"These adults, these politicians, these lawmakers, these legislators, they were supposed to protect us. And they didn't."
-- Julia Bishop, 18, Parkland, Fla., student
"Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength ..."
-- Psalms 8:2,
Of all the horrific tragedies possible to experience in life, surely nothing could be worse than the loss of one's child. It's not a stretch to say most parents, as reflex without thought, would sacrifice their own lives in a heartbeat to save their child, maybe because our children actually are our lives. We know at the core of our being that part of us will die inside if we lose them.
I knew a young mom many years ago whose 4-year-old daughter's nightgown caught on fire, burning her so severely that the doctors had to manually pump her heart to try to keep her alive. They failed on the same day her father was arriving home from Vietnam, unaware that more horror awaited him. I asked this mother how one goes on after such loss, and she looked me in the face, her voice very flat. "First I started by forcing myself to breathe every 10 seconds."
What is not calculated in tallying death is the devastation to those outside the casket. Everyone has, or has had, two parents, four grandparents and perhaps a few siblings and/or a spouse and children. It would not be excessive to say at least 10 people connect with each of us, multiplying the waves of tragedy by 10.
The expression "enough is enough" is insulting. "Enough" is too many if you are a parent holding your dead child and you never want to breathe again. "Enough" as an adjective means "adequate," "plenty," "abundant," and the word's coldest synonym, "sufficient," implying there is a number that is bearable or tolerable or acceptable or endurable or reasonable. This word does not fit murder, although it is understandable that victims say it to mean, "Never Again."
What is so admirable about the head-on actions taken by the students of Parkland, Fla., is their instant response to the unacceptable. They have faced down their governor, their senators, their legislators, the FBI, the police and the president. They bused 448 miles to voice their demands at their state capital, but gutless legislators had voted before they arrived to not even discuss banning assault weapons.
With no tolerance for fatalistic moaning of how nothing can be changed, these future voters are instead defying social inertia with "lead, follow, or get out of the way" energy. So far they have created a lie-in protest in Washington, D.C., have given speeches at rallies and inspired kids across the country to walk out of school in symbolic unity with them. (Do not miss Emma Gonzalez's "We call BS" speech on YouTube.) At a CNN Town Hall meeting, they took Sen. Marco Rubio, who thinks of himself as presidential material, to the mat about the National Rifle Association money he accepts. They are promoting 17-minute school walkouts nationwide to honor their dead on March 14, and the March for Our Lives on March 24 to demand changes in gun laws. They did all that in just the first week after the shooting.
Locally about 300 people attended a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense In America meeting last week, where high school students also spoke eloquently for gun sanity. There are now seven chapters in Arkansas, which can be found on Facebook, and a meeting for educators will be Wednesday night.
The Florida high school teens, who lost their innocence inside a real-time civics lesson, have had the guts and fortitude to do and say what paralyzed adults and their political parties have not. Perhaps they get their gumption and inspiration from environmentalist Majorie Stoneman Douglas, who spent much of her 108 years fighting to save Florida's Everglades and for whom their high school is named. She wrote: "Be a nuisance where it counts; do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged and disappointed, at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics -- but never give up."
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence data show that every day in our country, an average of seven children (ages 0-19) die from gun violence, or 2,647 a year, and a tally of 33,880 people of all ages per year. Multiply these tragedies by 10, and then please ask our politicians if these numbers are "sufficient" for them to act.
Commentary on 02/27/2018
Print Headline: The young speak loudly