“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going’ down.”
Stephen Stills, “For What It’s Worth”
An armed gunman storms into a school, a church, a concert hall, just about anywhere. A steady burst of mechanized explosions sets the tempo for panic. People scream, run for cover – people strop and sink into a puddle of their own blood. Eventually, a deafening quiet settles over the scene as everyone left tries to figure out what just happened.
That’s about how shootings go down in real life, but also in the news cycle. A flurry of activity settles into silence as the world tries to absorb the scene and understand it. But not this time. This time, for some reason, it’s all different.
What is different in the response to Parkland High? The details of the incident are not particularly different from so many other mass shootings. This was at a high school, but other than that it was about the same as any other in important ways. The shooter had a legal weapon, should have been known to authorities, and so on. The details seem far less important than the blood spilled.
It’s hard to pin down exactly what happened that is new. But we can feel it in the air as various groups on both sides struggle to respond.
What has really changed is that a vocal group of victims is speaking up and organizing like no one ever has before. It matters that they are high school students in many ways. Like young adults protesting the war 50 years ago, they have the energy and fearlessness it takes to actually make change. They can, and will, make sure that this time is different.
I also believe that being from South Florida makes a big difference. This is my native habitat, and I have to tell you that speaking out from the heart with fire and fury is cultural value and a tradition. It seems Hispanic and Caribbean in origin, but do not doubt that Anglos haven’t picked it up. It works. From the very start news crews were confronted with parents and students who gave them a straight-up, from the heart, no bullshit piece of their mind.
The silence, this time, was very short.
The right wing has played with these issues before, including denying that they even happened. A small but vocal group calls every event like this a “false flag” staged to “grab our guns.” They came out in force quickly this time, too, but it’s not working. Even Wayne LaPierre, speaking to CPAC, had to acknowledge that this shooting was indeed real.
This alone can be a wedge which finally divides the truly crazy from the mainstream of the party.
What will come of this in the long term? It’s hard to say. Of all the forces impinging on the November elections this one will probably have the most staying power and ability to organize people. It seems that we finally have enough, for one reason or another.
It’s far less about gun control than it is about tolerating nonsense in our politics. It’s time for truth and action. This time, I think we may well get it.