Today I watched several hundred students at my school stand up and walk out of class, sit on the football field in a circle, and observe 17 minutes of silence; one minute for each life stolen in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This is one small group out of thousands. Students across the United States are taking up political action in the wake of the latest mass shooting tragedy.
I live and work at a school just an hour drive south of Marjory Stoneman and the effects of this event have been palpable in our community. I have watched students grieve on television and in person. I have heard stories of heroic teachers and children that took bullets to save others. Even more so, I have watch a generation that has long been dismissed and belittled awaken and stand up in a way that my generation never did.
Just after the shooting, we have seen the rise of student leaders from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas campus. Emma Gonzalez, a senior in high school, emerged as a face of this movement with her shaved head and powerful language. Her since viral speech called “BS” on politicians and others who fail to take action on gun violence.
And she is not alone. A slew of students have made the rounds on the news circuit, bringing their message to forefront: It’s time to address gun violence, push back on the money and lobbying of the NRA, and hold politicians accountable for the deaths of hundreds at the hands of assault-styled weapons. Their movement: #NeverAgain is gaining steam. They have raised over 1.2 million on Go Fund Me to support the March for Our Lives in Washington DC on March 24. Perhaps most enduring, they are inspiring young people to register and vote!
The backlash against these children has been fast and brutal. More mainstream, conservative news anchors have questioned whether or not “children” should have a say in policy. Their response? A resounding “YES!”
Even more disturbing, just days after surviving a mass shooting, they now find themselves the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories asserting that they are “actors” or “liberal plants.” In Florida, Benjamin Kelly (an aid to Republic Rep Shawn Harris) was recently fired after sending messages to the press asserting that two of the students were not, in fact, students, but paid “crisis actors.” A statement that is not only demonstrably false, but loathsome. In addition to perpetuating conspiracy theories, others have taken to social media in an attempt to silence these children using threats of violence and death.
Temporarily got off Facebook because there’s no character count so the death threats from the @NRA cultists are a bit more graphic than those on twitter. Will be back when I have the time for it. Busy getting my feelings hurt by fellow teenagers at Br**tb*rt
While they make jokes about the insanity of these conspiracies or the attacks by the right wing media, the truth is that it takes courage to stand up like this. These children, already vulnerable and wounded after enduring a horrific event, continue to show grace and courage in the face of true adversity. Many of us adults would run and hide at the first snide remark towards us on the internet. These kids make jokes!
I do not know what will happen as a result of this latest shooting. I hope that there will be swift and real change to prevent if from happening again. However, what I do know, is that this generation just showed to the world what I have long argued. They are NOT the selfie generation. No. They are a generation of empowered, vocal, informed, compassionate, and now ANGRY young adults that are ready to shape the world for the better.