Wake Up, Everybody: Pained. Distraught. Mad as hell.
We never know when a regular day could be transformed into one of merciless destruction. Ask the families of Parkland, Florida. They were served the unimaginable on a day of love and affection – Valentine’s Day, 2018. Ask the families of Aurora, Colorado. Ask the families of Newtown, Connecticut. Ask the families of – the list is too long to continue.
Unlike other American gun massacres of recent years, the collective cultural gaze has remained locked not on the incident in general or the shooter, but on the survivors. These survivors include both students and adults – the teachers, administrators and first responders.
Specifically, the voices of students attending Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are not speaking as victims, but as survivors DEMANDING change. Let’s underscore that many of these public school students taking a stand had been taught the art of standing and defending -- (wait for it) an argument. Specifically, regarding gun control.
The eloquence of students such as David Hogg and Emma González, who articulated a call for political change before an international audience in the midst of their grief, has been moving and inspiring. Grief can affect us in many ways. Many of us have found the windows of shock or bereavement are adrenaline filled – for good or ill. The battle being waged by these young people has been driven by despair and anger. Their lives are forever changed. Nonetheless, may the comfort of family, the continued encouragement by incredible educators and commitment to justice shape their paths.
Hearing the 22 year-old in my life weep upon seeing the news of Parkland was crushing. Responding to the screen she whimpered, “When will this stop!” The Columbine High School shooting in 1999 happened when she was four. “It keeps happening everywhere.”
If you have young people -- anyone under 25 years old in your life, I strongly encourage you to speak to them about how they have been affected by the American gun massacres during their lives. While there has been more collective attention on the threat of terrorism within this window, it is generally associated from coming from an external source – immigrant, religious minority, the "other." Such discussions are not only polarized, they discount the glut of guns in the U.S., the high rate of suicides and accidental deaths, as well as the surge in the sale of assault weapons. Whether they be in kindergarten, a movie theater, a shopping center, a concert or a church, our youth have lived within a culture where their death would be “unfortunate,” but “another one.”
Enough! Stopping the cycle begins with not a request, but a demand.
Rhetoric, per Aristotle the art of persuasive arguments, has been a skill shaped throughout time. If the teachers engage students with rhetoric as they have at Stoneman Douglas, perhaps the greater populous has a defense that can stand-its-ground. Demanding for better requires being forthright, clear and exacting. It is practiced, because it is a skill.
The classic “Wake Up, Everybody” is built around a demand. Consciousness and activism, regardless of the era, requires an inspired soundtrack. Whether you prefer the original by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes or the cover by The Roots and John Legend, it is ideal for a mix tape for these times.
“Wake up, all the teachers Time to teach a new way Maybe then they'll listen To what you have to say
'Cause they're the ones who's coming up And the world is in their hands When you teach the children Teach 'em the very best you can”