Monday, March 26, 2018


I watched the full six minutes and 51 seconds of that remarkable speech by young Emma Gonzalez in front of hundreds of thousands of people present on The Mall this past Saturday--and likely hundreds of thousands more on television. I watched the full length of her courageous four minutes and 26 seconds of silence.

Silence is hard to bear. On several occasions, the crowd grew restless with it. They wanted to fill it with applause, with chants of "Never Again." Each time they broke down, this brave young woman calmly faced down their sounds and steadfastly maintained her silence. At times, tears rolled down her cheeks at the memory of her lost friends and school mates.

Silence is hard. It confronts us with ourselves--a challenge most of us are unwilling to accept. Silence at the dinner table is intolerable. Someone has to "break" it. An interesting term: silence is something so fragile that it can be "broken." I have commented on the past about the debasement of even that minimal public "minute of silence" into what is now no more than a "moment of silence" to grieve. I find it sad that this is all we can muster by way of respect, memory and reflection. I have frequently watched the impatience, the need to move on, the need to fill what is feared to be nothing with something.

Perhaps that's it: we fear "nothing." Perhaps that's why we fear silence. Perhaps we fear whatever it is we might discover there, in silence, about ourselves, our minds, our lives.

I have learned to love silence. Indeed, I value it more than speech. Emma's silence on Saturday spoke even more eloquently than her eloquent words. She invited us to listen, uncomfortably, to the silence, and everything contained therein, all the pain, all the horror, all the tragedy--all the desperate need to change--for just a little more than a moment. Good for her.

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