I’ve been giving the situation in Florida a great deal of thought over the past several days and have a few observations:
1. What makes this school shooting different than similarly horrific incidents is you have a community of teens who has had enough and is willing to do something about it. Say what you will about timing, grieving and place for these types of debates, but denying the power of these future leaders to galvanize and force change at a time when our government is stuck in its same-ole, same-ole battles is the equivalent of impersonating an ostrich. (An ostrich that, BTW, can’t decide whether to bury his/her head in the sand or a chosen part of his/her anatomy.)
2. Saying these kids are fake actors or are having their statements written for them is a either a blatant misunderstanding or utter lack of respect of their intelligence and values.
3. These digital natives are smart, pissed and have access to tools to bring their message to a worldwide audience in a nanosecond. They have no patience for platitudes, thoughts and prayers, no matter how sincere we are. Lip service is out; action is in. The fact that they are grieving openly while demanding change is not something that should be dismissed, but heralded.
4. We talk about the current generation’s lack of civic engagement. And yet, when kids become engaged about something that goes against society’s longstanding beliefs/mores, we try to dismiss or disparage them. You can’t have it both ways. A bedrock of engagement is the knowledge that people can and will disagree before reaching consensus, and being comfortable enough in ourselves to allow that to happen in a civil manner. If, sadly, the pain and suffering of others is what has to happen to bring change, then we should be applauding them for their courage instead of denigrating them or dismissing their opinions.
5. Note that I’m not making a blanket statement about gun control, espousing conspiracy theories, or disparaging the values and beliefs of others. There’s plenty of that going around already. My hope is that this level of engagement from our kids — the ones we claim are our future leaders — can be appreciated, respected and, ultimately, valued.