After the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, students have captured the spotlight by demanding action from their country as a response to our collective, complete lack of action or even willingness to do anything about gun violence. The question now is that while students are willing to lead the parade, is anyone willing to follow?
By David Todd McCarty, The Standard
tudents from various Cape May County high schools are planning on joining a nationwide Walkout on March 14 at 10am. The protests are set to last 17 minutes as a tribute to the 17 students killed in Florida, but many student organizers are expanding their protests to include moments of silence, speeches and chants. Peaceful protests against absurd and preventable violence.
The visual of kids protesting has proven to be powerful and will surely attract the attention of the media, but questions remain about the long-term effectiveness in bringing about actual change. Hundreds of students from the very school where the shooting took place traveled to Tallahassee to confront lawmakers and were met with silence. Parents from Sandy Hook pled with members of Congress after their tragedy and were met with platitudes and inaction.
So now, we have a nationwide walkout. Young people love a good protest. It feels good to take back some power when you constantly move through a world where you have very little. It’s why prison riots happen. It’s why inner city riots happen. When you have nothing left to lose, and no power to change things, you’ll burn down your own house just to prove a point. When it comes to social justice, even bad publicity is better than being ignored.
No word yet on whether there is any plan for adults to join them. I can understand teachers and administrators standing aside and allowing the kids to have their time and space to use their voices, and I’m not suggesting adults attempt to lead them, but where is the support? How do we support their efforts? Will parents be there? Teachers? Police?
School shootings seem to touch us more deeply than other types of mass shootings. Children are somehow seen as more innocent and less deserving of being gunned down, as if anyone deserves to be murdered.
We’ve seen workplace shootings, and random shootings like the one in Las Vegas. We’re becoming increasingly immune to the shock and horror. The truth is, the entire country has been victim to the violence of the cult of the Second Amendment, and we should all be angry.
Youth is a powerful commodity. The energy and focus are something we too often lose as we age. We know too much. We’ve seen too much. We understand that this is the world we live in and nothing will change. We become jaded.
But the thing is, the world always changes. The next generation comes along and says, “Yeah, I don’t think so.” And they go about changing it. There is no perfect plan; no perfect society. With each new change, new obstacles present themselves and demand new solutions. It’s never ending. We seem to take two steps forward, and one step back. Recently it feels like several dozen steps back and none forward, but progress marches on. It always does.
Here in Cape May County, New Jersey, it feels like this isn’t the sort of place where that sort of gun violence could happen. This false sense of security is how they felt the day before it happened in Columbine, Sandy Hook and now Parkland. We are a gun culture here in Cape May County. More Red than Blue. Plenty of guns in a wide range of households. Lots of economic disparity. A huge opioid epidemic. Lack of social services. Lack of opportunity, especially for our youth. Couldn’t it happen here?
The children want to be heard on March 14.
Are we listening?
David Todd McCarty is a writer, director, photographer and cinematographer living in Goshen, NJ. He is also a Partner and Executive Creative Director for an International Advertising Agency outside of Philadelphia.