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Jason Walsh: March for your life, and vote for it, too

“And these children that you spit on, as they try to change their world,” David Bowie sang, “are immune to your consultations – they’re quite aware what they’re going through.”

That passage from the Thin White Duke’s “Changes” was sloganeered on a sign at last Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” on the Sonoma Plaza. It was one of dozens of such signs, carried by one of hundreds of demonstrators crying out for gun reform in the wake of not only the Parkland tragedy, but what’s becoming an endless stream of mass shootings as senseless as its enablers in the federal legislature seem to be.

The Sonoma march was both emboldening and despairing – as we witnessed a political awakening of American youth, it simultaneously seemed to be becoming clearer and clearer that the citizen activists of the boomer and X generations that they, in their times, have failed in their promises to right the wrongs of social injustice – as divides of race, economy and power seem wider in America than they’ve been since Fleetwood Mac declared “yesterday’s gone… yesterday’s gone!” at the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1992.

These children that you spit on? If there’s any truer sign that the adults are no longer a threat to automatic riflemania, consider all the phlegm bump-stock apologists discharged this week at those under 25.

It started almost as soon as the day of marches ended. On March 25, right-wing bloggers began circulating a photo-shopped image of Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez ripping up a copy of the Constitution (she was actually shredding a shooting target for a magazine photo).

Then Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren lectured young people to “march for something, not just against everything,” as if marching for their lives wasn’t making the cut.

Also on Sunday, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum anointed himself the patron saint of patronization when he suggested that “instead of looking to someone else to solve their problems” – i.e. Congress to do its job – school kids should think about “maybe taking CPR classes” so when an AR-15-wielding maniac starts mowing down their classmates they can give them mouth to mouth resuscitation. It’s hard to gauge what’s more unfathomable: that Santorum ever held elected office, or his dire lack of understanding as to what CPR achieves.

Perhaps strangest of all, on Wednesday, Fox News mouthpiece Laura Ingraham mocked Parkland-shooting survivor David Hogg for only having a 4.1 high school GPA.

That they truly fear Hogg’s high grades and Emma Gonzalez -- who in her 19 years has officially dodged more bullets than all the NRA apologists who last week called her a “frothing at the mouth moonbat,” a “skinhead lesbian” and a symbol of Castro’s Cuba (her father immigrated from the island) combined – should surprise no one. Gonzalez is every loudmouth, alt-righter’s worst nightmare: young, non-white, intelligent, politically engaged, on the right side of history and -- uh oh! – on the cusp of voting.

Look no further than Sonoma Valley High School student Jacquelyn Torres, who helped lead the gun-reform rally attended by thousands last week in Santa Rosa.

“I will not continue to hold the fury that boils in my veins,” she said. “I will not wait until more lives are stolen – I will not be silent and neither should you.”

Those aren’t fresh-faced, idle promises; they’re a rallying cry for engagement.

Historically, young people aren’t known to leverage their power at the ballot box. But maybe the times are a-changing.

We’ll see what happens in the upcoming June primary – a precursor of sorts to the November election – when county 20-somethings will be asked to weigh in on state and national candidates, as well as who will be Sonoma County’s next sheriff.

The youth turnout for Measure 3 – a transportation initiative to raise regional bridge tolls – will be telling as to how much political action younger voters are willing to stomach.

Because youth is one thing; becoming a lifelong voter is another. The former is temporal. The latter sticks around long enough to get things done – from choosing who decides your local water rates, to choosing who decides your federal tax rates.

From the small-town city council to the United States Supreme Court, the next generation of voters will determine the future of America.

Not the politicians; not the monied business interests. The voters.

And be forewarned, kids: Ballot activism ain’t that easy. The motley electorate of my generation hasn’t fared so well. And don’t act so smug, boomers – you delivered the current President.

In the end, progress is never about age, it’s about what a college professor of mine once described as, “the tension in society.”

Written the sleeve of an old punk-rock album stashed somewhere in my parents’ basement is an observation that I’ve never forgotten:

“Youth, after all, is not a permanent condition. And a clash of generations is not so fundamentally dangerous to the art of government as would be a clash between rulers and ruled.”

Between rulers and ruled. Between voters and those for whom they vote.

It’s an election year for Sonoma’s rulers and ruled.

And, one can only hope: That these children that you spit on, really are quite aware what they’re going through.

Contact Jason at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.