U is for “Underbelly”: March for Our Lives

On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, a 19-year old boy walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and fired his weapon, killing 17 students (Washington Post, 2/15/18). On  Saturday, March 24, people around the U.S.A. and the world rallied in different towns and cities (The New York Times, 3/24/18). I participated in Denver’s rally with one of my church’s preschool students, her family, and other supporters from our church. We went with the intention to voice our desire for gun laws to be changed- so that our students and school staff don’t keep getting fucking shot.

Students are learning that the United States’ current political scene will be slow to meet students’ (and their allies’) demands for stricter gun laws. They are seeing an ugly underbelly of their country. This what I’m gathering: the deaths at Douglas High have really hit home, not just to students, but to the entire country; that many people are angry with the NRA’s stance and lack of flexibility in addressing how individuals acquire guns, especially assault weapons like the ones used in Parkland and Aurora’s shootings; and that students’ pleas and brave demands to accommodate their safety have entered gridlock with the NRA, Congress, and many elected officials.

In Denver’s rally, I heard a young speaker say “If you wait, it will be too late.” He’s right.

These are other powerful sound bites of students around the U.S.:

“And some of our policy makers – and some people need to look – they need to look in the mirror and take some action because ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas, and children die.” – David Hogg, senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, speaking on CNN’s show “New Day” (National Public Radio, 2/17/18)

“…and  we know that we have seven short years until we too have the right to vote.” – Naomi Wadler (11 years old), speaking to Washington D.C. March for Our Lives audience (Sand Hills Express, online newspaper in Broken Bow Nebraska, story by ABC News Radio, 3/24/18)

“My grandfather had a dream that his four little children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character…I have a dream that enough is enough, and that this should be a gun-free world, period.” – Yolanda Renee King (9 years old) speaking to Atlanta March for Our Lives audience (Fox News, 3/24/18)

“[Students of color and immigrants] have been scared for our lives for a long time…But especially now when our classmates are feeling bolder about being racist, flying Confederate flags on their backpacks or yelling ‘build a wall’ at the Latino students, it makes you more fearful.” – Camila Duarte (18 years old), Venezuelan student at Pompano Beach High School, 15 miles away from Parkland (WLRN Radio for South Miami region, 3/23/18)

“Instead of worrying about if you’re going to get gunned down at a school, you should worry about getting good SAT scores or passing a test.” – Anakaren Salinas, junior at Pflugerville High School when addressing Pflugerville, TX’s March for Our Lives audience (Report by Mike Parker for Statesman, online Texas news source, 3/24/18)

“Chicago has been plagued with gun violence way before the Parkland shooting…Suddenly, people are talking about students not feeling safe in schools. But in reality, students in our city’s South and West Sides have never felt safe.” – Juan Reyes, a high school student with Chicago Student Union and speaker at Chicago’s March for Our Lives (The New York Times, 3/24/18)

It’s not enough to say that these students are “brave” and “inspiring.” They are advocating for their lives because they have to- take note that Sandy Hook happened in 2012. And what has happened with gun control in the United States in those 6 years? The database Gun Violence Archive counted at least 1,625 mass shootings since the slaughter at Sandy Hook. Something is very wrong, America.

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