Lives Over Money

Parkland, Florida. The crazed shooter and 17 dead. Over the past 20 years, just about every level of formal education, from those 1st graders at Sandy Hook, to Virginia Tech, has gone through what is now commonly referred to as the active shooter nightmare. Of course, gun-toting wackos have shot up businesses, malls, movie theaters, fast food restaurants, commuter trains and seemingly any place that is not as well monitored as White House Security.

Having a blog ago vented about our 2nd Amendment-crazed, gung-ho, gun happy country and the NRA’s death grip on congress, I will get to this installment’s main line of thought: maybe, just maybe, there is a serious sense of urgency and needed action that is resonating with young people. By young, I don’t mean college aged young as with the 60s and their take-it-to-the-streets protests and administrative building sit-ins protesting the Vietnam War, or civil rights or the women’s movement–or, as in the famous line from the 1950s-era film The Wild One, when Marlon Brando, wearing his badass biker leather responds to a small town local who asks “What are you against?” responds, with casual, contained contempt, “What have ya got?”.

At first a handful of the students who lived that recent waking nightmare in Parkland spoke up, articulating their anger and disgust with the plain-as-daylight disinclination for our government to do something to protect students everywhere from another possible instantaneous transition from being in chemistry class to it being in a kill-zone.  Righteous anger, for damn sure. But that NRA. They snickered at Sandy Hook and dared congress to tighten gun laws. I would expect more of the same and still might, except…

…there might be a chance that high school students across the country, and others far and wide might join in voicing their we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore! response. Perhaps now IS the time to discuss gun control, then force action that leans towards sane, rational regulations.

But it’s mostly the teens that have come together and confronted our politics-as-usual approach to responding to yet another mass shooting that has me thinking the NRA and their bought and paid for lackeys in congress might have met their match. It’s still a long shot, inasmuch as the media can decide not to let their voices be heard any more than minimally necessary. But maybe even the lap-dog media (which gave President Looney Tunes a couple $ billion of free campaign air time during the 2016 primary season) may not be able to shut out these young people and their demands for action.

Based on the  official reaction to the protestors by the NRA (rather hysterically calling the protests staged and a form of creeping European socialism) and even some red state governor’s willingness to tighten gun laws, perhaps there’s reason for hope. After all, if the current crop of high school students, who will ultimately become of voting age, tell their local NRA leaning reps that it’s gun reform or you’re out of office, then maybe the GOP and many Democratic as well will finally grow a spine. In that case, with a spine finally part of their political anatomy, they’ll choose, as one of the protesters has put it, to morally place life over money, and reject the NRA’s ugly, Neanderthal ideology regarding not infringing on that 2nd Amendment.

It’s still more a pipe dream in my world rather than a safe bet, but back in the 60s,  many of the youth of America looked around, recognized what they felt were significant wrongs, and then took action. What were they against? Well, there was a lot back then–as noted above–and there’s a lot now. Yeah, the environment, consumer protections, immigration, LGBT issues, a rigged economy (do you have to ask who it is rigged for?) and seemingly endless wars in which we have those all-volunteer boots on the ground. Oh, and did I mention the environment, as in our planet may be on life support in the next half century? But none of those issues are any longer important to those dead 17 students and staff at the high school in Florida. Or those killed by any of the other “active shooter” scenarios that occur with such frequency now that they have become less and less shocking, though ever-more saddening. It’s very difficult for someone to care when he or she is lying on a slab in the morgue riddled by bullets from large, lethal weapons.

So, I tip my hat to the Parkland protesters and their widening ripple effect that is reaching their peer’s ears and making them wonder, at far too early an age to have to worry of such a thing, that some legally mentally ill but still able to legally buy an AR-15, might be living in their neighborhood, and decide that it’s time for him to act. Shouldn’t teenagers have a less terrifying thought in their heads? The fact that in many cases that is the thought in their head is, possibly, exactly the catalyst for them to act. As some are!

Time will tell. Lives over money. Hard to argue against that choice, right? Sure. No doubt, though, too radical a concept for the 2nd Amendment gun nuts and the NRA, I’m sure. These vocal high school students have been radicalized themselves. It must be a shocking thing for the gun lobby to have to spin against money trumping life. But they will try. It’s up to not just frightened teens, but the public-at-large to act.  Call to action, folks.

No time to waste. You and I know, somewhere, right now: there’s a man with gun over there, telling us we’d better beware.



About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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