Parkland – It Is Too Soon to Talk Activism

Parents and students from Parkland are constantly appearing on television screens across America, and there are members of the media who are quite happy to place them there. True, they are doing this because the news cycle is ridiculously fast sometimes, but that doesn’t change the fact that these people are human beings who have just dealt with tragic losses. I am only hoping that this doesn’t do irreparable damage to these people, but I won’t say that I hope they don’t end up angry and annoyed with the media personalities who pushed them in front of the cameras, like this one:

While I have no doubt in my mind that the people of Parkland are absolutely fed up with lip-service from the government on mass shootings, this is not the time for them to be pushed into the spotlight to speak on the issue. This is the time for them to grieve, and process what has happened to them. Those are human issues that cannot be rushed to appease the media’s desire to fit them into their production schedules before the rest of America loses interest.

If it wasn’t too soon, then instead of impassioned speeches about gun laws, there would have been at least a little talk about what America has lost in the past few decades. Someone would have been saying “when did we stop watching over our neighbors?” Teens might have looked at each other, and asked, “who saw the social media posts by this kid, and why didn’t we insist on the adults doing something about it?” That didn’t happen in Parkland, Fla., but it did happen in Uniontown, Pa.: offered that story to the nation in late January, and if not for the actions of one teen and his parents, Uniontown would have been in the headlines because of a mass shooting. But they weren’t, and I’m guessing that in spite of carrying that story, very few people outside of western Pennsylvania knew about the shooting that didn’t happen. Based on the information that we’ve seen so far, the only reason why Parkland didn’t end up like Uniontown with a small crime headline about a thwarted attack is because the law enforcement system broke down. The FBI failed to follow up on a tip about the shooter.

But, the grieving teens and parents from Parkland are taking cues from the media now, so their message is about the evil of guns. It’s really not that simple. The real problem is the fact that as a society we have become isolated. We avoid involving ourselves in situations with our neighbors, presumably because it is none of our business. Someone else can intervene, tell the authorities when a troubled teen starts posting about killing people on social media. He might be just trying to show off, right? Or maybe the family will try to start trouble for me. Rationalize as much as you like, but the problem isn’t the guns – it’s us.

We have failed as a society because we have reached the point where we can give ourselves a pass for neglecting to act when we see people in trouble. It’s easier to blame guns than it is to own up to the fact that we can see women and children abused – physically or verbally – on a daily basis without saying a word to anyone who could help them. Parents find it easy to tell their children not to associate with kids who don’t “fit in” or “get in too much trouble.” That’s not as bothersome as picking up the phone, calling the school, and reporting questionable behavior to guidance counselors or school psychologists.

It’s none of our business, until that failure to act turns into yet another mass shooting. Then it’s definitely our business, but not our own fault. It’s the guns, or the politicians who fail to write laws. If we’re honestly looking for a law to prevent these tragedies, we all might end up in trouble. Such a law would need to require that citizens do not remain silent when they see warning signs of violent behavior in teens. We would need to teach our children how to see those signs in themselves and their classmates. But, the people of Parkland won’t realize that until long after the media has moved on from them. They may never reach that point, because it’s a truth that we simply don’t talk about. Of course, if we did talk about it and admit it was the truth, then we would have to admit that our society has created these monsters – they are simply the logical result of our own indifference toward each other as human beings.

Image: Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

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