It's sure to go down as one of the iconic images in our history: first-generation Cuban-American Emma González, brown-skinned and bald-pated and queer, standing silent and tearful, mournful and proud, bringing the March for Our Lives in D.C. to a hush at first puzzling, then immeasurably profound. For the liberal-minded among us, González – along with her compatriots, and the marchers in at least 450 other places – blew in like an early shot of political spring, opening a sunny crack in the chill gray clouds that have hovered and threatened and darkened everything since November 8th, 2016.
Sure, this break in the gloom only lasted about five minutes (or six minutes and 20 seconds). The spell was dashed as soon as Stormy Daniels began responding to Anderson Cooper's gentle questions on 60 Minutes. But the bracing honesty and irreverent optimism of the movement spawned by González's fellow survivors at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gave us the first shot of hope in a long grim time – a much-needed reminder that America probably won't always be run by an elderly, infantile monomaniac.
Through the looking glass of the great white American Right, however, the March for Our Lives was one long, loud Technicolor nightmare come to life – the terrifying apotheosis of an organized, mouthy, left-wing pack of "self-righteous kids screaming at you on TV," as perpetual fraternity pledge Tucker Carlson described it on his Fox News snarkfest. Here was the American Dystopia that Lou Dobbs and Fox and Infowars and Pat Buchanan have been promising all these years, right there on cable TV, proudly on parade! And then to find González, like that foul-mouthed George Soros bot David Hogg and the proudly barfing Sam Fuentes, being hailed in the aftermath of the spectacle as role models for Generation Z! No wonder the White Right's collective circuit was blown.
The American Right took leave of its senses a while ago, of course – somewhere around the moment that a black man was sworn in as president of the United States – but this was simply too much to process. On Facebook, Steve King, the white nationalist congressman from Iowa, slapped up a photo of González, side-by-side with this thoughtful observation in large font: "This is how you look when you claim Cuban heritage yet don't speak Spanish and ignore the fact that your ancestors fled the island when the dictatorship turned Cuba into a prison camp, after removing all weapons from its citizens; hence their right to self defense."
The Cuban-flag patch on González fatigue jacket – her father immigrated from Cuba – became a right-wing meme of its own. The "logic" being that since Castro disarmed people after the revolution, Americans in 2018 need unfettered access to AR-15s. You never know! as Adam Baldwin and others were quick to remind their right-wing followers on Saturday. Using the German hashtag "#Vorwarts!" ("forward!") – a nod to the march songs of the Hitler Youth – the actor spread a photoshopped image of González ripping up a copy of the U.S. Constitution.
In the actual photograph, González was tearing up a shooting target for a Teen Vogue cover. So what!? This was irrelevant on the Right – just as it was beside the point that her fellow student and activist, David Hogg, was indeed in his school at the time of the shooting, despite a completely unfounded pack o' lies that screamed from the home pages of The Gateway Pundit and RedState before they had to be retracted or recast.
Not since the early days of anti-Obama fever in 2009 have we seen the White Right fly into the kind of panic that the "can't we just stop having people be shot all the time?" movement has induced. But there's a big, big difference: That earlier backlash produced the Tea Party, which fueled the Republican revolution of the 2010 midterms, and ultimately made possible the previously unthinkable prospect of a President Donald Trump. This time, just the opposite is happening: The White Right is spooked – massively spooked – by the now-real specter of hordes of young multiethnic liberals who know how to organize (and frame a message) better than the Democratic Party ever has, who know how to wield social media better than Infowars, and who have absolutely no interest in the layers of propagandistic bullshit that have accumulated around the "gun debate" for decades. And they have no earthly idea how to shut them up.
Even the gun lobby, which reliably manages to turn the aftermaths of mass shootings into an economic stimulant for the industry it serves, can't help shooting itself in the foot. None of the old magic formulas for convincing gun owners who support some gun control (which is to say, most gun owners) to ignore that recent massacre, forget about those dead children, remember the Second Amendment and the flag and America and that Lee Greenwood song, was working in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Not the trusty old line that it's "too soon" to "politicize" the "tragedy." Not "thoughts and prayers." Not distracting counter-narratives about more guns – in this case, in the trustworthy hands of teachers – being the answer to all problems caused by guns. Not the heroic stories of armed heroes who stopped a mass shooting, once, maybe. Not even the NRA's ace in the hole – finding a clean-looking white student from the recently shot-up high school who loves guns as much as Tucker Carlson or any other Constitution-loving American does, and turning him into a Fox News celebrity – did the trick.
The lameness of the right-wing blowback to the March, and the movement behind it, is a historical phenomenon all by itself. Confronted with these kids, the White Right sees the future it's worked so hard to forestall, and the denizens of FoxWorld are left with mouths collectively agape, staring at the hard reality of an America in which Emma González looks like just another smart teenager. No wonder they can't respond, except with the insanely off-topic suggestions that the kids who just survived a mass shooting of their own friends should clean up their language (David Hogg's f-words "just aren't productive," said Meghan McCain), or "take CPR classes" (Rick Santorum). "Simply being anti-NRA isn't a solution," Fox News talker Tomi Lahren said, offering the students her own friendly advice. "March FOR something, not just against everything."
"Literally called March FOR Our Lives," VoteVets helpfully pointed out to Lahren.
The reason the right is so utterly unhinged has little or nothing to do with any fear of a band of bald-headed mongrels with piercings suddenly knocking on everybody's door and demanding all their firearms in the name of the United Nations. (Even if that's exactly the meme that a desperate Alex Jones has been trying to spread.) It's not a Second Amendment panic. It's the fact that the rising generation of American political leadership has unforgettably shown us all what it's going to look, sound, and think like: a lot more like Emma González than Tomi Lahren.
"There is nothing about this skinhead lesbian that impresses me and there is nothing that she has to say unless you're a frothing at the mouth moonbat," tweeted Republican state House candidate Leslie Gibson of Maine over the weekend. Gibson, who is no longer a candidate for state House, has plenty of company in his impotent rage. Which is maybe the best of all news from the March for Our Lives. While the White Right had long braced for the "takeover" of America by non-whites, they hadn't foreseen just how much of a political force the next generation would be, so soon. The kids who were supposed to be hopelessly wrapped up in their private smartphone worlds, and cocooned in a bubble of political correctness, have un-jammed one of the most fraught political issues of recent history in just a few memorable weeks. What will they do when they can actually, you know, vote? It's a delicious thought for most of us. For everybody else, it's an American apocalypse in the offing.
Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez speaks at March for our Lives. Watch below.