In the days following the awful school shooting in Parkland, Florida, it’s become clear that this shooting is not following the usual script of prayers, condolences and let’s move on. What’s different this time is the kids.
Historians may study what made the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School different than all the other survivors of school shootings, but for now, all I can do is salute and admire their wide-open hearts, and the way they are allowing their passion for justice to blaze out fearlessly into the world.
Emma Gonzalez, fiercely wiping away her tears as she cried bullshit on the politicians who aren’t brave enough to confront the National Rifle Association and enact policy to protect civilians from military-grade weapons.
David Hogg, gravely keeping the focus on gun control even as right-wing trolls smeared him, totally falsely, as a “paid actor” working for the gun control lobby.
It has been heartwarming and galvanizing to watch these teenagers take the podium in the wake of tragedy and speak truth to power, shifting the emphasis of the moment from pious “how terribles” to defiant “never agains.”
The adults—shocked, grieving, frustrated on one side, cynical, calloused and unfeeling on the other—have all been sidelined for the moment, watching open-mouthed as these young people argue eloquently for the simple right to go to school in peace.
Children in many countries today do not have that right. Girls in Nigeria are routinely abducted at gunpoint from their schools. Are the schools even still functioning in war-torn Syria or Somalia? We in the U.S. take the relative safety of our communities for granted, until the next mass shooting rears its ugly head and reveals the violence that simmers just under the surface, too often directed at women and children behind the closed doors of their homes.
Valentine’s Day is also V-Day, an international holiday founded by Eve Ensler, the tireless protestor of violence against women and girls. In 2018 V-Day, now under the umbrella of an organization called One Billion Rising, celebrated its 20th anniversary in protests that take the form of dance.
I admit that when the dance protests were first proposed some years ago, I had my doubts. Could we seriously protest against violence by dancing?
Now I see the wisdom of this approach. Unlike speeches and marches, dancing engages the whole person—body, mind, spirit—and creates a collective work of art that is beautiful to behold and energizing to join.
And here’s the thing: we can’t fight the ugliness of violence with more ugliness, just as we can’t change the world for the better with hardened, calloused hearts.
The brave beauty of the young people of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is bringing me to tears, and in that rush of emotion—crackling like an electric charge between the kids and the adults listening to them—lies our best hope for positive change.
In these tough times, it’s essential to keep our bodies moving, our hearts open and our fierce Shambhala warrior spirits alive. We adults can draw inspiration, energy and courage from the young people who are speaking up for justice, and together we will keep our dream of a safe, beautiful, harmonious world alive.
Listen to Emma Gonzalez:
“Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been done to prevent this, we call BS.
They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS.
They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS.
They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS.
That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.
If you agree, register to vote. Contact your local congresspeople. Give them a piece of your mind.”
Check out the list of politicians taking NRA money, recently published as a two-page ad in the New York Times.
And then, follow your open heart…to action.