“Walk Up, Not Out” is Cruel, Selfish Advice

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If you’re a grownup (or an approximate simulation of one) and you are sharing the Walk Up Not Out meme, please stop. It is reprehensible to either demand or counsel our youths to “walk up, not out,” for two reasons:

1. The student walkouts aren’t your movement. That’s a movement made by youths for youths, to ask grownups to listen to them. So listen to them. You don’t get to shout over them or erase what they have to say just because what they have to say or how they’re saying it is uncomfortable to you.

2. I don’t think you realize how absurdly dangerous and tone-deaf that advice is, to “walk up” to the people who might be thinking of doing a mass school shooting next month. You wouldn’t (I hope) advise a sixteen-year-old student who is afraid of being raped to “walk up” to her assailant. You wouldn’t (I hope) advise a seventeen-year-old to “be nice” to the blind date that they fear might be physically abusive. You wouldn’t (I hope) advise an eighteen-year-old walking home at night to go be friends with the man trailing them on their way home. Why would you ask for high schoolers who are afraid of being shot to go “be nice” to people they are afraid of being shot by?

Of course, we should be kind and loving to all people. Of course we don’t want some youths feeling excluded and ostracized at school. But I felt excluded as a youth, and I didn’t go gun down twenty people. Maybe I was too busy — I had twenty goats to milk — but somehow I get the impression that just feeling excluded is not the root cause of mass shootings. And for the love of God, “be nice to the person who will become the next mass shooter if you aren’t nice enough to them” is NOT a solution to mass murder. That is NOT a message we want to give our young people. That is an inhumanely cruel and selfish message to give.

Cruel, because oh my GOD, people, our youths are walking out of schools because they want the grownups to listen to what they have to say, and you’d rather respond with platitudes that could get them killed rather than stop a moment and just listen to them and honor them with that much attentiveness. And what a victim-blaming piece of tripe: “Be nice, because if you aren’t nice enough to that person you’re scared of, they might shoot you and all your friends, and it will be your fault.”

And selfish, because the only reason to say something like that is to make you feel more comfortable.

Don’t.

If our teens have something they want us very badly to hear, we, the grownups they’ll inherit the world from, owe it to them to take the time to hear them.

And you know what, I’m not done. If the only solution the grownups can come up with for hundreds of our children being killed is “Arm all the teachers so they can go all ‘Shootout at the OK Corral’ on the bad guys” or, conversely, “Shower the killers with love and Care-Bear power,” then we deserve to shut the hell up for a bit and let the kids talk.

Stant Litore

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