Activism

If the Response to the Parkland Shooting Made You More Hopeful, You’re Not Wrong

These teenagers and their activism are a rare good sign for the future.

Tallahassee, Florida - Feb 21, 2018. "Never Again" rally to protest and change gun laws after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Photo Credit: KMH Photovideo / Shutterstock

I never imagined I’d hear first lady Melania Trump channel Norman Lear. On the other hand, I never imagined I’d hear “first lady Melania Trump,” so clearly anything is possible.

Even the resurgence of American democracy! Let me tell you how I can talk myself into that.

Feeling that nothing is possible – Groundhog Days of “What fresh hell is this?” – is what I’m used to. If you can make your mornings safe for Mozart, for sun salutations, for gratitude for waking up at all, let alone in possession of a soul, maybe your breath has kept the embers of optimism glowing. But if your mornings in America, like mine, include the morning news, you know the feeling of wanting to crawl back under the covers.

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It could be wishful thinking, but ever since the Parkland massacre in Florida, maybe you’ve sensed something new stirring, a game-changer. I hear it in the voices of survivors like Emma Gonzalez: “We call BS”; Cameron Kasky: “Douglas is a school filled with thousands of leaders”; David Hogg, who said about the nuts who were smearing him as a paid “crisis actor,” “I feel for those people, honestly. They’ve lost faith in America. But we certainly haven’t.”

Heavily Jewish Parkland Was Florida’s ‘Safest City’ — Until School Gunman Struck

I wonder if it was Lauren Hogg, David’s 14-year-old sister, who drew Melania to her side of the tipping point. “Hey @FLOTUS,” Lauren tweeted, “you say that your mission as First Lady is to stop cyber bullying, well then, don’t you think it would have been smart to have a convo with your step-son @DonaldJTrumpJr before he liked a post about a false conspiracy theory which in turn put a target on my back.”

Three days later, FLOTUS told a group of governors’ spouses in the White House, “I have been heartened to see children across the country using their voices to speak out and try to create change. They’re our future and they deserve a voice.”

Was it just my fantasy that her subtext was in agreement with the Douglas kids excoriating her husband? I also heard in her words an echo of what Norman Lear told me on the phone a few hours earlier. “Imagine if everywhere you looked,” he’d asked me, “young people were wearing buttons saying, ‘Vote for Me.’ On the news, on TV shows, at school, at home. On athletes, on performers, on YouTube, on Instagram. ‘Vote for Me.’ What do you think?”

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear professor of entertainment, media and society at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.