It happened at Sandy Hook. It happened at Columbine. Today (as I am writing) it is happening at Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. Students traumatized, frightened, and brave beyond measure returned to school. The rest of us go on with our lives while these young people must return to the scene of the crime. They go to pick up the belongings they left behind and find what might be left of the friends they had lost. The life they left in those corridors is not there. Everything is different. The world is not what they thought it was. Because of this event, the hope and innocence we all share as we grow into adulthood, I would have expected to have been left in the halls at Stoneman Douglas Hall, but for so many of these young people, it was not. Somehow these young people faced evil and were not defeated. They came out of the darkness into the light. They are not allowing the deaths of their friends to be without purpose. They are speaking truth to power without hesitation or guile.
A group of these students has been the primary spokespeople. For their courage, they were accused of being part of a liberal conspiracy, described as “crisis actors.” Right-wing pundits, so threatened by these young people, complained that 17-year-olds couldn’t organize protests. Regular high school kids could not be this articulate, could not be this bright. Their ideas could not be this fully formed. As a mother of three millennials, I can tell you, this generation is remarkable. I am continually impressed by their consideration, activism, and willingness to reach out beyond themselves. These high schoolers are a little young to qualify as millennials, but if this is what we have to look forward to, I can’t wait to see what is coming.
Usually, the way these things go is this: mass shooting, everyone is horrified, gun control advocates call for changes in gun laws, NRA and gun control resisters shout “We shouldn’t talk about that now. That would be heartless. Our prayers and thought should be with the victims and their families,” parents are deer in the headlights, have no way to react, have children to bury and care for. (I would be the same way.) A week goes by, and the nation sends their thoughts and prayers. The news cycle moves on, and the NRA dodged another bullet. Nothing to see here. We don’t have to worry about this until Michael Moore decides to make a movie about it. This time is different; these incredible students have put aside their pain to say “enough is enough. You are the adults. You have had time to fix this.” They are not buying any excuses about the politics of it, do not care how difficult it is, and are willing to lead the fight. I am willing to follow.
The first thing that they are doing that I want to point out here is that he is not allowing the President or anyone else to reframe the discussion. Trump has tried blaming the FBI or the officers on the scene. The students are not having it. They have responded to his tweets with power and truth. When Marco Rubio went to a CNN town hall meeting and said if we are going to make assault rifles illegal, we have to make all semi-automatic weapons illegal, the room full of students; parents; and school staff applauded. He seemed surprised and did not even seem to know who he was talking to.
I am not hopeful that this Congress will pass stricter gun legislation, but we may see changes in gun laws when these young people inspire voters to reject representatives who do not pass laws Americans want. Polls have shown over and over that voters favor stricter gun laws; over and over, Congress rejects taking even the simplest steps to change background checks or improve the system.
I will be attending the March for our Lives in the San Francisco Bay area on March 24th. To find out where Marches are planned in your area, check out the March for out Lives website: https://marchforourlives.com/. You can March, sign a petition, donate, or purchase merchandise. You can even register to vote on the site. They have thought of everything.
No matter what you think needs to happen, from better background checks to outlawing semi-automatic weapons, go to the polls and vote for the candidate with you on this. Again, marching is not enough. It is only the beginning. These young people need support.
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