'The awakening' is a good thing

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A SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT in Texas informed students and their parents the district will suspend any kid who walks out to protest gun laws in accord with nationwide calls for student action. "Life is all about choices and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative. We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty or five hundred students involved," the superintendent stated.

Another reaction could be found in an editorial cartoon by Phil Hands for the Wisconsin State Journal. One side of the image showed a crowd of angry young people waving signs that said "Gun Control Now" and "More Background Checks."

The other side showed a man in a suit and tie with a lapel pin reading NRA, who was saying, "We need to figure out how to get these kids back on the couch and in front of their screens."

IN THE WAKE of the Florida massacre we're reluctant to even bring up the word "positive." So, instead, we will use the word "awakening."

It has been more than a week since 17 people were killed in Florida, yet the uproar led by these young people and matched by anguished parents and friends shows no sign of abating. It has the attention of politicians at every level. It has the attention of the White House. And, as the State Journal cartoon indicated, it has the attention of the NRA. In a fiery speech Thursday Wayne La Pierre, chief executive of the NRA, blamed "elites" and "socialists" and accused them of trying to take away Americans' rights.

Baloney.

This is an American right - arguably, the most important right - to demand the government listen and address citizens' concerns. That's why government exists, to balance competing interests and find reasonable solutions to the nation's problems.

FOR YEARS it has been lamented that Americans have grown ignorant and apathetic, tuning out and disengaging from activism in public life. This massacre has brought about a major awakening and by all indications it is growing and showing no signs of fading away.

That is an unquestionable good development. This country was not founded on the premise that government officials were the people's masters. It was not built on the principle that citizens must submit. It was not founded on the idea that money always knows best and the common folks should stay quiet and be subservient.

A politician's best friend is a citizen who is intellectually sound asleep. Likewise, special interests thrive when citizens take a pass. Or, as Phil Hands put it, when people are "back on the couch and in front of their screens."

Political parties like the idea of "populism" so long as it suits their agenda, as with the Tea Party movement that swept Republicans into power in 2010 or the culmination of sentiment that appears to be building toward a blue wave this November.

The parties are not so pleased when citizens rise up in unpredictable ways that could punish either side or both sides. That kind of blowback is dangerous.

Our view: Hooray for the awakening. And hooray if it continues. Yes, that is fear you see in the eyes of the professional political class.

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