Some estimates state about 150,000 attended the Washington D.C. “March For Our Lives” protest while other estimates place the number close to 500,000. I’ll assume it’s likely somewhere in between. The exact amount isn’t important. It was a lot of people, a lot of kids, and a lot of media attention. That’s all well and good but now the march is over. The media is already focusing on the next distraction while the reaction by America at large is little more than a collective shrug.
If creating actual change was the goal of March For Our Lives then it appears the event was an abysmal failure. Yes, there were a few hours of social media “flash” but it soon dissipated. (Far more tuned in to college basketball.) What happened? What went wrong?
The first sign of real trouble was when the media selected a handful of high school students to be the faces of a movement that same media has long hoped to create. I feel for these kids. I really do. They were part of a horrific event. Sadly, they then found themselves pumped up with media-generated self-importance and soon devolved into parodies of actual human beings which in large part drowned out much of the real (and very important) message being attempted. I don’t blame the school kids for this. I blame an environment in this country where the media repeatedly uses such people for short-term gain and then tosses them aside without any regard for the longer-term complications those people might be left with.
Real discussion regarding the issue of guns, gun rights, school safety, law enforcement responsibility, cultural issues, mental health, etc., were silenced by snarling youth dispensing generalities that said nothing but still managed to infuriate some and leave many more with the sense they were being conned. That process has done a terrible disservice to the victims of school violence, to the advocates for school safety, supporters of the Second Amendment, and anyone else who wants a clear and honest discussion of these and related issues.
When someone starts to scream at someone else that they (willingly) have the blood of children on their hands the discussion ends before it was ever started. When you feel you’re being pushed against a wall the natural inclination is to then push back. That pretty much sums up what happened this weekend during March For Our Lives. One side did a lot of pushing. Now the other side of the issue will push back by relegating the event into a quickly disposed of nothing-burger.
Poll after poll showed a majority of Americans think more gun laws won’t solve the problem of gun violence. (Mental health was #1) The media ignored this fact. There were students who were part of the tragedy in Parkland who said much the same. They were ignored as well. Students in other schools who spoke out in favor of gun rights were even punished for holding such views. That isn’t a nation having a discussion. That’s a nation falling down the slippery slope of authoritative tyranny where a contrary opinion can get one injured – or worse.
It has to stop or no real change will take place. The country will become more divided and the environment for honest discourse more dangerous. And yes, more of these tragic shootings will take place.
Our children deserve much better than that just as they deserve something far more substantive and meaningful than what took place with March For Our Lives.
D.W. Ulsterman is an author, educator, socio-political commentator, and the creator of the popular San Juan Islands Mystery series.
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