Every year in Canada, we hold a memorial to the 14 victims of the Ecole Polytechnique mass shooting. It’s a horrendous event that left a scar on our nation, a lasting reminder of how dangerous misogyny really is, and led to Parliament immediately introducing a law tightening restrictions on firearms. We call it 14 not Forgotten, one reason being that we want to make sure it stays 14. Also, last year, a pro-gun group tried to protest on the day of the memorial, and we collectively told them to fuck off.
Similarly, the UK has been scarred by the Dunblane Massacre which killed 16 children and 1 teacher. That led to the government banning almost all firearms (the Conservative government, in fact), and they haven’t had a school shooting since. Australia and Germany were also quick to tighten firearm restrictions after their own school shootings.
I’m not saying this out of hatred for the USA, quite the opposite. Reflecting on our own horrors with gun violence only makes it more depressing to see this kind of thing be repeated again and again in the country. Every time a school gets shot up, Republicans shed crocodile thoughts and prayers (while having the sheer gall to accuse Obama of shedding crocodile tears for something that shouldn’t be routine, but is). The media mentions gun control legislation for a while, and promptly forgets about it. They use mental illness as a scapegoat, propose vague, empty solutions while continuing to shut down any suggestions of improving the health care system, and promptly forgets about it. The fact that school shooters tend to espouse horrendously misogynistic and racist rhetoric online? They don’t even mention it because then they might have to look at themselves in the mirror or something. Gun nuts only get more obsessed with their murder toys and yell at everyone else until the rest of the country gets sick of arguing. Then another school gets shot up, and we go through this all over again, with Republicans and gun nuts desperately hoping we don’t get a sense of deja vu and that we all forget the other times this happened. In the words of Dan Hodges’ infamous tweet:
Dare I hope this time, things might be different? The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School certainly aren’t forgetting, and they want to make sure no one else does, as if, well, teenagers’ lives matter or something.* Teachers and other students have joined in on walk-out protests, and they’re even taking it to the legislature. Of course, for their bravery, the right-wing pundits like Fox News have went after them. They claim teenagers have no right to talk back to adults, that they don’t understand anything about complex political issues (like whether murder toys are more important than human lives), that they’re just stooges for some left-wing conspiracy.
Everyone who hears something like this should be disgusted. These pundits deserve to be forever black marked for their sheer callous lack of empathy. This isn’t the first time adults have acted as if young people have no rights, but this crosses the line into pure evil (and I don’t use that word lightly).
So I’m fully behind the Parkland students and applaud them for fighting for their basic human rights, something that much of their older generation has forgotten. People around the world are rooting for you, and we should all do what we can to ensure that this time, we will not accept children’s deaths as collateral damage, and that the seventeen who lost their lives will not be forgotten.
*I don’t intend to make light of Black Lives Matter. Police shootings are every bit as appalling as school shootings, and the fact that black people have been fighting for their right to live for much longer goes to show just how embedded racism and lack of empathy are in the fabric of our culture. In fact, I suspect Black Lives Matter may have encouraged the Parkland students to rise up by laying the groundwork.