People are saying that the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is the first shooting where we know more about the survivors and victims than the shooter. The Foghorn thinks that this is a good thing. After mass shootings, much of the media examines every aspect of the shooter in an attempt to understand why they would do such a horrible thing. Very rarely do we talk about the victims outside of moments of silence. The Parkland students have used their tragedy to try to ensure that no other person has to go through what they did. Many in the media are praising them, and rightfully so. However, while the students are indisputably well-spoken and have more relevant experience than most of us, we cannot forget they are students — many minors, at that. While we should elevate their voices on gun violence, we should also be careful not to project our own political ideologies onto them.
The student survivors of Parkland’s voices need to be elevated, but they need to be elevated in a way that acknowledges that they’re still kids. The Foghorn agrees these students need to be given the loudest loudspeaker possible when it comes to reforming gun laws, as they were victims of these same laws. However, we have seen a trend of adults projecting their own political values onto the teens. When we see articles praising survivor Emma Gonzales as a “queer icon” simply because she has short hair and was in her school’s LGBT-ally club, it is hard to not get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. Gonzales has not spoken out about her own sexuality on TV or in print and it is unfair to speak for her on these issues. These students are smart, compassionate and all-around badasses and we should not manipulate their image to speak on topics that they have not spoken about themselves. We need to give them (and any activist) the respect to define themselves and what they stand for.
Further, as spectacular as these students are, we should not put the pressure of “saving America” on their young shoulders. We’ve all seen tweets that nearly deify the Parkland students as the United States’ saving grace. Whether you’re in highschool or not, that’s a lot to put on someone. The Foghorn staff commends the students for their bravery, and we hope that the media continues to give these students a platform for them to express their views. We just want them to do so responsibly.
All this being said, the absolute last thing thing we should do to these students is to coddle them when it comes to gun violence. Unless you yourself have been through a mass shooting, you have no right to say they don’t know what they’re talking about. Until the National Rifle Association, Tomi Lahren or anyone else who is belittling these students can say the same, they truly are not in any position to undermine these survivors’ opinions. The idea that students cannot have strong political views is blatantly condescending and erases the impact students have had on various political movements throughout history, from the Vietnam War to the Black Lives Matter movement. Students have been at the forefront of many social movements that have spread throughout the nation and led to change.
Featured Photo: The Parkland survivors deserve to have a platform, but they also deserve to define their beliefs for themselves. FABRICE FLORIN / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS