In the last few months, Darien young people have shown tremendous strength on a variety of tough topics. In many ways, they have been braver than adults. And some adults chose to attack their causes or use them politically, often in anonymous or non-public ways.
Whether it was the stigma of suicide, or the controversy over an informative discussion with teens and parents over birth control, Darien young people have elevated the conversation with their strength.
They have inspired with their candor and bravery, and in some cases, left us breathless and searching our own souls for our responses and behavior.
The walk-out last week at Darien High School was no different. A Darien High School student approached The Darien Times about taking the helm on Darien’s participation in the national walk.
Katherine Lester said, “People want to make this a left issue or a right issue. It’s not. It’s an American issue.”
She wrote a letter which The Darien Times shared on its website and social media — immediately incurring political commentary on both sides. It invoked some pro- or anti-gun, pro-right or pro-left posts, kicked back and forth across partisan lines — almost like a football.
The student for a variety reasons asked us to take the letter down. Whether the feedback she may have gotten drove her decision, is unclear.
The response to the walk has been mirrored in other local communities, torn apart at least on social media over whether the walk was necessary, useful or it was public schools endorsing or giving a specific political movement a profile.
Is it true that the Women’s March initiated the national effort? Yes it is. Does that mean that every student or even every school committee participated in the walk to endorse the Women’s March or its professed mission? Or that even all the students knew this was related?
Or is it more likely that students, including those in Darien, are scared. They are allowed to be scared. They are entitled to voice that fear and protest against that fear. As adults, we most likely have no idea what it is like to be a high school student today — and the challenges they face.
The walk-out was 17 minutes. It was coordinated with the school district and supervised — if there is going to be a protest, what better, safer way to do it?
As parents and a community, we are entitled to object to to this walk. We are entitled to feel it is political. What becomes unfortunate is when those on both sides — BOTH sides — of the political spectrum use the walk, or coverage of the walk, to further their political agenda. It is even more unfortunate when those who accuse others of approaching it politically don’t realize it reveals how their own political aspirations are transparently evident.
Darien young people are smart, they are brave, they have a voice and an experience, and they are entitled to share it. We have learned much from them over the last few months.
For the most part, the community supported this short protest coordinated in sync with the rest of the country. Most didn’t politicize it. But like in many other cases over the last few months, there were many who did.
We’ve learned from their honesty and their fearlessness. We’ve learned from their respect for themselves and for one another. It’s not about politics, it’s about people. Perhaps before we continue to point the finger at these students, their cause, or each other, we should reflect on those lessons.
Including this one from Darien High graduate Claire Borecki, in a recent open letter to The Darien Times:
“I hope that we will one day have a community that does not reject, shame or politicize your needs and questions.”
So do we.