Open Letter From Generation X to Marjory Stoneman Douglas Students7
February 22, 2018 by liebestropfchen
Dear Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,
There are no words that can take your pain away. Nothing I say could possibly undo what you felt or saw, so I will only say that I think of you daily, I grieve for you and the families, and that I am always here for you.
If I can offer any advice, it would be to not turn inward when the pain comes. Reach out. Grieve openly. You all are bonded together in a way that no human should ever have to be. But you are indeed bonded. The tragedy you experienced on Feb 14, 2018 forever connected you. Be there for each other.
Each year you will feel the pain, even if you try to push it away. That’s how grief and trauma work, deep beneath the surface, in our subconscious. You may not realize, but as each Valentine’s Day approaches you will feel pain, you will be angry for seemingly no reason, and you will feel sorrow at the slightest of things. Remind your loved ones that you are allowed to be angry, even if they don’t know why. That is grief. Let it happen. Remember that it’s ok to feel.
And this is what I want America to know…your wanting to be safe in your school is more than merely a request to *not* get shot when you walk through those halls. For anyone (like me) who has experienced trauma, we know that returning to the scene of the trauma is horrific, agonizing, and cruel. You are being asked to return to that scene EVERY DAY for the rest of your schooling. Setting foot in that school will re-open the very deep wounds you now have. Those wounds have forever changed who you are.
I don’t want to live in an America that is numb to this reality. After a school shooting, each child is asked to be re-traumatized every day in order to get their diploma.
That is not the America I want.
And that is not the America we should accept.
Let every politician and NRA member know: The cost of these weapons is more than the anger about the shooting. More than the discomfort of “bad guys” (whatever the fuck that means). More than the funeral costs to bury the brave souls whose lives were taken by a person who manages anger with the barrel of a gun. It’s more than that. Much more.
Those who insist weapons stay on our streets because of 18th Century words must understand the financial costs as a result of abusing that “right to bear arms”. As American schools endure casualties for the Second Amendment, then gun lobbyists and manufacturers who insist on keeping these weapons legal should pay the cost of tearing down the schools where these shootings happen. It is not right to ask students and teachers to return to the scene of the worst day of their lives.
It is not right.
Tear down your school. Charge that bill to the NRA. Trust me, they can afford it. This is the cost of doing business. The cost of having weapons of war includes rehabilitation for the PTSD innocent people have due to collateral damage from gun violence. Perhaps they never thought of this cost before, but you must ensure they know it now.
There is a very good reason why your generation isn’t afraid to speak up when Generation X didn’t. It’s not that I didn’t care. It’s not that I didn’t try. It’s a product of where I am in the timeline of cultural norms and technology. I was an adult before Columbine, so I know the world before and the world after. I know a world before the Internet, and after. I know what it feels like to live in a world where we felt safe in school and in large crowds.
From my perspective, I wonder why we can’t go back. But you have a different cause – your anger comes from the viewpoint of never having experienced that safety, and you wonder why it never was.
That’s a good place for you to be in this fight.
As a Gen Xer I have my feet in both worlds – that of my parents, where I’m expected to be politically loyal, demure, and graceful; and that of the Millennials where I enjoy riding the wave of progress and technology. Growing up, my parents used to say in passing “Oh yeah, I was politically active as a kid”, or “Yeah, I almost went to Woodstock”. Know this: they began their adulthood marching in the streets and petitioning the government for their grievances EXACTLY as you are now….
…but something in them changed. I don’t know what it is – I’m still trying to figure that out. But something in them changed. They lost the vision of creating a greater good.
The closest those Baby Boomers came to what you experienced at your school was the Kent State shooting in May 1970. You may be shocked to know that public polls at the time showed the majority of adults thought the students were to blame for getting shot.
Let that sink in.
The kids were made to feel they deserved it.
That was how my parents’ world felt about children being shot. Despite the harsh reality that children cannot feel safe in their schools, let us be grateful that at least we all know that you didn’t deserve it.
Let’s build from that.
But I’m sure the Baby Boomers (many of whom are now our lawmakers) were impacted – perhaps even traumatized – by their parents and grandparents suggesting that the consequence of challenging authority was to deserve any deadly backlash from it.
Eventually, Baby Boomers stopped fighting that notion along the way, and began teaching others the same. I don’t know why.
Yet because of that, my generation was silenced when we grew weary of violence. The Boomers were doing what they thought was right. In hindsight, it wasn’t.
As a teenager, I was crying out for change. At 14, a friend of mine died of an accidental shooting. My favorite singers were dying to drugs and guns, and I wanted something done….Yet my parents and grandparents told me exactly what they’re telling you now: “You’re too young”, “You haven’t lived enough to know…”, “You’re being so ungrateful”, “You’ll feel differently when you’re older”, “Be quiet”.
It hurt to hear my parents say that. I backed down because I didn’t want to disappoint the very people who were supposed to love me unconditionally. I also had to depend on those same people in charge for any chance at publicity for my grievances…and they weren’t granting air time for something against their own agenda.
Remember, I grew up before the Internet and social media. To this day, when Generation X feels a need to rise up, it is still not our first instinct (collectively) to leverage the right tools of social media and cameras as well as you do. You’ve grown up with that technology, so it’s been a successful tool you instinctively choose. Keep doing it.
Lean on people like me. Remember that I am with you, I just need help catching up. I am still in awe of you, so brave and fearless. Let my generation come with you, because when you are weary (and you will get weary) we can carry you. This is the moment we have asked for, for so many years, but could not find traction. Together we can be a mighty force that causes a political earthquake.
Don’t settle for anything less than moving this country forward. It’s time you experienced the world I once knew, where schools were safe and assault weapons were banned.
I sure wish that life was so simple that we could solve our traumas by hating back. As long as grieving people are so myopic they cannot tell the difference between criminals and “The NRA”, we will waste vast amounts of energy locking up the wrong party. We will never legislate criminality out of existence. My condolences to all who suffer. Let us be more focused, more intentional, on who we lash out at. Creating more victims won’t make us feel better in the long run.
Who said holding the NRA accountable for collateral damage is “hating back”? I do not hate the NRA. However, as I wrote here, IF we are to accept that gun violence in schools is a necessary consequence of current laws, then those who desire no change should be financially responsible for the repercussions.
Because how did you arrive at the identification of the NRA as the group who desire no change? There are multiple associations who stand for essentially the same; multitudes of Americans who are not members hold similar values; and the ones who most identify with the actions of the perpetrators you are fired up about are not part of any of the above and will be largely unaffected by any changes you could possibly effect among them. Solutions never come out of attacking rights.
If you believe the NRA wants change, you have not listened to the leaders’ performances at CPAC. You are absolutely wrong. This isn’t a matter of opinion about whether they want change. If the members of the NRA want change, they will have to change leadership.
Thank you for replying despite your apparent confusion on what I have been referring to. I have nowhere represented the NRA as “wanting change” -whatever that means to you. I believe you have fallen into the trap most people do. When you are looking for a whipping boy, you triumph at the first one, as though there could be no other.
My point was: Why are you not calling out all the other gun rights groups? Are they all “wanting change”? What about all of the gun owners who are not members of an organization or group? Does gun ownership constitute selfishness, oblivion to the times and feelings of others, and complicity in everything that is done with a gun anywhere for any reason?
When a terrorist drives into a crowd and hurts people, do you call out the automotive industry? When Colonel Mustard kills Miss Scarlet in the library with a candlestick, do you call out a particular lighting manufacturer?
You have identified a problem. Does you solution fit? I say no.
Thank you for replying with the same tired arguments from the media. The NRA leadership is the loudest proponent of “guns uber alles” in this country, so that is where the argument starts. By the way, I am a member of the NRA, so I receive their communications. This week, they sent every member an email asking to help them fight against any legislation. Therefore, if and when other guns rights organizations go public with the same statements, I will be happy to call them out. Until then, I call the opposition by name.