The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last week has given rise to a movement initiated by surviving high schoolers and advanced by other teens around the U.S.
It is remarkable! Instead of retreating into grief and despair, or anxiety and depression, teens all across the country have gotten angry and channeled their anger in the most constructive and valuable way imaginable: they’re taking on the President and the Congress, demanding changes to gun laws that have the potential to save lives in the future. What a great demonstration of the power of tragedy to inspire positive action instead of simply becoming apathetic.
Diane and I are in Perth, Western Australia, as I write this. The local news here has been reporting regularly on the teens protest movement and its gathering momentum.The Australian media have openly expressed their inability to grasp why Americans are so preoccupied with guns. In one form or another, they say, to paraphrase, “It is astonishing to us that Americans are so wedded to their gun rights that they think of the loss of children as an unfortunate but acceptable cost to keep those rights.”
As with most complex problems, there is no single solution. Choosing to focus upon only one part of the problem (mental health issues, more security at schools, better background checks) that takes attention away from military grade weapons available to the general public will not address or resolve what has become indefensible behavior in America.
How can I, as an American traveling here, possibly explain the hold the National Rifle Association (NRA) has on too many of our politicians, and the tactics of fear they regularly use to promote the extreme notion that any restriction on guns is a violation of one’s rights?
The power of these teenagers to take a stand, to mobilize, to express themselves is more than admirable. They lack the cynicism and corrupt self-interests that have overtaken too many of our politicians. They are calling out those politicians indebted to the NRA to do what is right. They chant, “vote them out” and “enough thoughts and prayers.” They want action and they are attracting some strong supporters.
George and Amal Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg each pledged $500,000 to support the organization of the teens’ rallies against assault weapons.
As a psychologist, I know that positive action and having a clear mission in life are among the best defenses against depression and isolation. I urge the teens to keep the good fight going. We hope their passion, strength, and endurance will give rise to a long-overdue change in America’s priorities.