Young People to the Rescue

By David Brooks on February 19, 2018

Emma Gonzalez, Photo: Revista Semana

“We’re here together because if all our government and the president can do is send their condolences and prayers, then it’s time for the victims to be the change we need to see,” Emma Gonzalez said during a rally against guns Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, four days after surviving the massacre in her high school in the town of Parkland, Florida, a few miles from where she spoke with a firm voice and in tears.

Gonzalez, 18, said everyone already knows about the statistics on mass shootings and how these tragedies are happening across the country. In fact, she and her classmates have joined the more than 150,000 students in more than 170 elementary, middle and high schools who have witnessed gunfire on her premises since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, according to a Washington Post analysis.

“We are going to be the young people from whom you will then read in your textbooks. Not because we are going to be another statistic about massive shootings in the United States, but because we are going to be the last massive shootings (…) we are going to change the laws,” she promised the more than a thousand students, parents and others who came together to say enough is enough.

If the president wants to stand in front of me and tell me that this was a terrible tragedy and that it should never have happened, and if he wants to keep saying that nothing can be done about it, I will happily ask him how much money he has received from the National Rifle Association. And you want to know something? It doesn’t matter, because I already know: 30 million dollars (…) To every politician who receives donations from the NRA (National Rifle Association): shame, and at that moment hundreds of his colleagues and parents chanted: shame, shame.

“The elected rulers are lying to us. And it looks like we young people are the only ones who realize it, and we’re here to say that’s BS [bullshit]. Companies that make cartoons of young people these days, saying that we only care about what is ours and that we are obsessed with trends… we are prepared to say BS. Politicians who are sitting in their golden seats funded by the NRA saying that nothing could have been done to prevent this, we say BS… They say no law could have prevented hundreds of tragedies that have occurred. We say BS, that we don’t know what we are talking about, that we are too young to understand how government works. We call them BS. And a chorus responded: no more BS.

Gonzalez is not alone. A new group of ferocious leaders has just been born from the violent deaths of 17 of their compañera/os in the most recent massive shooting in this country. Any politician accepting NRA funding is responsible, Cameron Kasky, another high school student in Parkland, told ABC News. And speaking directly to his state’s Senator, Marco Rubio, he added:”It’s not our job to tell you how to protect ourselves. Our task is to attend school, learn and not be shot… Their task is to protect us and our blood is on their hands.

It is worth noting that Rubio is among those most benefited by the generosity of the National Rifle Association, the most powerful entity against control over guns in private hands.

Another surviving student, David Hogg, in an interview with CBS News, addressed Trump directly this Sunday denouncing: we have seen the government close down, we have seen tax reform, but nothing to save children’s lives. You make me sick.

Responding to a Trump’s tweet accusing the FBI of not following alerts about the suspect because they were too busy investigating the collusion that does not exist between the Russians and their election campaign, Aly Sheehy, another survivor, responded: 17 of my compañeros are no longer there. That’s 17 futures, 17 young people and 17 stolen friends. But you’re right, it always has to be about you. How silly of me, I forgot.

The students, some of whom have already carried out local actions, announced that they are organizing mobilizations on a national scale, something that is worrying politicians who, until now, have felt very comfortable, who have managed to stop previous initiatives to impose controls on the more than 300 million weapons that are in private hands in this country.

In the call to the March for our Lives, a student-driven action across the country and set for Washington on March 24, it is stated: Not one more. We can’t let one more child get shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to have to decide whether to stand in front of an assault rifle to save the lives of her students. We cannot allow one more family to be waiting for a call or text that never arrives. Our schools aren’t safe. Our children and teachers are dying. We have to make it our top priority to save these lives.

On March 14, a 17-minute student strike is being called for the 17 victims, and others on April 20, Columbine’s anniversary, calling for everyone to wear orange clothes to demand change, among others.

In another interview with CNN, Kasky summed up: my message to those who are in elected office is: are they with us or against us. We’re losing our lives while the adults are playing games.

Or as Wired’s editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson summed it up in a tweet: United States: where high school students act as leaders, and leaders act as if they were in high school.

In a country where more people have died from gun violence since 1968 until today than the total number of Americans killed in all their wars since independence, where the world’s most armed people commit massacres and where on average there are five bullets in academic venues each month, it will be the young people who may be able to rescue their country from this barbarity.

Source: La Jornada, translation for Cuba Debate; Walter Lippmann