Five days have passed since the school shootings in Parkland, Florida—five excruciating days for the families and friends of those killed and injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
As painful has it been for those of us who are touched by the danger only from the safe distance of the news, can you imagine their pain and grief?
According to a Washington Post analysis of Google data, if past attacks by deranged gunmen are any indication, public interest in their grief will have dropped today by about 75% of what it was the day after the tragedy. Politicians know that our memories for mass shootings are short, and they need only weather the first week until we’re no longer focused on gun control.
Of course, not everyone searches the Internet for news, but what we see in our newsfeeds on social media is also an indicator of how long such events stay on the radar screen of most Americans.
I have to admit that I sometimes have to stop watching and thinking about such horrific events, so I click on links less often as the days go on. If I don’t, my dreams are filled with the anxiety of worrying about my own loved ones. Although I retired over a year ago, this weekend I dreamed I tried to hide my students under a table, in a futile modern-day version of duck and cover, as a masked gunman with an assault rifle burst through the door, just as I awoke, my heart racing.
This time, though, watching those courageous young people at MSDHS, I can’t turn away as easily, even for my own peace of mind. In these first few days, their anger has largely silenced politicians who are usually quick to spout the NRA talking points demanded in return for the campaign money they’ve received. There’s something different about this, and we need to seize the day.
Stories speak to us, and I plan to follow those students because they are my hope for the future. I owe it to them to stay engaged.
I owe it to all our young people—to this entire generation of our nation’s children, who are learning a fear that was once limited to children in war-torn nations far away from America’s shores.
Consider this post that appeared in my newsfeed from a friend—a mom who is one of the strongest people I know, a survivor of a cancer that nearly killed her in her twenties before she could even think about having children. She believed in her future, and she worked far harder than most of us do to have a child. In a just world she should never have to worry about this:
So…I just did it. I just asked [my son] if he knew what a lock down drill was. Without much affect, he said, “It’s a drill that we have to hide in the back of the room and stay really quiet. Our teacher has to close all the blinds and lock the doors.” I responded, “Do you know why?” He then said, “Yes, in case a bad guy gets into the building and wants to kill us with a gun. He is more likely to come into our room if he can hear us and so we stay really quiet.” I bit my lip and did my best to not show my own fear. I told him that I’m glad he practices that drill, but I am so sorry that he even has to know that bad people like this exist. He then asked me if I knew if a bad guy was near his school now. I told him that there is no need to worry when there is no fact that anyone like this exists close to our home…but, the main thing is that he practices this drill and is prepared and that everyone in that school loves him and would do anything to protect him—-and that I truly believe.
Or consider this story, not someone I know but one that came to me through the friend of a friend of a friend, as social media posts often do:
My daughter came home from school one day crying that she needed new shoes. I thought that perhaps someone had made fun of her over her shoes, but no. She informed me that she realized during an active shooter drill, that if she’s hiding from the shooter, the lights on her Sketchers will give away her location. My baby is 8 years old and worrying about being shot because of her light up shoes.
Parents all over the country are having conversations they should never have to have—worrying about whether their children will be the next victims sacrificed to the idol of gun rights that demands our nation’s blood sacrifice on a regular basis.
Another friend—also a cancer survivor—had this to say about America’s voracious appetite for guns:
I don’t care about your weapon, and if it brings you joy, then enjoy it at the range or while you shoot animals. What I do care about is getting shot, and about my babies being allowed to live their lives. Military-style weapons should be reserved for the military and law enforcement. Armed societies are not safer societies. If that fact has ever been proven wrong, I’m listening. I’d like to be able to send my kids to school and see a movie with them in a crowded theater without thinking of how I would cover them. Can we start there?
Indeed. Sensible measures have been proposed, but those measures have not been allowed out of committee and have never made it to the floor of Congress for a vote. After the tragedy in Las Vegas, even the NRA came out in support of tightening restrictions on bump stocks, which the shooter used to give his weapon the high capacity of an automatic weapon.
How much have you heard about bump stocks this year?
We live in a world where the survival of a news outlet depends on how many clicks it gets from readers. Even the best news outlets must pay attention to the number of search engine hits they get, the number of times people share links to articles on social media.
In such a world, what can we do? Here are a few ideas:
- Use the search feature on your favorite credible source at least once a day to find a new article on key words like “gun control,” “gun legislation,” or one of the sites of these tragedies, like “Sandy Hook Elementary” or “Las Vegas shootings.”
- If you can’t bring yourself to hear another story, remember that you don’t even have to read the article. Clicking on it to open it will make it appear as part of the Google Trends.
- Subscribe to the digital version of the national newspaper you find most credible, preferably one that has a long track record of being credible.
- Do your best to encourage high school seniors who are disgusted by the inaction of adults to register to vote before the mid-term elections. Here’s a link to my recent blog post to help you with that.
- If you’re on Twitter, tweet your encouragement to the young people at MSDHS who are marshaling support for this cause: @davidhogg111, @cameron_kasky, @Emma4Change, and @delaneytarr.
- Think about attending an event in your city for the March for Our Lives, currently being organized by the survivors in Parkland and other students around the country.
We have two days to break the trend that has happened within a week of every mass shooting in recent years. If you’ve read this far, consider going back and clicking on every link in this blog post.
Remember the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook Elementary, the Navy Yard, the Pulse nightclub, San Bernardino Inland Regional Center, Sutherlands First Baptist Church, Charleston Emanuel AME Church, and Columbine High School.
With only a few clicks from each of us, we can help ensure America won’t forget these senseless deaths. And perhaps we’ll even be protecting our own children and grandchildren from the next deranged person before he can get his hands on a high capacity gun.