Katy Burns: In this house, we are in awe of America’s amazing young people

  • During the “March for Our Lives” rally in support of gun control in Washington, D.C., on March 24, Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., closes her eyes and cries as she stands silently at the podium for the amount of time it took the Parkland shooter to go on his killing spree. AP

Monitor columnist
Sunday, April 08, 2018

Bye Bye Birdie was a 1960s-era stage musical and movie inspired by young rock idol Elvis Presley’s being drafted into the Army. It lives on even today as a popular show for high school and community theater productions, not because it’s a great musical – it isn’t – but because it has a wealth of infectiously bouncy music good for a large cast of energetic young performers.

One of its highlights is the peppy “Kids.”


I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!


Who can understand anything they say?

Kids! . . .

Why can’t they be like we were,

Perfect in every way?

These days I sometimes think – with so much hand-wringing disdain (especially online) for the marching and speechifying teenagers from Florida’s Parkland high school – that we’re in a real-life revival of Birdie’s grouchy grownups.

Except that Birdie is, ultimately, a light-hearted and affectionate romp in which both kids and adults have a great time. It’s a different case when it comes to the venomous adults polluting cyberspace with condemnations of the Parkland kids. They’re much worse than grouchy. They are vicious.

In just a few minutes browsing the emails that clog my electronic mailbox regularly I amassed a tidy collection of the insults hurled at the Parkland survivors by so-called adults.

The activist high schoolers are “ignorant, spoiled children . . . cretins” and “trained pigs,” “snowflakes . . . bratty little kids,” “chickens cackling mindlessly,” “whiner libtard brats” and “the children’s auxiliary of Left Wing Loons.”

Two of the most vocal survivors are particularly vilified. Emma Gonzalez is dismissed as a “bimbo who might be a pig but no prize,” while David Hogg is a “thumb-sucking sniveler” and a “Little Nazi PUKE… A GENETIC DEFECTIVE.” Regulars in some of the danker internet holes are fond of all-caps.

“How gullible do you have to be to imagine that a bunch of high school kids could organize a protest of this magnitude,” sneered one repellent troll.

Maybe it’s time for a reality check. On Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., a disturbed young man opened fire with a rapid-fire rifle. In just over six minutes 17 people were slaughtered and 14 others were wounded.

The last wounded student left the hospital just last Wednesday. He’d been shot five times while barricading a door trying to protect his fellow students. He’s just 15 years old, and he’ll carry his scars (including an impaired lung) for the rest of his life.

I’d say the Parkland shootings – and the possibility, however remote, that they could happen at other schools across our gun-happy country – constitute plenty of motivation for the surviving students and their young counterparts elsewhere to organize themselves, to demand change.

And let’s remember that our own fabled American Revolution, so revered by a lot of the cranky geezers and geezerettes who condemn the current kids, wasn’t exactly an old people’s crusade. In fact, several of that band of brothers and (mostly unsung) sisters were quite young, and they helped organize the founding of a country.

Almost none, except for Benjamin Franklin, could really be called old on July 4, 1776. And among the people important in our nation’s founding were the Marquis de Lafayette, 18; James Monroe, 18; Aaron Burr, 20; Alexander Hamilton, 21; Betsy Ross, 24. And James Madison, 25.

Just think of Hogg, Gonzalez and their compatriots as 21st-century Monroes and Burrs, modern versions of our founders, revolutionaries-in-training. I admire this current generation of rabble rousers. I applaud their poise, their courage, their confidence, their ability to articulate with precision their goals. And their determination to try to achieve them.

In short, we in this house – and I suspect in a lot of other houses as well – are in awe of the kids. Their accomplishments. And their 21st-century media savvy.

The Parkland students are not alone. Other young people today can be – are – equally amazing. We see it reflected all the time in the local news, and in the achievements of our young (and amazing!) family members.

Back a gazillion years ago, I was considered an achiever. So was my husband, Don. We worked hard. We acquitted ourselves pretty well. But it was so much slower a time, so much less demanding in a lot of ways. Today’s world is to us a different – and more difficult, confusing and frightening – place in which to survive, much less to thrive.

For several years, Don has had the honor and pleasure of serving on a board assembled by Congresswoman Annie Kuster to help her sort through the stack of applications she receives every year from young men and women seeking appointments to the nation’s military academies. Recommending candidates for such appointments is one of the less-known privileges of a seat in Congress.

Every year Don spends hours poring over resumes submitted by would-be applicants, then spends a long day (with other board members) meeting with the applicants. Every year he comes home in awe of the young people he has met.

And every year he says the same thing: He is glad, so glad, that – back in the day – he didn’t have to compete with the kids of today.


I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!


Who can understand anything they say?


(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)