The Rites of Spring
Whether we knew it or not, our country needed the massacre at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It has unexpectedly returned us to sanity, and brought something more: the end of the Trump Moment.
We feel it like a fever that has broken. The nonsense we have endured for so long is meeting actual resistance, not #Resistance. And just as ISIS briefly seemed unconquerable, the ground that Trump’s movement claimed in 2016 now seems ready to be retaken.
Frank Rich senses the change when he writes “it’s hard not to feel that we are on a hopeful new path for gun politics in America,” echoing the sunny mood of many who have commented on the post-Parkland climate. Rich’s words resonate with the joy we feel when Edward-Iasaac Dovere tells us that the slow liquidation of Trump’s White House entourage has made Trump more isolated than ever, leaving him to tackle his many enemies with fewer resources and, quite literally, less Hope. Suddenly, Melania’s miserable face is no longer a reflection of our own sour mood, and even Trump’s unglued hair has switched sides, exposing his naked pate, begging some new John Wilkes Booth to do the right thing.
The worm has turned, and the Parkland attack is the harbinger of this new spirit. But some have misread the moment.Tim Kreider, writing for the New York Times, embraces the rise of the Millennials who are staking their claim after Parkland. He hopes their energies will topple the Gen-Xers like himself (and moi) who ever let things get this bad, but it is not the living for whom he should be cheering.
We are plainly a nation that feels like it has bottomed out, leaderless and bereft of faith, which is the wail that summons moments like these. So give it up for Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beige (don’t skim these names), Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Chris Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup and Peter Wang. Our American soul called out for a national rebirth, and they answered.
All the signs are there that Parkland has worked its charm as a sin offering. The violence has arrived just as spring is beginning, the period of renewal, but also the time when gods traditionally demand a taste of innocent blood before they will return the land to health. The timing of Nikolas Cruz’s hideous sacrifice, both of his peers and his own bleak existence, may have been coincidental, but someone in Heaven’s vault was paying attention. The compact was even sealed by the explosion of Mt. Sinabung on the island of Sumatra.
Frank Rich asks, “Why has the response to Parkland been able to break through where others were not?” Perhaps it is the nature of the blood that was sacrificed that has done the trick. Most of the casualties were kids, and the blood of the young is more potent than that of adults, as the three-fold greater number of casualties in Las Vegas now proves. But teenage blood is also less innocent than nursery school blood, which perhaps makes it a tastier gift to the gods of our profane age. Whatever the reason, our public anger over the violent deaths of these non-combatants has for once extended beyond the obligatory fortnight.
Parkland arrives at the moment when #MeToo is still fresh, when the lumpen alt-right — already deflated by Charlottesville — is recoiling, and when young progressive men are tiring of the only political activism most of them engage in: consuming the diversity-fortified hog slop of Disney’s wretched films and then defending them on YouTube. The country was ready to break through its malaise, and the Parkland Massacre, consecrated on St. Valentine’s own holy day, has catalyzed this transformation.
The results are palpable. The politicians are squirming, and the survivors, poised adolescents who can speak with their own voice, have a fire in them that just makes our hearts leap! We rejoice to watch the shaven-headed Joan of Arc, Emma González, overthrow the NRA’s witch-whore Dana Loesch. We erupt in applause as young prophetess Sarah Chadwick delivers the joke of the season by declaring that Marco Rubio is as “easy to buy” as an AR-15. With the thunderstorm of the Parkland tragedy behind us, now come these green shoots of a political spring that hearkens the end of our winter of despair.
But the true gift of Parkland is that it has given Donald Trump his shining moment to not shine. We always knew that Trump could never shepherd the nation through a true emotional crisis. The question was only how badly he would land on his face. In the case of Parkland, Trump’s undoing is not so much a pratfall but the buffoonery of him trying to add one more ball to his complicated juggler’s cascade.
With the accumulated ethical, criminal and personal missteps of Donald Trump having finally brought his presidency to crush depth, he could scarcely afford another opportunity to show off his aloofness. But when Trump spoke at a hospital in Florida after meeting survivors of the attack (using the word “incredible” more times than anyone has who was speaking about people ripped apart by bullets), only to then go golfing a few days later, the failure of his conman’s mystique was complete. And when he coughed up a to-do list of gun control proposals he could never possibly enact, a repeat of his DACA sideshow, it played as it ought to: as pure, embarrassing shtick.
Thanks to Parkland, the feeling that “enough is enough” is radiating through the entire culture. We know that Donald Trump is finished…we know that we are going to dig our way out of this… and it is making our lives feel lighter.
To the children whose deaths paid for this change in our consciousness, and to the survivors who will continue the fight for justice, myself and the entire nation say “thank you”. The gun industry is a black, obsidian fortress that has withstood the blowback from countless massacres with barely a grain of sand chipped from its surface, and it may take until the Age of Capricorn to defeat them. But you have at least reminded us that that evil, like youth, is not bulletproof.
When not reading the political entrails, Jason Yungbluth draws comic books. He is also running a Kickstarter right now for his graphic novel Weapon Brown!
Previously: STFU about the SOTU