(photo credit: Getty/AFP/Jim Watson)
Do you hear the children? Their voices are clear, direct, ubiquitous. They are asking us something important. Actually, they are demanding something.
They are demanding change.
If you haven’t heard this swelling chorus in recent days, you might have been hiking on a mountaintop with no cell service, or otherwise disconnected from our daily news barrage. There’s no other way you could miss the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They are survivors of the mass murder of 17 people, students and teachers, by a teenager using an automatic assault weapon inside their school. On Valentine’s Day.
They are asking us to hear them as though they were our own—our children, our nieces or nephews, our neighbors, our friends. Because in reality, they are. All of us who share the community, the rule of law and freedoms that should define these United States—these children are ours. Responsible American citizens (or those who one of my heroes calls “anyone in possession of a pulse”) are commanded by our shared social responsibility to listen to these children. To hear them. They are saying what many adults have not, or will not.
Hear them here:
Christina Yared, fellow Stoneman Douglas student, delivered this chilling reminder in her op-ed piece that the next victims may be anywhere:
“If you have any heart, or care about anyone or anything, you need to be an advocate for change. Don’t let any more children suffer like we have. Don’t continue this cycle. This may not seem relevant to you. But next time it could be your family, your friends, your neighbors. Next time, it could be you.”
On CBS’ Face the Nation, Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzales described the current crop of elected Washington officials, and their inaction on protecting Americans from the criminal use of assault weapons:
“…I don’t even think we need them anymore because they’re going to be gone by [the] midterm election. There’s barely any time for them to save their skins. And if they don’t turn around right now and state their open support for this movement they’re going to be left behind. Because you are either with us or against us at this point.”
Shall we waste time doubting their predictions on how quickly, in these times, a movement can topple the powerful, ignited by a certain spark? Ask Harvey Weinstein. Ask Kevin Spacey. Ask Al Franken.
Finally, take a listen to fellow student Kelsey Friend. Kelsey and some classmates sat in front of a TV camera soon after the shooting, proudly dressed in school colors, some in shirts displaying the school’s Eagle mascot. The reporter asked how she and her schoolmates could go forward in the face of such tragedy:
“…We are a huge family,” answered Kelsey, firm, resolute. “Through this ordeal, we will be brave, and we will fight. We are Eagles. We are not puppies.”
How much power can a bunch of high school kids have? As we saw with the #MeToo movement, they’ve got tools at their disposal that change agents of the past never dreamed of. Consider these early indicators:
- A crowd-funding account targeted for support of their national march on Washington next month and regional marches across the country has raised north of $2.5 million in SIX DAYS.
- A growing number of national companies have announced their separation from services connected to or promoted by the National Rifle Association, the nation’s leading investor in gun use and national gun policy.
- The students have been offered the microphone, the camera, and taken the gallery seats in national, state, and regional venues to force dialogue with politicians who oppose gun control legislation, building crowd support and confronting opponents face to face.
Yet many of these kids aren’t even old enough to vote, still proverbial puppies by law. That prompted one late-night comedian to speculate if we could protect Americans more effectively by limiting voting to those UNDER 18. The students know, even when adults may forget, this nation’s long history of grassroots-driven social and policy revolution: Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, drunk driving, seat belts, #MeToo.
Sure, they’re going to hit stone walls, and already have. They rode buses to Florida’s capital this week and watched their legislators decline action on a gun-related motion while the students observed from the gallery. Here’s more on that from one national commentator**:
“…I hope these students don’t give up. This is their lives, and their future. Someone else may be in power, but this country belongs to them. And there’s reason for hope..this is an election year. So if you want to see change, you have to go to the polls and tell the people who will not protect you that their time is up.”
They’ve inspired so many people, so quickly. A friend posted on Facebook this week: “God bless these students. What can we do to help them?” For her, for those who believe that time is indeed up, below is a list of some resources for information and action on this issue. It’s not anywhere close to comprehensive. It’s just a few places people might start who want to join the Stoneman Douglas students and be Eagles. Not puppies.
If you want to stand with the students of Stoneman Douglas and the thousands of victims of gun violence across then U.S. in recent years, you can:
Not sure how your elected officials stand on assault weapons? One element of that story may be gleaned from this list of NRA political donations.
Not even sure who your officials are; been so disgusted you quit paying attention? There’s a searchable source here.
Send funds to groups like the ones below, who are on the front lines not just in Washington, but in states and cities. They are not only engaged in policy development, but some are great sources of information on where action is occurring and how, for those seeking ideas they might replicate.
Vote with your money.
Here’s a recently published list of companies who are separating from the NRA. If you want to commend them, spend your money with them. If you want others to follow, let them know that.
Several of the organizations listed above are looking for local organizers. That’s something anyone can do.
**Stephen Colbert, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Feb. 20. 2018.