On February 14, 2018, Chris McKenna, a freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, steps out of his English class and heads upstairs to use the restroom. In the stairwell, he encounters a former student, loading a gun. “You’d better get out of here,” the gunman says, “things are going to get messy.” McKenna flees the building.
Thirty seconds later, the first shots are fired.
This is how the massacre in Parkland, Florida, began. It ended just six minutes later, leaving seventeen students and faculty members dead and seventeen more seriously injured. Americans throughout the country mourned the tragedy. For so many, this day felt like the final straw. The weeks, months, and years prior to this calamity had been stained with mass shootings, bloody massacres, and heightened confusion. People had been murdered in schools, nightclubs, churches, movie theaters, and at music festivals. As a nation, we looked to our leaders to propose solutions to prevent these horrific events from happening, and after a few weeks of nothing, we would forget about the shots fired and the lives lost.
But Parkland was different. The students weren’t satisfied with the recurring pattern of widespread grief and overwhelming silence. They demanded an active response. By speaking out about their tragic experience, they forced our country into a conversation that we had long been avoiding. Through speeches, social media campaigns, marches, protests, and other united efforts, the Parkland kids started a movement to end gun violence in America. Their campaign was compelling and their voices undeniable, making many believe that #NeverAgain was an attainable objective.
But ultimately, what began as a powerful movement to pass specific, common-sense gun legislation has transformed into an overly-partisan commentary on the state of current politics generally. Each of the students leading the movement has been extremely outspoken, not only against pro-gun organizations or pro-NRA politicians, but against many conservative ideas generally. They consistently side with the liberal agenda and are unable to refrain from voicing their opinions on all political issues. By speaking out about so many controversial points, they have effectively separated themselves from many conservative Americans, who otherwise might have been sympathetic to their raw and emotional message.
The movement that these students started is going to fail. But is it their fault for speaking out about issues other than gun violence, or is it our fault, as Americans, for being so afraid of an opposing view that we can’t listen to differing opinions long enough to hear victims of a senseless shooting share their experience? For many that is too difficult, so we resort to calling the kids emotional, immature, stupid, or even claim that they are lying about the shooting ever happening in the first place. Before any liberals reading this get too excited, let me be clear. Liberals are just as much at fault for the legislative gridlock surrounding mass shootings, and our inability to prevent them from happening. The truth is that mental health, lack of common-sense gun regulations, isolation in schools, violence in media, and probably many, many more things are to blame.
As much as the Parkland kids have accomplished by creating an internationally recognized movement to end senseless gun violence, it will never be enough to create legislative change. Politics in the United States have become so polarized that even when people are being murdered in movie theaters, slaughtered in churches, or shot in school, we are unwilling and unable to talk with people who think differently than we do. As a society, we have repeatedly proven that we would rather let people die than contradict our own beliefs by discussing or debating our ideas with those who disagree with us. In order to put an end to these tragedies, it is imperative that people on all sides of the debate more seriously consider other people’s views. We need to look past the issues we disagree with and listen to what the Parkland kids, and others who disagree with them have to say, even if, and especially when, it makes us uncomfortable to do so.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, we can all acknowledge that the Parkland kids made an undeniable impact. However, until the people of the United States are willing to set aside our partisan opinions, all they did was extend the already existing pattern. Next time there is a senseless shooting, the nation will mourn, send thoughts and prayers, look to national leaders to do something, blame the “other side,” and get on with our lives until it happens again.
Latest posts by Katie Clements (see all)
- Pro-Choice, Not Pro-Abortion - March 12, 2019
- Keeping the Peace? A Look at the United States Military Presence in Okinawa, Japan - February 27, 2019
- Check Your Bias - February 14, 2019
- Accepting the Inevitable: A 2020 Trump Presidency - December 10, 2018