Young people getting politically involved after Parkland shooting gives a sense of hope


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After the February 14 shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, the nation found itself forced to talk about teenagers.

It wasn’t the usual “kids these days” dialogue we’ve been hearing since Socrates griped about hedonistic Athenian youth a couple of thousand years ago. This was more along the lines of “Look what these kids are making happen.”

Thousands marched in Florida demanding gun regulation. Hundreds more visited Washington, D.C., where they staged a “die-in,” lying on the steps of the Capitol Building in symbolism of all the lives lost to gun violence in America.

Democrats and the left, predictably, are thrilled. ““The shooting in Parkland demands extraordinary action,” Florida State Representative Kionne McGhee. “(There) has been a broad national conversation about the epidemic of gun violence in this country,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor. “It’s being led by a group of brave high school students, the friends, classmates of the fallen…”

Conservative media is largely sympathetic, although for the most part, they are insisting that the problem is not guns but a lapse in cultural values. “”Tragedies like this happen for a reason, and it probably doesn’t have a lot to do with guns,” said Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson. “”The solution, to me and I know this is going to cause all kinds of angst, the solution is we need concealed carry in these schools,” conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh told Chris Wallace.

The larger conversation, quite independent of partisan bias, seems approving enough. “Keep it up, students,” wrote the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, hardly a left-wing publication. “Keep reminding adults that they have failed for decades in their central duty — to protect the nation’s children.”

Indeed, adolescents of this generation and many beforehand are used to being urged to get involved, to buy in, to realize that Your Voice Matters and Decisions are Made By Those Who Show Up. The implication, it seems, is that too many of our nation’s youth are too captivated by their smart phones and grade point averages to look up from their flickering screens and behold the world around them and the change they can effect on their own.

The Parkland response calls out that stereotype, as do the many youth organizations that have rallied, particularly in the past year, against the injustices they perceive in the country and in their communities. The #MeToo movement has found a voice in high school and middle school students (yes, you read that right) who have been harassed and now feel empowered to speak up about it. Scroll through social media and for every post about eating a sandwich, you’ll find many more, written by millennials, decrying racism, sexism, violence and any number of issues. So the notion that teenagers have been checked out all this time, and the fact that this notion is so easily disproven, should make the country sit up a little and wonder what else they’ve got wrong about “kids these days.”

“(These) students are a part of a generation that has flipped the script by rejecting the mandate that adults know what is best,” Teen Vogue journalist Lauren Duca wrote recently. “High schools are designated as non-political sites because there is an assumption that youth are not impacted by politics. Teens, especially, are regarded as inheritors of government, as if the transitory period between childhood and adulthood denies them total experience of the political reality, as if you only experience the impact of governance once you are old enough to vote.”

Adults: Stop telling teenagers to wake up. They’re already woke. How about you?

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Young people getting politically involved after Parkland shooting gives a sense of hope