Wednesday, March 14, was the one-month anniversary of the Parkland school shooting. As tragic as this event was, it looked like it would fade into the news cycle like mass shootings before.
Looks were deceptive though, as the students have effectively used the power of social media to organize and mobilize youth and other concerned citizens. The anniversary was observed by student walkouts and other events. My local area even participated, though my alma mater, in a community which has seen its share of gun violence, seems to have stayed out.
My Twitter account devoted to gun issues reported students who walked out facing all forms of discipline, including corporal punishment. The students accepted their fates and in some cases turned punishment into protest:
I can’t help but think these young people have taken cues from other social media-driven movements. They saw their favorite actress, singer, or YouTube personality using #MeToo, etc and decided that they had something they could rally around.
They seem to be right, but now the hard part begins. The students and their allies have more to do to make this moment into a movement.
The first thing is keep the events of Parkland in the news and in the social media stream. The gun manufacturers lobby and its rural reactionaries are counting on Parkland fading. What I have seen so far would indicate that the students show no signs of going silent.
The next task is to put energy into electing people who will listen in office. This is a midterm election year and a “Blue Wave” seems to be building, even in states like Alabama. A few seats in the Senate and House could go a long way. The students may not be old enough to vote, but they can canvass and phone bank. They could even make a event of it, a sort of political ‘house party.’
Of course, these activists also need to realize that there is potential for setbacks. They are up against a well-funded opposition with millions of rural reactionaries at their command. I have seen tragedy cause activism to fire up, only to fade. Maybe this time is different.