It’s getting more and more difficult for people to surprise me.

In an age where it seems like pretty much anything goes, I’ve come to expect anything from anybody.

But this past week, somehow, people managed to baffle me.

Students, locally and nationally, took part in an overwhelmingly peaceful protest effort, demanding that politicians enact meaningful legislation to stop shooting incidents at schools like the one that claimed 17 lives and affected countless others earlier this year in Parkland, Florida.

Their message, when stripped down to its core: “We would appreciate being able to attend school without getting shot.”

To me, that seems reasonable. But, we live in a time where reason doesn’t seem to have a place.

So, the social media trolls came out. Though many comments were positive and supportive, I’ve also seen students called “idiots” and much worse for simply enacting their First Amendment rights to free speech.

The thick irony is that a group that felt largely offended by students’ actions claim their Second Amendment right are under assault. To combat that, of course, folks trolling social media sites set out to seemingly limit these students’ First Amendment rights.

Never mind the faulty logic of assuming someone’s Second Amendment rights are being violated. To be clear, nobody is suggesting to take all guns away. The thought here is that, maybe there’s some middle ground between “everybody gets any gun they want anytime they want it” and “nobody gets any guns, ever.”

Where the opponents of these student protests get it right is the suggestion that efforts should be focused on other issues like bullying and mental health.

Yes, it’s a multi-pronged problem. We should be addressing everything. At least from the students I’ve heard from, that’s the message coming out. It’s time to do something meaningful. About guns, about mental health care, about everything. All of it.

All this is to say nothing of the hypocrisy involved in criticizing the kids for speaking out in the first place. A popular sentiment among adults in this country is that today’s youth are disengaged and apathetic. If you hold that opinion, as many seem to, it’s patently unfair to then criticize young people for becoming active and engaged in the world around them.

Let me be clear: Young people becoming engaged, active participants in the political process is a great thing. We should be encouraging this.

Disappointingly, many schools sought to set forth limits on these student protest events in some form or another. To me, this takes the wind out of the sails of these actions, to some degree.

A popular cry has been that students are in school to learn. I would say that planning and executing such a protest is some of the best learning these students can do on any given day.

Also, I say shame on schools who may have threatened students with truancy if they participated in a walkout. Of course, it’s true, consequences have actions. But, across the nation, students are having a moment here. Let them have their moment. This was a one-time thing planned far in advance. What loss is to be gleaned from them taking part?

It’s true, there are rules and rules need to be followed. But, it’s also possible to just look the other way in this instance. So long as students are participating peacefully, there’s no injured party here. Obviously you wouldn’t want this to become a thing that happens every day, but for just this once, there was an opportunity to encourage students to become active parts of their communities.

Yes, it’s true — as many have pointed out — that some students had no interest in the protest, but rather were just looking for a reason to get out of class. But to assume that is the case for all students is, frankly, insulting.

And, even for the students for which that is true, maybe becoming engaged in something they previously had no interest in lit a spark that leads them to become more involved in the world around them.

How can that be a bad thing?

So, kudos to students around the nation. You’ve been heard. Now, let’s see if you can also make a difference.

Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at aparkhouse@thenewsdispatch.com or 219-214-4170.

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