You need to grow up.
As far as I know, no survivor of last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., has used those words to challenge conservatives who have created a world where mass shootings are almost literally an everyday thing. But the sentiment is clearly there.
Consider David Hogg, a 17-year-old student journalist who expressed frustration with lawmakers in an interview on CNN: “We’re children,” he said. “You guys are the adults.”
Consider Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior, who told CNN, “My message for the people in office is: You’re either with us or against us. We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around.”
Consider Emma Gonzalez, an 18-year-old senior who addressed a rally in Fort Lauderdale: “To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA,” she cried, “shame on you. … Politicians who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call B.S.!”
And consider what happened when Donald Trump tried to spin this mass murder into a screed against the FBI for probing his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. A young lady named Morgan Williams took to Twitter to carve him an orifice the Almighty never intended.
“Oh my god. 17 OF MY CLASSMATES AND FRIENDS ARE GONE AND YOU HAVE THE AUDACITY TO MAKE THIS ABOUT RUSSIA???!!! HAVE A DAMN HEART. You can keep all your fake and meaningless ‘thoughts and prayers.’ ”
Students have called a rally—“The March For Our Lives”—for the 24th of next month on the National Mall. And is it too much to hope that maybe we are finally feeling the ground shift beneath our feet?
I can’t tell you how proud I am of these young people. Or how thankful I am for them.
When the shooting happened, I begged my editor not to ask me to write about it because I could think of nothing to say I haven’t already said a dozen times. My tank on this topic was empty.
Yes, what happened was terrible. It was also terribly old.
But let me tell you one of the best things about kids: it’s never old to them. When you reach a certain age, you have a longer personal context through which to view the crimes, sins and absurdities of humankind. When you haven’t graduated high school yet, you essentially have only now.
Context is a good thing. It can provide valuable perspective. But it can also make you jaded and weary, convince you that crying out is futile because nothing’s going to change.
But if you have only now, if crimes, sins and absurdities are visceral and new to you, you confront them with a fervor, energy and anger often inaccessible to your elders. You don’t yet realize that change is impossible. And so, sometimes, you create change.
That’s the hope that emerges from this tragedy.
And someday, when America is sane, when future generations wonder how it ever was we protected guns more than we did children, or that a disturbed 19-year-old was able to legally purchase a weapon of war, or that carnage became routine, or that some of us said this routine carnage was the price of freedom, maybe we will look back on this as the pivot point. Trump, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and every other politician who accepts money soaked in blood from the extremist NRA should consider themselves on notice:
You are being called out by America’s children. They have a simple message. Act like adults. Grow the hell up.
That’s more than many of their friends will ever have the chance to do.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Reach him at lpitts@ miamiherald.com.