Here’s a big note of appreciation to the brave and powerful students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They took the adversity that was thrown at them and exemplify the adage of speaking truth to power. Seeing Emma Gonzales speak at that rally, all that fierce power and raw emotion, I was in awe.
Likewise seeing Cameron Kasky go face-to-face at the CNN town meeting with Marco Rubio and not back down; wow. I hope this issue will resonate across the country, and not only to the youth. I hope that adults recognize that they need to have this young generation’s back as they fight for a saner future. It is the least we can do, as we are the generations on whose watch this madness has developed.
I am reminded and have distinct memories of a day in fifth grade when we did a nuclear bomb drill, around 1961-62. It was not the silliness of duck and cover. No, we instead single-filed to hallways that did not have any windows and sat silently, backs to the wall, head down to our knees and remained there for about ten or fifteen minutes.
That may have been my first taste of what could be called meditation. In that empty silence and in the days that followed, I processed whether I’d ever get home if a nuclear exchange happened, and whether I would want to bring a kid into this mad world. I have no idea if others in my generation were affected by that shared experience as I was, but we sure grew up to challenge the status quo as the counter culture bloomed across the country.
Another big event for me was a shooting of students my age by National Guardsmen at Kent State in the spring of 1970. Jeffrey Miller, the dead young man on the ground in that iconic photo, was me. He looked like me and was doing what I would’ve been doing that day. I was “woke” that day with a commitment that still burns, that we need to fight back, raise awareness and build resistance.
For all the kids across the country who have to experience shooter drills, to be herded into closets or lay on the floor away from windows and wait for the all clear, may their minds awaken and, instead of isolation, feel the unity these MSD students are showing us.
The MSD students knew this kid, they warned about this kid, authorities were notified about him. We need to do better and deal with these sad and damaged humans in our midst. Help needs to be available.
Stigma needs to be eliminated about getting help. “Mental illness” was a term easily tossed into the discussion, but that is unfair to those have to deal with issues like depression, OCD, bi-polar, or autism.
Is being racist, or anti-Semitic, or misogynist, or xenophobic a mental illness? This kid was a member of his school’s NRA-supported junior ROTC shooting team. He was wearing the club shirt when he was arrested! We as a society need to deal with the fact that people now can find re-enforcement for a wide range of mal-adaptive attitudes and activities and even join groups of people who share such points of view.
The availability of guns is a big problem, yes, but the hate, fear and alienation need to be addressed as well. This will not be an easy fix, but we need to recognize how deep the problem goes.
Seeing solidarity walk-outs across the country is a powerful sign this IS resonating. MSD students could have just had hand-holding prayer circles and made a mountain of flowers. But no, they went at the problem head on. They had the audacity to think big, and put their grief and anger into fighting back, speaking out against the NRA and impacting it like no group has before. Legislatures are squirming in their presence, corporations, too. In drawing big crowds in Tallahassee, Washington, DC, and so many other places, they are seeing their power, and they know they are not alone.
Saturday, March 24, at 11am is the March For Our Lives at the Bo Diddley Plaza. See you there. D