The tragic lesson about the world came from the shooting at Parkland High School on Valentine's Day. Six minutes of unmitigated violence by a shooter with an automatic rifle mowed down fourteen students and three teachers. The emotions of survivors ran from disbelief, to horror, to fear, to relief, to grief, to guilt, to anger. The magnitude of each emotion was on a scale no one had ever experienced before.
The second more individualized lesson slowly evolved and then gained momentum. Through social media the students reached out in an ever-widening network, connecting with others across the land who had also survived horrific gun violence and life-shattering grief. The network included the survivors and loved ones of victims of past mass-shootings-- Sandy Hook, Pulse Night Club, the Las Vegas concert and more. None of them are afraid to name guns as a crucial part of the problem.
There are lots of statistics about gun ownership but the number that stuck in my head is that for every 100 Americans, men, women and children, there are 88.8 guns. After every shooting, people organized and lobbied congress and their local politicians to do something about the lax gun laws. The pace of the news cycle was their enemy. It did not take long for Gabby Gifford, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Every town for Gun Safety, Women Against Gun Violence and more to discover that their efforts to change gun ownership laws have been stymied.
But the students of Parkland High School were not stopped by what everyone else learned was true-- that lobbying congress doesn't work. They were already a close-knit society and they were old enough to think for themselves. The seeds for a peaceful uprising were present. The baby steps they initiated towards the formation of a potentially effective activist organization produced results that lit up their eyes with possibilities. Nay-sayers were ignored. The students found their voices as they recruited help. By the time the March for Our Lives took place, five weeks later, practice had made the leaders articulate, powerful and irresistible in recruiting others. The streets were jammed with tens of thousands catching the momentum. Millions showed up around the world to join their cause.
I have been worried that we are losing our democracy. The good life, here in America, has lulled us into complacency as special interests have purchased our lawmakers and Russia has infiltrated our social media to shape opinions. But now I have hope. These near-adult children have started a movement focused on a single issue just as the Children's March in 1963 galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. Grown-ups beware. These young people have time, strategies, and determination on their side. There is light in their eyes. If they sustain and grow their numbers, we have a simple choice: we either join them or get out of their way.