I stepped off the Metro in March to a sea of teenagers still holding their signs: “I’ll miss my friends more than you’ll miss your guns.” Their faces alive with voice, their eyes beacons of belief, the students straggled toward home, the protest over. They walked past monuments to war & to warriors. Thirty-five children & teachers have been torn to death by bullets at school this year. It is not yet summer. Seniors graduate today. The children hollered at the Capitol, brandished slogans— “Protect us, not guns”—openly carried their signs high above their heads, packing words with pride. In 2013, the Advanced Placement English Language & Composition exam asked students to write an essay that would “examine the factors a group or agency should consider in memorializing an event or person and in creating a monument.” I walked down the mall as students marched away past monuments to war to war to war, holding their signs: “The scariest thing in a school should be my grades.” 476,277 students wrote an essay that year explaining what’s worth memorializing, what merits a monument— this year thirty-five kids & teachers died, shot at school, more Americans dead at school than war but who’s at war, really. We have enlisted grunts without their permissions or sixteenth birthdays. “Examine the factors a group or agency should consider in memorializing an event or person and in creating a monument.” “I’ve never really thought about that before” the students said, but they have now as they laugh together, ready to bury yesterday for tomorrow.
Mitchell Nobis is a writer and K-12 teacher in Metro Detroit. His poetry has appeared in HAD, Roanoke Review, No Contact, Dunes Review, and others. He is a co-director of the Red Cedar Writing Project and hosts the Wednesday Night Sessions reading series. Find him at @MitchNobis or mitchnobis.com.