WASHINGTON -- In years to come, some bright grad student in a small university in the heartland will do a groundbreaking dissertation on the gun control drama of 2018, and thus make his or her name as a historian by illuminating details we cannot see today.
But let me make some early guesses as to a few of the Machiavellian turns that might be found.
First, of course, we have the students; how truly amazing they have turned out to be. I should be ashamed to say -- and, yes, I am -- that I had no idea there were high school students with such eloquence, such poise and such moral clarity in their souls. I am humbled by the hope they give me.
Yet, at the same time, I am forced to wonder: Is their controlled rage really expressive of the nation today, or are they a peripheral outcry, bound by time and habit to fade once the immediacy of the massacre of innocents in Parkland, Florida, has faded?
No. They are far more than that.
Then we have our president, the incorrigible braggart Mr. Trump, who surprisingly met with bereaved students in the White House for hours, his visage the same dour one that seems to be his mask to the world. Later, after a lunch with the "royalty" of the NRA, he emerged, trying like all get-out to appear that he was backing real progress on the gun control he so clearly hates:
Ban bump stocks. Raise the age for purchasing semi-automatics from 18 to 21. Increase mental health facilities. And -- oh God, save us! -- put armed teachers in every school.
Gun control advocates still wondered if they had missed something. Had Trump moved on the important questions, like banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons, which have been the weapon of murderous choice not only in schools, but in nightclubs (the Pulse in Orlando) and public events (the concert in Las Vegas)?
No. He had not really moved at all, just demurred.
And where was the NRA in all of this?
Wayne LaPierre, that expressive spokesman for NRA wisdom for so many years, warned after the high school massacre that we still must not increase gun control because the press was "spearheading a socialist revolution by emphasizing the teachings of Karl Marx," reported Time magazine. And boy, that sure sent me under the bed for safety (but only after throwing all my old Bolshevik books in the furnace).
I'd like to remind that future grad student to look first at history, and look good, kid. When President Trump blurted out the idea of arming teachers, that was merely a direct re-quote of NRA policy for the last number of years.
The NRA has painted itself recently as being so powerful as to be invincible. But the organization has existed in its present threatening form only since 1977, when, at the "Revolt in Cincinnati," as they call it, a rump caucus of gun rights radicals took over the NRA. Until then the NRA had taken pride in outdoorsy things like teaching Boy Scouts how to shoot safely.
This new NRA not only got deeply into frightening gun-owners out of their wits (the socialists are coming!), but also into making politicians servile through its ability to mobilize voters -- and, by the way, into allegedly making money on weapons sales (charges that need to be investigated).
What changed once can change again. That's another thing history teaches you, kid.
Second, seek out the truth about the NRA's habit, when threatened, of offering what are only cosmetic changes. For arming teachers means only MORE gun sales and MORE semi-automatics at large, not to speak of new dangers inside the schools.
Another crucial point, outlined by Charles M. Blow in The New York Times this week, is the amazing story of how, under legislation pushed by the NRA in 1996, the U.S. prohibits publicly funded research on firearm injuries. This, Blow writes, means U.S. scientists cannot answer the most basic question: "What works to prevent firearm injuries?" Be sure to get that into your dissertation, kid.
Finally, watch every turn of this dark drama carefully. The secret of this great country has been that, when we have problems, we attack the roots; we don't just apply Band-Aids so others can make more money and have more power, thus allowing the illnesses to fester and grow.
I, for one, believe in this new generation. And I think it's high time for their time.