The word wisdom is often uttered in reference to the older person, as if greying hair and creaky bones and experience on its own produces good judgment. But here’s the truth, which I’m feeling very strongly in wake of the Florida school shooting: experience is multi-faceted and wisdom is not age-related. I’ve met some rather foolish seniors (I’m not talking dementia either) — goodness I still have my own measure of foolishness to resist — and I have met and seen some very wise teens.
And where I’m seeing them now is on television, massing across America, speaking truth to power about guns and violence. They apologize for being young, but oh my, the wisdom and courage they show. “We may be young but we’re old enough to get this,” one says. “I understand,” says another, “what it’s like to fear for your life. I understand…” “We will not be silenced,” they say, over and over. Determined, together, passionate, thinking righteously!
And then I watch a Florida legislator, his face cold, try to justify why he voted No to a bill to debate (simply debate!) banning assault weapons, and I see foolishness writ large. Just one among many, making excuses, beholden to the NRA, putting out words that sound smart and assuring but ring wrong to the core.
I’m far away, I’m a Canadian outsider, I’m older — but I watch and I’m proud of those kids. I’m hopeful. I’m anxious for them too. My generation resisted the awful Vietnam War and eventually “won” but oh how ugly it got.
Can I do anything besides “thoughts and prayers” for these teens? For starters, I want to reach out to youth I know, be alert to their idealism and wisdom, commit to never discourage that in them or try to explain their fears and longings away.