Never has the power of silence been stronger than yesterday. Emma González stood in silence for 3 minutes – half the time it took for her 17 schoolmates to be shot. As I watched her speech, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I was moved. While her words said a lot, her silence said more.
I watched several of the speeches from the March For Our Lives on YouTube this morning, without closed captions. Even just a year ago I wouldn’t have bothered – I would have just found a transcript and read them instead. But I would have lost so much that way. There is so much more to communication that just words, and these young people, forced to grow up too quickly, have shown what it means to have presence, to use tone of voice, to use silence. I have never in my life been more impressed with someone’s ability to use ALL facets of communication as I was when I was watching and listening to these kids speak.
Last week, from my place of white middle-class privilege, I went to go see the touring company of Les Misérables for the 27th and 28th times. My obsession with the show started when I was the age of the Parkland students. The music moved me, the story and characters broke my heart, but more than that I felt like I learned about myself, and about the human race, when I heard this show. I felt the stirrings of revolution, the feeling that if people come together for a common cause they can bring about hope and change – even if it means their deaths.
Listening to the show for the first time with my cochlear implant, tears were flowing from the first notes the orchestra played. That was for me and my happiness in the ability to hear, and mourning the hearing loss, and the nostalgia of the last 25 years of my life. It was incredible – I heard every note, every instrument, every nuance just as I did when I was a fully hearing 15-year-old. I’ll spare everyone my review of the show – just suffice to say it was amazing and as good as every one of the last 26 times I’ve seen it. I’m grateful that the second time I went last week, my friend Angela also went with and we were able to share the same moments and the same feelings together.
There is a song in the second act, near the end of the show, where the character of Marius mourns the friends he lost on the barricade – “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. Young students who died fighting for what they believed was right, fighting for the people who couldn’t fight for themselves. On March 14, as I listened to this song about a young man crying for the loss of his fellow students – his friends – I thought of all the students around America who walked out of their classrooms that day. The students who live in fear of being killed while learning. The parents who had to bury their child. And I sobbed. The people in the audience around me were also crying, so I was not alone.
“There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone
Here they talked of revolution
Here it was they lit the flame
Here they sang about tomorrow
And tomorrow never came”
As much as music can be moving and emotional for those of us who hear it, silence can be just as deafening. Emma’s silence yesterday for her friends, for our country, for the young people that are our future, is lighting a new flame. A new revolution is starting, led by our children. It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes.