After what happened in February 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I wrote a series of posts about school shootings. It came right before a pre-planned hiatus, just in time for the Bahá’í Fast. I had intended to start blogging again right after the Bahá’í New Year (21 March), but I found myself unable to pull together the thousands of thoughts zipping by in my brain.
It seems like the events in Parkland and since affected me more than I realised. It took me an extra two weeks to be able to focus my thoughts enough to start writing again. That is also how long it took for me to go through the deluge of messages from incredible readers around the United States and Canada, reaching out to discuss their own contribution to ending school shootings.
The Heartbreak of Stoneman and So Many Other Shootings
Although any shooting is horrific, there is something particularly heart-shattering about a school shooting. School is about learning, it’s about innocence and fun in a place that is supposed to be safe, where the young ones are protected by loving and caring adults both inside and outside the school. When a school shooting happens, this entire belief system comes crashing down. We are left wondering: if children aren’t safe in school, then who can be safe anywhere, ever?
The Inspiration That Are the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Students
Man, have these students managed to achieve something momentous, incredible, and potentially tide-changing. Talk about a beautiful flower blooming in a pretty dismal environment. The way they have taken to social media, the way they have answered questions asked live on various television interviews, the way they organised marches and demonstrations, they have triggered quite a wave of support and action. I’m sure you have already seen and read all about the #Marchforourlives, so I won’t go over the details here. Suffice to say that it was heartening and inspiring to see so many teenagers taking ownership of their right to express themselves and be active participants in the conversation about gun control.
Shooting Since Parkland: Will Things Never Change?
There have been a significant number of shootings in the USA in the last 10, if not 20 years. I haven’t researched this, but to me, it seems that they are getting worse, be it the frequency with which they happen, the number of people who are shot, and the toxic conversations that surround them. I remember a conversation I overheard a couple of years ago in which someone states, quite emphatically, that things will never change because shootings are too complex of an issue for any one action to have an effect on. Needless to say, that conversation greatly saddened me.
I have heard this comment pop up again when news of shootings post Parkland hit the news. And I can understand why; if the massive mobilisation post-Parkland hasn’t other shootings in the following weeks, then what will? Furthermore, it also can be very depressing to hear some of the toxic rhetoric around the question of gun control, and, again, I can understand why despair prevails when guns are put before the lives of the younger generation.
Nurturing Hope: Looking at the Scale of Current Events, and Adding My Own Contributions
There is, however, a multiple of reasons why choosing hope over despair makes sense, now more than ever.
For one, the sheer amount of attention and interest being given to the topic is mind-blowing. Other school shootings don’t seem to have permeated the airwaves as much as this one has; neither have any other one of them generated so much action. Similarly, it is also heartening to see how the posts on this blog on this topic have attracted a significant amount of attention, much more than any other posts I have ever uploaded.
On a personal level, I already have a list of things to do that I shared; I have been able to add to this list thanks to suggestions I have collected from online and IRL friends. All it takes is for me to commit myself to sharing this list, adjusting it as I learn, and engaging in each of its items to the best of my capacity. I count the number of people who message me weekly to discuss their own contributions to ending school shootings. I think of phone calls from people sharing what my posts inspired them to do, and the results of their action. I count the number of essays flooding my inbox from readers who intelligently and reflectively propose various solutions at the local level.
Maybe I don’t inspire millions of people, or even thousands of people. But there are at least a couple dozen people who have been inspired by my blog to do something. I can say that these are “only” a couple of dozen” but I feel that would insulting all these incredible people who are taking time and energy to get up and do something.
So, I choose hope.
It comes down to a choice. We can choose to despair or choose to hope. Sometimes, the choice is easy to make; other times, it is so difficult that we can’t help ourselves but to choose despair. Uplifting conversations and continued action—small or big—can help us build a form of resilience to the darkest of times.
In this day and age, you, dear reader, have, at the very least, one social media account. You also have IRL friends. Use your network to share positive ideas and to inspire action. No one person can make the world a better place, but we all have our role to play. To play our role most effectively, we need experience. And to have experience, we have to start.
We have to start somewhere; honestly, we have to start anywhere. Even helping one person a day by holding a door for them is contributing to spreading the kind of attitude required to end the scourge of school shootings—and, by the same token, ending a number of other terrible things that are happening.
Guys, international peace isn’t going to be brought to us. International peace will be built on national peace, which is built on regional and local peace. And local peace means that every interaction we have is a loving, caring, and peaceful one.
So how are you building international peace with every local interaction you have?