Today, March 14 was the National Walkout to protest gun violence. Thousands of students across the country walked out of their classes and stood in silence to honor and remember the victims of mass shootings, called their Congressmen, and proudly held up hand-painted signs. Thousands of students across the country remained in class because they did not support the political message that the Walkout gave in regard to gun rights. Thousands more remained in class because they did not care either way. I know that there were many schools that reaped a much higher turnout at their walkout than at my small high school. That could be due to a number of factors: resistance from the administration, fear of repercussions and punishment like suspension or detention, unwillingness to miss class, or lack of information about how the walkout would proceed. Yet as I spent the last few days in my classes, asking other students whether they planned on walking out, I was taken aback by the lack of interest expressed by many of the people who I had grown up with for the past twelve years.
That is not to say that there were not the heroes of the day, the leaders, those encouraging action, emailing the administration and committing to the cause no matter what happened. They are the reason why such actions are possible, and the reason why I still have hope for the future of our country.
For the rest of you, I ask, What do you stand for?
I do not know whether it is laziness or ignorance or a desire to be oblivious that has caused so many of my fellow students to have no interest in anything outside of themselves. Maybe I am wrong, and they do care about other things and this was not the right time, place, or issue for them. I certainly hope that they care about something.
The notion of teenage apathy, or apathy in general, is clearly not a new phenomenon. It was brought to my attention when I was face to face with the two extremes, the passionate students standing beside me, and the apathetic ones I left back in class. Many of them were afraid of consequences, but at the same time had hardly anything to lose. Most of the seniors in the class were already accepted to college, or their colleges had issued statements saying that they would not be punished for a suspension on account of participating in the walkout. To me, that seemed like a worthwhile risk to take. I suppose that they just did not care enough to be potentially faced with the minor inconvenience that getting in trouble could maybe cause. Compared to the immense suffering caused by gun violence for the victims and their families, my small sacrifice is the least I can do and I would accept whatever consequences would come my way.
I walked out because in order to make a change you have to take a risk.
There was always a possibility of getting in trouble- vagueness from our high school administration and the Board of Education made sure of that. But from that, I took away two things. The first is that nothing ever gets accomplished without sacrifice. If I have learned anything from history, I have learned this. The classic examples of Gandhi and those who fought for civil rights in the 50s and 60s applied more than ever. Surely they did not want to be fired from their jobs, abused by the police, arrested or sent to jail. They placed everything on the line. Of course, I did not want to receive a 2- or 4-hour detention, but surely I could tolerate a few hours on a Saturday in detention or a suspension from school, the worst-case scenario. In our own small way, the students of my high school participated in civil disobedience and stood up for what we believed in. And I’m so proud of us.
Now the next step is the bigger one, to really put the pressure on Congress. It’s easy to like a photo or tweet, easy enough to walk out of school or to march in Washington D.C. We need to be sending letters and emails to our representatives, calling their offices, and meeting with our leaders. We as young people MUST vote, and vote out any politician that is not responsive to our voices and calls for change.
For those who said that this walkout would not make a difference, I think you are mistaken.
From what I have seen, it awakened an entire generation to the idea that they have a voice, they have (or soon will have) the power of the vote, and they can do something. And this time, I believe that they will. So Congress better be listening.
Back in October, I wrote an article in response to the Las Vegas shooting. The article is linked below- and still holds true today, and goes more in-depth into the hot issue of gun control.