few years later down the road: John Mellencamp. That’s right. John Mellencamp of “Jack and Diane,” “Little Pink Houses,” and “Hurts So Good.” It wasn’t easy being one of a handful, and I do mean a handful, of queer black kids who liked those soulful twangy homages to the Heartland, but I managed.

    A few days ago, while driving, I managed to tear myself away from addictive Teri Gross on NPR to dial up a classic rock station, which was playing Mellencamp’s “Crumblin’ Down.”

    “When the walls come tumblin’ down,

     when walls come crumblin’, crumblin’,

    tumblin’, tumblin’ dowwwwn.”

    There’s only so much foot tapping you can do with your foot on the gas pedal, so I welcomed this familiar hometown jam with head boppin’ and finger drumming on the steering wheel. There are so many way, way cooler protest-anthem songs these days—mostly by Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, and the notoriously profane YG & Nipsey Hussle’s “F- Donald Trump”—to rev up rallies, marches, or just to lift your spirits while driving down Market Street. At that moment, it wasn’t “Roar” or “Run the World,” it was “Crumblin’ Down.”

    There woefully remains campaign rally rousing big talk about building a “huge wall” to protect us from more brown people from down Mexico way. Trumped up charges against these immigrant subjects in the name of national security, and economic remedy (i.e., “they’re taking our jobs”) are fed as red meat to red state-of-mind followers. Erecting an impenetrable barrier to keep the described undesirable and undeserved out of the promised land draws the imagination to wonder just what kind of physical monstrosity of steel, stone, and electrical current is to be built. Who knows how it should, if ever, be constructed. Does it really matter?

    It’s not the intimidating physicality of the infamous wall that might capture and satisfy some imaginations, so much as what the idea of a huge wall might truly represent and reveal.

    Embedded in the proposition of a behemoth material barrier is an expression of existential crisis. In one way or another, how we see ourselves, our purpose, reason for existing, and our values as a people extends to this ridiculously huge wall idea. For some, such a wall is a basic prescriptive utility that marks and safeguards sovereign turf from threat of intrusive or incursive foreign elements, preventing the unwelcome entry of huddled masses presupposed not to share our values, or which adds value to some idealized way of nativist being.

    To many others, the wall is little more than an artifice of a mean-spirited notion—ultimately publicly funded and not by Mexico—serving as a monument to its self-aggrandizing, narcissistic instigator. If there is any way to have it branded with “TRUMP” in tacky glowing lights you can see from the moon, he is surely scheming to make that happen in between tweeting, associate indictments, and mass departures of administration personal.

    However one views this offensive huge wall, it remains a relentless top priority amidst denial and refusal to respond to the very real threat of cyber-warfare declared on the sanctity of what should be our most protected democratic stronghold: the right to free elections without interference or disruption by a primary foreign adversary. Here’s an idea: let’s build impenetrable protective walls against those intrusions. 

    I’ve managed to see the new Marvel blockbuster powerhouse Black Panther three times now. Beyond the much-deserved hype surrounding its release and herald of cultural import during Black History Month, a fascinating aspect of this fictional, yet dead-on, social commentary concerns the complex (as far as complex can be presented in a Marvel Comic serial) relationships between a number of very present isms: isolationism, nationalism, racism, colonialism, and globalism. With ample cause and reason for the albeit fictional African nation of Wakanda to remain in fortressed isolationism, threatening forces beyond its protective borders cause a reckoning with what it could mean to the evolution of humankind by becoming an underrated, yet real, global leader by sharing its most precious resources to build bridges between communities, rather than walls.

    Similar themes run through DC Comic’s classic Wonder Woman. Amazon Warrior Diana Prince’s venture beyond the once impenetrable borders of her ultra-feminist utopia also brings to fore similarly complex relationships between self-preserving isolationism and responsibilities to the global causes of saving or advancing humanity. In all great comic serials, the chief protagonist essentially faces an existential crisis about their place and purpose as a meta-human, or amazing advanced hi-tech aided avenger savior/protector of the deserving from less deserving villains in a calamitous world of helpless and flawed mortal men.

    While we await the building of an actual southern border wall, by one non-meta human heroic act after another, longtime erected walls appear to be crumbling down before our very eyes. Stepping into this month’s celebration of women’s history, the walls containing the shame, fury, and menace of sexual harassment are being dismantled through the persistent #MeToo movement.

    In the wake of the latest mass shooting and slaughter of 17 high school students in Parkland, Florida, a youth uprising is organizing to demolish the walls that have too long held us all hostage from serious, sensible, lifesaving gun control laws. There is no reason that anyone of any mental state should have access to military grade weapons of war. The material threat to civilian life that military, semi-automatic weapons of war pose is indeed repeatedly very real and grossly established fact. They should be banned. United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, a longtime champion for the banning of semi-automatic rifles, looks to be at the precipice of a bi-partisan reinstatement and retooling of a much-needed ban on such weapons.

    Unless you are a card-carrying member of the National Rifle Association, who knew there were so many companies offering discounts and perks to NRA members? Starting with the First National Bank of Omaha, sector leaders including MetLife, Chubb, Alamo, Enterprise, National, Avis, Hertz, Symantec, and Amazon have joined the growing list of companies cutting ties and discount programs with the NRA.

    Perhaps we are witnessing the end of the NRA’s might and blustery indignant, willful denials of the dangers posed by the manufacturers and peddlers of the deadly instruments they truly represent. Fewer people are buying their overplayed and hokey “you’ll have to pry this gun from my cold dead hands” protection of the 2nd amendment they’d have a fear-induced nation believe is their true cause.

    Enter Maya. Maya is a freshman at Crystal Springs Upland High School in Hillsborough, California. She is one of the dozens of Bay Area high school students organizing the upcoming “March for Our Lives” rally in San Francisco’s Civic Center on March 24. I met Maya through inquiries to the Women’s March leaders, and other seasoned organizers assisting the youth leading this local event. Within an hour, I was introduced to Maya, and we chatted by phone in the morning while she had a break between classes.

    When asked what inspired her to activism, she told me that—aside from growing up in a household that regularly discusses current and political events and engaged in Model UN—she is accustomed to being civic minded and was gravely affected by the events in Parkland. What eventually spurred her to action was a tweet describing a 9-year-old girl who asked her mom to buy her new shoes for school. She was afraid that if a shooter came to her elementary school, the lights in Skechers sneaker soles would make it hard for her to hide and would become an easy target for a shooter.  “No child should ever have to live in fear of going to school feeling that she has to prepare for the possibilities of being shot and killed. That is unbearable and unacceptable. It’s just not right. We can change that.”

    Maya has a firm grasp of the facts, stats, legislation, and other data related to serial mass shootings and civilian deaths involving accessible “weapons of war.” I appreciate how these young people of Generation Z are wading through the dizzying technicalities and deceptive nicknames used to describe semi-automatic rifles, bump stocks, and ammunitions by cutting to the chase: these are indeed weapons of war that have no place in civil society.

    This calling out BS approach Maya and other high school students are taking to the streets, into legislative chambers, and the White House is the real deal that seems to be the tipping point towards demolishing the material barriers, namely elected adults fear of the NRA lobby or loss of campaign contributions. They are also speaking truth to power to break through existential barriers that dehumanize young lives of all races, sexual orientations, gender identities, places of origin, and social and economic strata by making them moving targets of rapid fire instruments of war on the streets and in what should be the safest environments of all—schools. Is this who we are, or really want to be as a nation?

    Gen Z seems to understand fully that guns are material objects that we should regulate and control, and not be controlled by the politics surrounding their access and usage. To them, the useless politics surrounding gun control represents how we value each other, and their rightful destiny as civil citizens in the world.

    Maya isn’t the least bit interested in nonsensical propositions, such as arming teachers in the classroom for her protection against machine gun strapped intruders. Like many of her outspoken peers, she’s ready to lead us to real solutions to save real lives. They are speaking up and organizing like their lives depend on it, because they very well might.

    Neither Maya nor other Gen Z resistors are meta-humans equipped with hi-tech suits or magic golden lassos of truth to save the day. Thankfully, they are far better equipped with sheer force of human willful resistance: the urgency of now, standing their ground, not taking no for an answer, and holding a fervent belief that we can and must do better.

    As Maya proclaimed at the end of our call, “Watch out politicians, Gen Z is on the way!”

    I look forward to meeting Maya in person, and to hearing her speak at the March 24 rally. I sincerely doubt that my Hoosier brethren’s “Crumblin’ Down” will be blaring among the playlist of 21st Century protest anthems, but I do expect to bear witness to the crumbling down of a huge wall at the Skechers-lit feet of these super humane young resistors.

    Andrea Shorter is President of the historic San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women. She is a longtime advocate for criminal and juvenile justice reform, voter rights, and marriage equality. A Co-founder of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition, she was a 2009 David Bohnett LGBT Leadership Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.