Aaron Durst, 17, a student at East High School in Denver, raises his hand in protest against gun violence on the Colorado State Capitol grounds on March 14, 2018, in Denver.
Photo: Ross Taylor (Getty Images)

The biggest surprise of being a parent so far is how often my daughter surprises me. She’s a little over 2 years old now, and it seems like every week she does or says something new that I had no idea she knew how to do or say. Yesterday morning, for instance, she noticed me laughing at a text I received, and then said, “You’re silly, Daddy.” She’s undoubtedly heard the word “silly” before, but knowing it well enough to use it in the proper context is something I wasn’t aware she could do.

My Facebook timeline today is filled with pictures and videos of school-age children across the country walking out of their schools, leading protests and giving speeches. Some of these images were posted by the proud parents of children participating in #NationalWalkoutDay. And some of these parents expressed joyous surprise at how brave and passionate and articulate their children were.


Of course, it’s not that the parents had low expectations for them. They just have never had the opportunity to see their children like this. And while these are not my children, I felt (and still feel) that same parental pride when watching and reading about these amazing young people. I can see my daughter in these kids, and I’m as proud of and protective of them as I would be with her.

Today is also a goddamn fucking disgrace.

Perhaps, in time, #NationalWalkoutDay will be remembered as a prominent act in a series of acts that forced America to reconsider and change its relationship with guns. But right now, today, all I can think about is how these kids should have been in school. And how the schools they’re in should be safe. But they were not in school because the schools aren’t as safe as they should be. And the schools are not as safe as they should be because America considers its freedom-wrapped fears more important than the well-being of these young people.

And because of this, American schoolchildren can now place themselves on the ever expanding list of people forced to live in and clean up the messes white American men continue to make. A list that, of course, includes black people, all women, Mexicans and too many other groups to name.

As a dad, I can’t wait for my daughter to continue to surprise me. I just hope she’s not mad at me about my surprise for her: that her country is so fucked up and so fucking messy that it forces us to all be janitors.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a columnist for GQ.com, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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