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Dayenu - The times they are a-changin'

“How many deaths will it takes til he knows that too many people have died?”

--Bob Dylan, “Blowin in the Wind”

When a madman enabled by the NRA used his weapons to murder 20 first graders and six heroic educators in Newtown, CT, that should have been enough to spur action.

When another villain reined destruction on Las Vegas and murdered 58 concert goers, that too should have been enough. That and countless other instances of death by gunfire, on a large and small scale.

But when another killer used NRA-approved weapons to murder 14 students and three adults last month in Parkland, FL, maybe this time they picked the wrong fight. Perhaps this time, it is enough. For while elementary school children are too young to mobilize politically, and while we adults have repeatedly been proven too craven or compromised to do so, this high school student-led movement may have staying power. That is the promising message I feel after participating in Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” in New York.

The impetus for this movement is the senseless killing of innocent people by unregulated firearms, but at the core, these protests are about a government that places the interest of corporate lobbyists ahead of ordinary individuals.

On Saturday, at least several hundred thousand of us rallied throughout the country, in the streets of Washington, DC, Parkland, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and other areas. Among the swarms of multi-cultural and multi-generational protestors in New York, my wife Valerie and I joined David Knapp, the leader of our local Indivisible group. Together, we found ourselves marching beside an assembly of folks from the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). At various times, we met up with Jewish day school students, wheelchair bound individuals, the elderly, the middle aged, medical students, children, babies, and even a dog with a “Vote Out NRA Pawns” sign. Marching beside two talented men from the NYSNA playing banjo and marching drum, we banged our tambourines to protest songs, Bob Dylan, a medley of Beatles classics, and even the Passover song "Dayenu".

The police officers along the route were polite and helpful. Some even danced along with our music. Police support for this movement should be expected; who, besides residents of high crime urban areas, will have more to gain if we reduce the number of guns on the street?

At the rally, speakers included children who lived through the Parkland massacre, as well as the grandmother of one of the victims. There were also survivors of Newtown and Las Vegas. Several speakers made the connection to the thousands of gun murders that don’t make the news and do not involve assault weapons—pointing out that this violence happens daily across the country, and that its victims are disproportionally young people of color.

Indeed, the nurses from NYSNA were memorializing one of their own, whom they told us was shot and killed just recently. This murder didn’t make the news, like countless of others. Such a thing should never be so routine.

Protests such as the March for Our Lives are just a start, however. What will it take for this to have a lasting effect? I suggest that we focus on Voting, Organizing, and Flipping.

Voting. This year’s midterm elections will be consequential. We seek House and Senate representatives who support fact-based governing and make decisions based on the good of the country, not narrow lobbies like the NRA. If you turned 18 last year or are doing so by November 2018, register to vote and exercise this right. If you don't know where to start, search “register to vote 2018” online and you will find the information you need. If you are going off to college, get an absentee ballot. If you’re a parent, get the word out to your kids and their friends. Young people are impacted by election results in so many ways; don’t sit this one out.

Don’t stop with your own vote; ensure that you are aware of schemes around the country to restrict those who are likely to cast anti-Republican, anti-NRA votes. Gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts, such as phony voter fraud claims, are still taking place. Lobby your own representatives to take a stand against such attempts to thwart fair and full voting.

Organizing. The NYSNA epitomizes the power of organized labor and other such groups. If you are part of a union, become aware of its political stances. When November comes, join this group’s election efforts. I recall volunteering for the Walter Mondale presidential campaign in 1984, in Erie County, NY, a blue-collar area with mixed party enrollment. As a law student, I participated in phone banking at union headquarters. While Reagan won the election nationally, Erie County strongly went for Mondale, which showed the impact of such organized campaigning on the ground.

If you’re not part of a union, join a local group. I promise you that they are already organized. My best suggestion—Look up a local Indivisible group in your community.

Flipping. If, like me, you live in a congressional district that is comfortably in the control of one party, what can you do to institute change in the midterm elections? My answer is to find the closest swing district and join the campaign efforts there. Search up the organization Swing Left for more information. My local group, Bend the Arc Riverdale Chapter, will be campaigning in New York congressional district 19 against Representative Faso, a supporter of the NRA and the current president. When the election gears up in the fall, you too can leverage your voice by canvassing or phone banking to flip one of these swing districts.

Let's help the Parkland students turn this moment into action.

"Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call. Don't stand in the doorway; don't block up the hall. For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled. There's a battle outside and it is ragin'. It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls. For the times they are a-changin'."

--Bob Dylan, "The Times They Are A-Changin'"

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