By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
Last year, the #metoo rebellion moved mountains and brought giants to their knees – forever changing the tone of the entire national conversation on sexual harassment and assault.
The dynamic and game changing impact of that movement may pale in comparison to what evolves from outrage in the wake of high school students slain in Parkland – at the time considered the safest place in Florida.
From the school’s survivors, and other students across the U.S. movements have sprung up in the aftermath, rejecting the so-called “new normal” for their generation. Thousands of teenagers, including many still too young to vote, have become grassroots activists. Social media has become a tool for their ideas and campaigns to spread.
That means these youthful revolutionaries have no dependency on the fickle conventional news media to sustain their energy or drum up support. There is nothing that the system can do to deny youthful social media communication among their constituency. This medium is unable to edit what they say, how they say it, to whom they speak or how often.
Information is knowledge. Communication is power.
Of course, there will be cynics who will not believe in the possibility for change until they see it. They point to failed efforts of the past. Some dismiss efforts with the charge that the most recent calls for gun control are no different to those in the aftermath of other tragedies. But this time around, the maturity and voracity of the students publicly voicing their demands has led many to say this time feels different.
One of the Parkland students who survived the massacre makes the point.
“In Newtown the students were so young they couldn’t stand up, but trust me – we are going to be the change,” Parkland survivor Alex Wind told the BBC, recounting being forced to huddle in darkness with 60 other students for over an hour and a half as shots rang out throughout their school. That memory will not fade.
The threat to many revolutions is the cause or leadership compromising principles or their mission. Often it boils down to corruption by the offer of money or status. In this case, there is no price to entice sellouts. These young people watched friends die in pools of blood after pleading desperately for their lives.
Despite its deep pockets, there will be no buyout from the National Rifle Association (NRA), elected officials or any other group trying to thwart student protests. What could possibly compensate for the awful memory of stepping over dead or bleeding classmates to flee the scene?
No. This one will not just go away, like Occupy Wall Street and much of the Black Lives Matter momentum. This is a different ball game. The only thing that will temper the ire of the children and adults most severely impacted will be evidence to prove the 17 did not die in vain; substantive, sustainable change.
Their fight will not be easy. It will get nasty. Never underestimate NRA resistance to change – even in the face of their children facing death in schools. Some are accusing student protesters to be “crisis actors” – “coached by the left.” Donald Trump Jr. even “liked” and “retweeted” some of this mindless babble.
Those who temper the student protest for more gun control toss out red herrings like mental illness, lack of law enforcement response to warnings, lack of fathers in the family, inadequate school security, movies and video games. Anything, but the sale of automatic weapons to virtually anyone who tries to buy them.
You may not know the story of a Florida student who came to school a week after the Parkland tragedy toting a similarly potent automatic weapon. Eighteen-year-old Dillon Nathaniel Xynides brought an AR-15 rifle to Pasco High School in Dade City. Police said they do not believe that the teenager planned a threat to the school, but that the decision to bring the gun was a “terrible decision.”
School administrators found the rifle and ammunition in his truck. Officials were convinced that there was “no reason to believe there was a threat, implied or otherwise. Poor judgment is what we can chalk this up to,” said Dade City Acting Police Chief James Walters, according to local media.
Police charged Xynides with a lenient third-degree felony for bringing the assault weapon to school. The disturbing point of this story is that a teenager, with no more common sense than to bring an assault weapon to school a week after a horrific nearby tragedy, was able to own such a potential weapon of mass destruction.
If these determined young militants protesting in Florida and around the nation have their way, change may come sooner than most people think.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.