Parkland: A time to stop, look, and learn

March 4, 2018

In November 1966 a young Stephen Stills headed into Hollywood for a night of live music on the Sunset Strip. In a 1971 interview he relayed that what he saw was: “a bunch of kids got together on a street corner and said we aren’t moving. About three busloads of Los Angeles police showed up, who looked very much like storm troopers. … And I looked at it and said, ‘Jesus, America is in great danger.'”

He turned around, went back to his house and in about fifteen minutes penned on of the most iconic protest songs ever written.  The official title is “For What It’s Worth”, the world knows it by the more common “Stop, Hey What’s That Sound”.  The publishing house BMI estimates that between television and radio the song has been played over 8 million times.

The national trauma of 1968 was still a year and a half away, but the feeling of what was to come was captured that November night on the Sunset Strip.  While Stills had no idea the scope of what was coming, he definitely knew that there was “something happening here”.

Join me in following along the events of today through the lens of that time half a century past.

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

The opening stanza came from Still seeing three busloads of Los Angeles police unloading into the crowd, but it could just as easily be interpreted today as students hiding in their classrooms from the “man with a gun over there”.

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

Written from the memory of the shouting and exchanges between kids wanting to party and cops keeping the peace, there is some parallel to what is developing since the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

What started as a national outpouring of sympathy is morphing into a battle between gun lobbies.  The young people that have become the face of the tragedy have shown themselves to be quite adept at “speaking their minds”.  Something that they absolutely have every right to do, but not surprisingly, there’s stiffening resistance coming behind.

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

Across the country, small scale marches have already taken place. Each one replete with the appropriate songs, signs, and hoorays. All indignant to opposing views and all firmly of the anti-NRA side.

With a “March for our Lives” event scheduled for Washington D.C. this March 24, the crowds are only going to grow, the signs will only get bigger, and the discourse more divisive.

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

I see signs of paranoia already creeping in.  With the students now being funded and organized by the left of the left of national anti-gun organizations things are heating up far too fast.

Shannon Watts of the Michael Bloomberg group Moms Demand Action told USA today that not only is her group providing logistical support but that “We are on the ground where all these marches are being held,” … “We want to make sure they are as robust as possible.”  Hopefully Ms. Watts doesn’t mean 1968 “robust”.

But with so many heavily financed, professional groups involved all bets are off on what is to come.  Buzzfeed noted that Everytown for Gun Safety just got $1 million from entrepreneur Eli Broad, the Giffords anti-gun group is involved, along with Move On, the Women’s March organizers and  Planned Parenthood is “teaching and hosting trainings” to “keep momentum going”.

Reading the young activists twitter feeds is a full body immersion into Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals with the “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it” NRA front and center.

As terrible as Parkland was, it truly does have the possibility of bringing change.  But if the students and their adult handlers stay on the anti-gun only path and refuse to consider the other variables and law enforcement failures that led up to that horror then there is a very real possibility that summer 2018 is going to sadly look very similar to summer 1968.

The worst possible outcome for this new “movement” would be to become just another tool of the professional left.

Now more than ever it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down.

PUBLISHER’s NOTE: A version of this column first appeared in the Sunday print edition of the Joplin Globe.

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