Support youth ‘marching for their lives’

There was a question floating around the Twittersphere recently, which asked parents to chime in on what they might do if their teenager “disrespected a member of the U.S. Senate on television.”

The tweet was meant to be a jab at the Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivors who, days after seeing classmates and teachers gunned down by a former student filled with hatred and armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle, took to the streets and to televised town halls to confront politicians like Florida Senator Marco Rubio; and to tell the adults of the world that, when it comes to gun violence in this country, they’ve had enough excuses, enough pandering to the gun lobby and enough “thoughts and prayers.”

Parents chimed in all right. Most of the responses ranged from “thank them” to “buy them a unicorn and take them out for ice cream.” Probably not what the original poster had imagined. But a good reminder that there are plenty of awesome adults out there to support these incredible students.

We’re hoping that Camas-Washougal area adults will respond similarly to local youth planning to take part in the National School Walkout on March 14 or the March for Our Lives on March 24.

Both events are part of the growing, youth-led #NeverAgain movement, which is calling on Congress to take real, meaningful action on gun violence.

On a recent episode of NBC’s Meet the Press, a Parkland shooting survivor, Alex Wind, explained that the students were fed up with all the killing.

“We’re marching because it’s not just schools. It’s movie theaters, it’s concerts, it’s nightclubs. This kind of stuff can’t just happen,” Wind said. “You know, we are marching for our lives, we’re marching for the 17 lives we lost. And we’re marching for our children’s lives and our children’s children and their children.”

Camas and Washougal youth who join in the upcoming marches should feel proud to be a part of such an outspoken and passionate movement.

These students are calling for a ban on the type of assault rifle used in the Parkland attack and speaking out against Donald Trump’s plan to arm public school teachers with yet more guns.

“School safety is not a political issue. There cannot be two sides to doing everything in our power to ensure the lives and futures of children who are at risk of dying when they should be learning, playing, and growing,” states the March for Our Lives website.

Unfortunately, many adults don’t see it this way. More than 100,000 of them, for instance, have tuned in to right-wing videos on YouTube, touting a ludicrous conspiracy theory about the students being Democrat-controlled “crisis actors” pretending to be victims. Even more sickening: many of the Parkland survivors have reported getting death threats for their calls to enact common sense gun control. Some adults have even taken to FOX News and other right-wing media shows to ridicule the teens and question how anyone so young could pull off something like a national movement to end gun violence.

To those last folks, we ask: Have you ever been a teenager?

Young people — the most fearless of us all — have always known how to change the world.

Consider Malala Yousafzai. In 2014, at age 17, after surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban and becoming an activist for young girls and women, Malala became the youngest person ever to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

And then there’s Nza-Ari Khepra. In 2013, Nza-Ari’s friend, Hadiya Pendleton, an honors student who had participated in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural celebration just days before, was gunned down in a park near the girls’ school. After Hadiya’s senseless death, Nza-Ari founded Project Orange Tree, a national, teen-run awareness campaign that educates youth about violence and its systemic roots. The young people “marching for their lives,” can see that our society is ill. They have the answer. They know there’s a cure. Now it’s up to us, the adults, to actually listen to them.