It was moving listening to the youngsters from Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school who have become activists in response to the unspeakable horror they witnessed first-hand when 17 of their friends were gunned down in front of them. They show us what it means to first cry for their friends and the loved ones, then to support each other and organize so no one else will have to go through what they did.
Their first goal has been reached with the March For Our Lives and its amazing success. Now as they continue to organize they really need our help. They will only claim victory and be satisfied when everyone registers and VOTES and when we all stand with them as they tell our politicians, “your thoughts and prayers mean nothing if you don’t follow them up with action.”
The March For Our Lives rallies across the nation brought together millions of Americans led by youngsters from schools in every city and town. In the more than 840 individual marches and rallies young people led us, awed us and energized us. Now we must stand with them and support them as they continue to organize and motivate people to VOTE only for politicians who are willing to say NO to money from the National Rifle Association.
I attended the March in D.C. where close to 800,000 responded to their call and heard from those young activists from Parkland, Fla. We listened to 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds from Parkland. We heard from an 11-year-old awesome young woman from Alexandria, Va., and from Martin Luther King Jr.’s nine-year-old granddaughter. It was clear right away when hearing those children and the passion with which they spoke that the future is in good hands.
I am committed to supporting the work they are doing and to challenging all my friends to do the same. These youngsters will do what my generation and all the generations between them and me haven’t been able to do and finally make Americans understand the Second Amendment wasn’t written to allow weapons of war on the streets of America during peacetime. In their grief these amazing children have given all of us a second chance to get this right.
We owe it to all our children and teachers and the thousands of others who have died across this great nation from gun violence. The statistics are staggering. Each day, 96 people die from guns and twice as many are injured; 13,000 homicides a year. We have a population in this country of about 317 million people who collectively own more than 350 million guns. There is only one word for that: insanity.
As our children move forward we must focus all our efforts in support of them. We know too often in our communities of color children are killed and we don’t hear about it. That must change. Every one of our precious children deserves to grow up to live a full and productive life. As David Hogg, one of the Parkland student activists said, “We don’t do this as Republicans or Democrats, we do it as Americans.” I say we do it as decent, caring human beings.
We live in a time of chaos around the world and have a president and administration creating chaos here at home. A president enabling the alt-right, Nazis, sexists, racists and homophobes to feel more secure in voicing their hatred in the public square. We have a president who is clearly schizophrenic and sits with members of Congress, parents and students one day telling them not to fear the NRA and then changes his tone and shows his own complicity with the NRA the next. A president who leaves town to escape being seen with those who oppose the NRA and sends a tweet highlighting his one and only accomplishment, banning bump-stocks, a move the students rightfully called giving them breadcrumbs when they are demanding real action to save lives.
So as we get closer to Nov. 6, 2018, when we can change the Congress, we must stand tall and support these student activists with every breath. They deserve no less from us as they fight for a better future for all.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.