I spent way too much time watching TV today. But I couldn’t pull away from the teens who survived the shooting of 17 classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They went to see their lawmakers in Tallahassee and, with deeply moving eloquence, demanded an end the slaughter.
To the students’ shock, they were told, “It’s too soon to discuss this.”
The kids got back on their bus and moved on to the White House. As I watched, I slipped from heartbreak to disbelief to anger to hopelessness. I cannot image how those kids felt.
“Never again should I feel guilty to be alive.”
“How many children have to get shot?”
“Never again should students have to protest for their lives. Never again should an innocent life be taken while trying to get an education.”
“Do your job, or we promise you will be voted out!”
“How is it that easy to buy a weapon with no use except war?”
“I turned 18 the day after I woke up to the news that my best friend was gone,” one shaken young man said as he fought back tears. “I don’t understand why I could still go into a store and buy an assault rifle! How is it that easy to buy that kind of weapon after Columbine? After Sandy Hook?”
Maybe because fans of the AR-15 were quick to explain the gun’s appeal. Maybe because the NRA speaks so loud and has such endless resources. Maybe because so many lawmakers are beholden to them. Maybe because, although President Trump listened patiently, the solution he offered was to arm teachers–an idea that did not go over well. Or maybe because right-wing provocateurs were quick to start conspiracies flying: “These kids are actors hired by Democrats.” The most outspoken–and well-spoken–young man was pronounced “a crisis actor.” Or maybe because in the aftermath of that horror, Rep. Claudia Tenney, Republican N.Y., insisted that “mass murderers end up being Democrats. But the news media ignores that.” No such study has ever been done, and Tenney’s colleagues immediately condemned her saying so. Maybe… just maybe… that condemnation is a first ray of hope.
The pro-active teens are the second ray of hope. Like the girl who demanded of congressional leaders, “Why is it that every time we make a step forward you force us back? How can I trade your thoughts and prayers for action?” Point by point, she demanded action, as supporters screamed out a response to each and a drummer beat out a rhythmic reply.
“We will not be silenced!”