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The Parkland Students Offer Hope for the American Democracy

Activism is alive in Parkland Florida. And not merely alive, but raging.

Agree with them or not; support them or not: one must be impressed by the vital energy that the survivors of the Parkland mass shooting have directed toward being the change they seek.  Merely two weeks after a mentally ill former student massacred 17 people and injured 14 others at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors have mounted a massive campaign to reform gun laws in this country.  They have debated with lawmakers, with an NRA representative and others in a nationally televised Town Hall.  They have started a national fundraising movement under the hashtag “NeverAgain” in an effort to fund local efforts to remake gun laws.

And they have received death threats.  

Opponents of reasonable gun control legislation have also circulated false conspiracy theories alleging that the Parkland students were “crisis actors” who were paid by a “secret cabal” to appear at staged school massacres to justify “gun confiscation.”   Some even proffered the theory that the Parkland student movement was an FBI plot to discredit Trump. Even Donald Trump Jr. “liked” a tweet that sought to legitimize this repulsive absurdity.

Through it all, the grieving for friends dead, the personal attacks, the conspiracy theories, the death threats and everything else, these young men and women are effective.  Since they began their advocacy, corporate America is abandoning the chief obstructionist force of gun control: the NRA.  More corporations are cutting ties with the group every day.  And as to be expected, the NRA is hitting back.   

But more importantly, the Parkland students have reignited a national conversation about our Nation’s love affair with guns. The Parkland students have begun a wave of local activism not seen as a result of any of the other mass shootings, a wave that looks to have enough force behind it to outlast the cowardly inaction that has always followed our elected representatives’ thoughts and prayers.  Multiple gun control rallies and demonstrations are planned across the country.  It just may be that the Parkland students have recognized a tipping point that has eluded their elders, and they are not afraid of those that would silence them.

These 17 year olds will be 18 soon.  They will be able to vote. And as President Abraham Lincoln, a real American leader once said, “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.”