For several hours on Saturday, cynicism was banned from the streets of what on many days seems to be the most cynical city in the world.
Throngs estimated to number up to 800,000, and perhaps more, gathered because a group of determined, organized, eloquent and extremely shrewd high school students asked them to come, and because too many Americans have been killed by guns.
Suddenly, hope-mongers were stalking the nation’s capital. They believed, against so much past evidence, that the National Rifle Association could be routed.
The crowd seemed to expect it would require an election to usher in the reforms they seek. “Vote them out!” was one of the day’s dominant chants. All along the march route, clipboard-wielding volunteers sought to entice the faithful to register so they could cast ballots to achieve that end.
Cameron Kasky, one of the heroes of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mobilization, drew raucous cheers when he began his speech with the words, “Welcome to the revolution.” He was not imagining the storming of the Bastille or the revolt in Petrograd. His promise was peaceable and refreshingly practical.
“The voters are coming,” he declared.
Cynicism, of course, was quickly restored to its normal place in the nation’s discourse. Tired complaints were hauled out to discount the “March for Our Lives” visionaries who hit the pavements in locales across red and blue America on Saturday. Big demonstrations were nice but meant little. The NRA had crushed opponents before and would do so again. Teens and twenty-somethings lacked the discipline to stay with what would inevitably be a long fight. Republican politicians wouldn’t break an alliance with the gun lobby that has served them so well.