“America is the greatest country in the world.”
“America the beautiful.”
“America -- the land of opportunity.”
“America -- the land of the free.”
Throughout the course of my life, these are various sayings that I have heard multiple times. Growing up, I believed them to be true. Then, as I experienced more of life and continued to read more and more gruesome and horrific headlines on the news with every passing day, I came to realize that these proclamations are false.
In 2012, we all thought the world was going to end. Okay, maybe not ALL of us, but some of us. And although the world didn’t exactly end in the way we expected it to, it still did.
On December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, 20 children - innocent, sweet, and pure - were fatally shot in what we now remember as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
At the time, I was only in the 8th grade, and to be honest, I couldn’t really fully wrap my head around the fact that someone targeted children. Children who were only six to seven years younger than us at that time. So, in that way, the world did end. Perhaps not the world, but at least the United States, the very country so many of us claim to be the greatest place in the world. Its remnants of innocence and purity died. The last slivers that so many of us had tried to hold onto, died.
The children who had survived that horrible shooting grew up faster than children ever should. They experienced firsthand what tragedy and horror and fear feels like - something we should never have to experience that young.
We no longer could consider ourselves a nation that valued the lives of each and every individual. Instead, we became a nation that has more school shootings in the course of a year than another country over the course of ten years.
Fast forward several years, and here I am - a freshman in college. Time sure has flown past us, but things sure haven’t changed. Not in the ways I hoped, at least.
Instead, I’m waking up nearly every single day with a new headline on TV.
“Students fatally shot…”
“Gunman walks into school…”
This type of news headline has become something so common to our lives that many people, including myself, are slowly becoming desensitized. Although it hasn’t gotten to the point where I turn a blind eye, it’s almost sickening to think that this is what our nation has gotten used to.
To make matters even worse, our government refuses to make the changes that we so desperately need them to make.
Take Australia, for example. After one of their worst mass shootings in 1996, the federal government implemented newer and stricter gun control laws. Since then, they have not had a single mass shooting.
Is this something not worth examining?
Our schools and our governments sure regulate a lot of sh*t (like dress code… we’re more focused on what females wear to school), but when it comes to the lives of our people, we don’t do a very good job of prioritizing that.
I used to believe that if the government wouldn’t even change for the CHILDREN of Sandy Hook, they would never change. Think about that. If we won’t change for children, who will we change for?
Today, I woke up to more news headlines.
But they weren’t the ones I had been so used to seeing on an almost weekly basis. They were still about guns, sure, but finally in the ways that I wanted them to be.
I woke up to read about the National School Walkout . Finally, we have had enough. If the older generations won’t help us make the change, we’ll make the change ourselves. If the government won't make the change, we'll show them that we won't take no for an answer. We'll show them that we have had enough and that it is time (long-overdue, if I must say) for change to happen.
Waking up and reading about hundreds of schools, and therefore, thousands of students, walking out to fight for our rights and our lives made me so proud.
Reading about how students back at my high school walked out gave me a sense of pride.
Finally, we’re doing something right.
The change won’t happen overnight. But nothing good ever does. It won’t be easy and we’ll have to fight against millions of people who are more focused on protecting their right to own a gun than protecting the lives of their people.
But enough is enough, and enough starts now.