To the participants in the 800+ Marches for Our Lives happening all over the world today:
You shouldn’t have to be doing this. You shouldn’t have to make a statement that you just want to live life without fearing for your end by an AR-15. Those who actually spearheaded today’s movement – the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting – should be mourning their fallen classmates and staff, healing from this gut-wrenching experience, and focus on getting readjusted to school. If you wanted to take it a step further, the shooting – or any of the mass shootings for that matter – shouldn’t have happened. There should be a lot less broken families in this country and more loved ones still among us.
But with representatives who care more about their blood money from the NRA and less about spilled blood, who are not making any motive to make a change for the better, it’s clear why this needs to happen. This is the spark of a revolution that will bring the sitting ducks of Congress down.
What makes this movement even more incredible is apart from it taking place long after the news would have stopped talking about the shooting, it’s even including the cause that’s being fought for by the Black Lives Matter movement. While there is an issue with civilians who are getting their hands on weapons otherwise meant for military and authority figures, there is also a huge, clearly racist problem with – more often than not – white police officers abusing that power. Just this past week, 22-year-old Stephon Clark died after being shot 20 times by Sacramento police in his own backyard, when his phone was supposedly mistaken as a gun (I say “supposedly” because I’m not buying their excuse). The fact that David Hogg actually mentioned this latest instance of police brutality in a statement earlier this week is powerful. These two epidemics, while different in several ways, also share common ground.
This fight for change reminds me not only of movements in the past where marches and protests led to change that we benefit from now, it also reminds me so much of the protest led by my protagonist, Sonya Ogino, in An Absolute Mind; another indicator of how life continues to imitate art in the time since the novel’s release. After other instances of this phenomenon, I believe that when life imitates art, it’s because what is depicted in art is just too true to reside as just that. While that is sometimes a bad thing, in this case, it’s quite the contrary. In fact, if any of the marches today wind up performing a haka, to be surprised would be an understatement.
While I, like many, do not know what it’s like to live life as a survivor of a mass shooting, I can say that I know what it’s like to experience that fear. I’ve never really told anyone this, but when I was a senior in high school, I experienced a lockdown. Local police found a 16-year-old near the school with a loaded gun and was immediately arrested. There were six or seven others with him, who took off running for the campus. Assuming the worst – assuming they were all armed – a lockdown went underway. The police departments from the two nearby cities were brought in, the S.W.A.T. team was brought in, and parents flooded the outside area of the school.
The tense situation eventually deescalated into being a frustrating one. We were on lockdown for five hours, only to eventually learn that the other kids didn’t have weaponry of any kind on them. No one got hurt and no one died, thankfully. And yet, I’ll always remember that sweep of fear I felt in the beginning; where the possibility of being gunned to death felt very real, and the rumors that had spread about another class being held hostage definitely added to that.
My high school’s lockdown took place two and a half years after the Virginia Tech shooting, and a decade after Columbine. All of this should have stopped with the latter.
What disgusts me even more apart from lawmakers not doing anything to make guns harder to get is that there are actually some who have the nerve to say that they want to arm teachers. I like many others find this absolutely ridiculous, and I’m sure my war veteran grandfather would agree. When he became a teacher, he knew that he would be working in a place of learning; not another war zone.
It is long passed time for much needed change to occur, and I commend everyone who is participating in the marches today. While I unfortunately will not be able to join in due to a commitment already made, know that I will be there in spirit.
To close off this open letter, let me end it on two interestingly relevant quotes from two particular films that have come out within the past three months.
To my generation and the generations after mine: No matter what the sitting ducks of Congress may tell you, no matter how many adults will try to say that you don’t know what you’re talking about, I share with you this altered quote from Yoda in “The Last Jedi”: “[They] are what [we] grow beyond.”
As for the other quote, I share with you one of the many wonderfully blunt moments from Okoye in “Black Panther” (one that should go on one of the many signs being carried today): “Guns… so primitive.”