Parkland has well-manicured lawns, new developments, and huge parks, with trails and tennis courts and basketball courts and ballfields. At the intersection of Coral Springs and Parkland is a horse riding academy, Malachi Acres, with a boarding stable, amidst the palms. Town hall is beautiful, and residents talk about the sense of community. A resident recalls how there was a mini-scandal when there were some car break-ins in a neighborhood. The reason, he said with a near smile: “The owners left their doors unlocked.” It’s that kind of place. A month ago, my wife and I left Parkland, heading to the airport after visiting relatives there. The Lyft driver told us why he moved to Parkland, this proud man from Brazil. For the schools, he said. For the schools.
Yesterday, it was about all of this, a sense of place, the schools, and something much more profound: passion, determination, unyielding force. Angry teen-agers with a grudge, clutching a sadness no one should have, fighting to curb gun violence, restrict the access to guns — assault weapons – and vowing, vowing, vowing to make politicians know they will be ousted from office if they don’t comply. So there is no more terrible nonsense of gun violence that is taking lives, the “17 angels” — the 17 people – students, a football coach and athletic director, who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. There were 14 wounded. The gunman was mentioned only in passing yesterday during the March For Our Lives rally, only in a word like horrible, but also as a pathetic reason why, why, why laws must be changed, gun laws, mental health laws, funding, you name it. All our hearts are broken, and we’ve had enough was the refrain, constant and true.
Parkland was center stage as a place, but its students were also taking the center stage in a rally in Washington D.C. Parkland is one piece of the gun-control puzzle. So is Chicago. So is New York. So is Miami. So is Los Angeles and everywhere where marches were held. One bullet that fells any kid in a school, on a street. That’s what they fought against yesterday, mostly these kids, but there was plenty of support, no doubt about it, from parents, teachers, friends, the elderly. Stop the gun violence. Stop people from having assault weapons. Down with NRA. Thump the Trump. (ok, my term). Placard after placard. Sign after sign. The message was clear: Lawmakers and the President, if you don’t do enough you will be voted out by their supporters, damn it, when they are old enough to vote. One student from Parkland told how she thought the privilege of the town helped draw it attention, but the fight represents all races, all genders, all lifestyles. Those voices at rallies across the country related personal experiences of friends, relatives, loved-ones cut down in senseless violence, in emotional, drive you to tears speeches. Eyes welling up all over. Let’s hold those thoughts.
“We are survivors of a cruel and silent nation,” said D’Angelo McDade, 18, of Chicago at the Washington D.C. rally. “I too, am a victim, a survivor and a victor of gun violence,” McDade said. “We are survivors not only of gun violence but of silence. I come from a place where minorities are controlled by both violence and poverty, leading us to be deterred by success. But today we say, ‘No More.’
No more, he said: violence, no more poverty, no more unjust policies and lack of resources. “You must be the change,” he told the crowd.
In 1970, after National Guard troops shot students at Kent State, we were young and demonstrated with passion and fury. We were convinced the wrongs of America would turn to rights.
We didn’t have social media. We had bull horns.
There’s something magical going on now amidst the sadness.
These kids are articulate and their speeches are raw and practical. Blunt. No more BS!
There are still huge bureaucratic mountains to climb, but as the protestors insisted yesterday, this is just the beginning. We’ll be hearing more of the words Ballet Box. — Joe Cantlupe