By: John Shepler
The latest massacre of innocent and unsuspecting youth was meted out at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida this week. With stone cold efficiency, an alleged former peer of the 3,100 students herded them into the halls with a false fire alarm and cut down as many as possible with his military-style assault rifle. Fourteen students and three teachers lay dead, giving this event the ignominious title of worst American high school shooting, yet.
Greater America knew better than wait with baited breath for their elected officials to meet in emergency session and pass strong legislation to put an end to this carnage. Those horrified by Columbine in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007, and Sandy Hook in 2012, are pretty much numb to the announcement of another mass school killing. School shootings in 2018 alone have averaged more than one a week, 170 such incidents since the template for this was created 18 years ago at Columbine, Colorado. The official government response? Standard platitudes of “thoughts and prayers” followed by… nothing.
If another nation or terrorist organization was behind all these killings, we’d be on full military alert, with armed troops guarding every school, public and private. Hundreds of billions of dollars would be appropriated, other countries would be invaded, new government bureaucracies would be formed. No one would rest until we “made America safe for students again.”
How can it be that our society has simply transformed the duck-and-cover drills of the cold war into active-shooter drills? At the peak of the Cuban Missile Crisis I convinced my grandmother to take me to a civil defense meeting at the Junior High School a block away. My sister cried at the dinner table as the Russian ships neared the US blockade. We were pretty sure that we’d never wear that year’s Halloween costumes. In the end, diplomatic deals were made. Nobody died. We breathed easier knowing our government was doing as much as humanly possible to protect us.
Can anyone say that now? Really? Is it OK that we’ve normalized the routine murder of random school kids with the justification that it would be an atrocity against our constitution to in any way limit easy access to military weapons by suspected terrorists or unstable teenagers stoked with fantasies of grandeur. It must be OK, because that practice is so enshrined into our legal and political structure that it is impossible to even bring it up for official discussion. You would think that we were an occupied country and no-one dared challenge our new overlords. In a way that’s true, except that we’ve done it to ourselves.
As a once-proud member of the Baby Boom generation, I have to say that I’ve completely lost faith in my generation and the GenX that follows as well. Our parents and grandparents who weathered the Great Depression, defeated the Axis powers in World War II, and navigated the Cold War wouldn’t have stood still for this. Their highest calling was to protect and create a better life for their children. We are the beneficiaries of these blessings and what have we done but squandered our heritage. It’s a crying shame, but I fear it is too late to pull ourselves back up by our bootstraps.
So, the torch needs to be passed, and fast, to the next generation. I mean the generation that is victim to these atrocities. You, grade school, high school and college students, much accept the challenge and lead the charge. You have the motivation. You have the energy. You are certainly smart enough. You even have the tools to make it happen. Your social networks, crowdfunding, and mobile devices create an ecosystem that links those who are like minded anywhere in the country. School groups are no longer limited to small local clubs. You can join forces, share ideas, and collaborate in groups of thousands or, perhaps, millions.
What can you do? You can make a fuss. Demand action. Refuse to accept the status quo. Demonstrate. Get interviewed on radio, TV and newspapers. Flood the Internet. Go after your elected officials in local, state and national offices. They work for YOU, after all. If they won’t work in your interest, then rally for their replacement. Insist on stricter controls on the weapons that are killing you. Require intervention for anyone who has clearly become threatening.
You won’t have to do this alone. Your parents and other sympathetic adults will join-in once the ball starts rolling. You will, however, have to get the momentum started. It’s your future and the future of the younger ones who are coming up through the grades now. Do you really want to live under this danger? Do you really want this to go on forever? No? Then accept the challenge, organize with your peers, and don’t rest until the necessary changes have been made.