Our children are afraid. Why aren’t we listening?
On March 24th, 2018, 800,000 people turned out for the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2018, killed 14 students and 3 staff members. It was carried out by Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle he had recently purchased.
The march’s mission statement says:
“Not one more. We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes. Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives.”
This video provides some more insight into what the March meant for some of the survivors:
On March 20th, just four days before the March, another shooting occurred at a high school just twenty miles from where my own daughters go to school. At Great Mills H.S. in St. mary’s County, MD, a teenage boy walked up to his ex-girlfriend and shot her in the head with a pistol, before shooting another boy in the leg and eventually shooting himself.
My wife and I know some of the families in that school district. We know the panic they all felt when the first news on the event was reported. When you hear “school shooting”, “active shooter”, or any of those terms now, as a parent you immediately think there could be 10 or 20 children injured or killed. You immediately think that one of those children might be yours.
Parents left work and home, rushed to the school, their hearts aching, pulses racing, anger building, guilt gnawing at them.
How could I let my child be in harm’s way?
How can the school be such a dangerous place?
Why is this happening?
There have been 17 school shootings so far this year that resulted in someone being hurt on school grounds in the U.S., roughly one every week. Some new tragedy is reported on a constant basis.
Our children, and all of us, have a right to protest an establishment that does very little to prevent the violence of school shootings.
And yet there are conservatives who belittle our children for doing this, even though they are merely trying to protect themselves.
Adults, people who should have the best interests of their children in mind, are up in arms over the very idea that those children would be protesting against the gun lobby.
When I was in high school, in the early ’90s, there was no general fear that, at any time, someone might walk through our hallways with guns and kill indiscriminately. My friends and I were more concerned that Russia might invade the U.S., and even that seemed such a remote possibility that it wasn’t cause for real worry.
That all changed with the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, which seemed to usher in a new age of domestic fear. This fear was compounded by the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon in 2001 and the start of the War on Terror.
These events coincided with the final years of the Millennial generation and the beginnings of Generation Z, of which the Parkland students are a part.
Most of our Millennials, and all of our Gen Z’ers, have grown up in a world where death could strike at any moment, no matter where you were or how safe you felt. The fear is palpable. It is a constant topic of conversation and of politically incorrect jokes spoken in hushed tones as a way to deal with the dread.
Generation Z is being forged in a new, less trustworthy and more dangerous United States than any other generation since those born in the 1920s and 1930s. It is perhaps an even more dire crucible than that, since the enemies are largely coming from within: the shooters, the terrorists, the data piracy of the digital world, the harsh divisions of domestic politics throughout the Obama and Trump administrations, ongoing racial tensions that continue to swell with every incident, and environmental damage brought on by unchecked fossil fuel consumption.
The March for Our Lives was not just about school shootings. It was about all of the above. And it will only be the beginning. This is a generation that will not allow these dark matters to continue ruling their lives. The Baby Boomers and Gen X created this world that our children have to live in. Whatever ills our society has are due to us creating them or failing to fix problems that our own parents and grandparents created.
If we can’t understand this pain and fear, we don’t deserve the world our children will make.
Thank you for reading and sharing.