Yesterday, I stood in solidarity with close to three hundred students, ranging in age from 12 to 18. I was there to show my support for their non-violent, social activism. Because my 10-year-old son’s school was not planning a “walk out,” I brought him to be with his older three siblings after he had expressed his wish to participate “some place.”
As the students silently came out and made their way around the circle in front of their school, I kept asking myself, “What have we done?”
“What have we done?”
What have we done since April 20th, AKA “Patriot’s Day,” 1999 to end incidents of gun violence in schools?
Most of us remember the events of Columbine. But here are some who do not have a memory of that day: every single student at today’s Columbine High School. They participated in yesterday’s Walk Out, no one of them was born in 1999. We had their entire young lives to do something. Most of did nothing in 1999 or in the intervening nineteen years.
What have we done to elect leaders who shun donations from the NRA?
When candidates make a bid for national office, we have become inured about who funds their “war chests” and more concerned about single issues, be it reproductive justice, environmentalism, corporate power, and the like. Downplaying the relevancy of a politician’s support of “2nd Amendment rights” when a that person’s agenda aligns with a single issue is myopic. When politicians have a financial incentive, be it election or reelection, to defend the lunacy of the 2nd Amendment, we reap the consequences of their obligations to the NRA in bullets.
What have we done since December 14, 2012 when twenty children where murdered in their elementary school to change the policies around gun access and gun capacity?
In just over five years since Sandy Hook, 7,000 children have been killed by guns. Below 7,000 pairs of shoes were put out on the White House lawn, an impossible-to-ignore display of what continues to be wrong.
What have we done as a nation to require millions of school children (Yes, they are still children) to take time away from what should otherwise be a day of learning to show the grown-ups in their lives that they are worried, angry, scared, and legally powerless?
What have we done?
Pretty much nothing.
The generation that was raised with the constant awareness of gun violence in schools are doing something. They are marching and speaking and mobilizing.
At 17, my biggest concerns were college acceptance and pregnancy avoidance. My 17-year-old probably would include those as concerns of his generation, but because I failed him and all of his peers, his concerns are broader, scarier, and deadlier.
My 17-year-old son wrote this:
The “hopes and prayers” portion of the recent Parkland shooting is now over and we haven’t moved forward. There is nothing that has ensured the safety of every student in this country when their legal obligation is to attend a place, which in recent years, has become nothing more than a media attention, social media hashtag or a “one like equals one prayer.”
I can’t live in a state of questioning “who’s next” because it’s apparently “inevitable.” My fellow students have gone as far to say that they’re scared for [our shared school.]
We are not legislators, nor are we an administration in charge of a powerhouse that is slowly tumbling down the hill of incapability.
The most we can be is a voice, and as students, that voice is best put to use at the place where these fears are found . . . (T)here is no reprimand for your peaceful actions at [our shared school]. . . . I am not aware of the rules (your) school systems has put down for its students, but some things are worth getting in trouble for.
17 minutes for the 17 victims.
The more we speak out, the more that can be seen.
As I stood yesterday in solidarity with 300 students, four of which are my own children, and asked myself, over and over, “What have we done?” in those seventeen minutes of silence, I came to only one answer:
And for that I feel deep regret and permanent shame.