We’re not hysterical for fighting gun violence

Students protesting are being put down for being immature

By Jacob Russian, Collegian columnist

In the wake of the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a large group of young people have mobilized to advocate for stricter gun control laws in the United States. Despite the sheer amount of grief and loss facing these students, they collectively inspired a nationwide movement aimed toward ending senseless gun violence in this country. The subsequent media coverage of this event garnered attention around the world, thus sparking a debate about how money influences politics in the United States. In particular, the students of Stoneman Douglas criticized the role of the National Rifle Association in blocking gun control legislation through means of intimidation and monetary compensation during a CNN Town Hall program. As intensity grew around this debate, many applauded the young adults for advocating on behalf of their shared interests and experiences, but unfortunately, many adults also chastised the group for their methods and the messages they shared. In fact, numerous conservative political commentators at the Conservative Political Action Conference labeled the advocacy of young people as overly emotional, often citing immaturity as a reason to categorize the group of people as unaware and hysterical.

Ultimately, these criticisms raise an important question in my mind: If adults of older generations consistently label our generation as unmotivated and entitled, why are they so angry when we decide to call for change in this country?

In my personal life, I have often heard these messages from older people as they cite the negative attributes facing our generation. While I do agree that there are certainly things that young people need to work on collectively, I often wonder why it has become so easy for adults to berate younger generations while simultaneously ignoring the issues plaguing their own age group. To me, it seems as though in the eyes of adults, young people cannot do anything right. We maintain a level of entitlement and a lack of motivation, yet when we work toward solving social issues, we are branded as hysterical. This introduces an interesting paradox, one where young people are characterized as never doing enough, yet taking action carries the connotation of immaturity. Much of the criticism facing young people in the fight for gun control centers around citing unfortunate internet trends, like eating Tide Pods, as a way to discredit the work being done. Sane calls for change have repeatedly been overlooked simply because young adults advocating for their beliefs have been lumped in with the disappointing choices of their peers. If grown adults wish that young people would do more with our time, why are they so upset when we actually follow through? How can we expect young adults to take initiative and stifle their independence at the same time?

A common theme amongst commentators following the Stoneman Douglas massacre was that the government should not take policy cues from overly emotional children. Political figure Katie Hopkins stated that she is “tired of them shouting at us with their scripted narrative and Oscar-winning tears,”  to which I would respond with the question: How else are we supposed to bring about change on this issue? Since the horrific Columbine High School shooting and countless other acts of gun violence, the desire of young adults to feel safe in school has been overlooked and ignored. If we cannot effectively organize and perpetuate clear messages of intent, how will anything get done? I often feel as though the idea of youth being synonymous with ignorance is proliferated as a way to discourage young people from being active in politics.

Despite all of the negative attention surrounding young adults as they work for the causes that matter to them, discouragement cannot give way to defeat. If we allow claims of immaturity and hysteria to dissuade us from seeking change, we will continue to fester in the products of an unjust social climate. Whether it is said that young people do too little or far too much, with clear goals in mind, I believe our generation will be able to forge a path forward on the issues we will continue to face. We cannot allow naysayers to denounce the advocacy and intelligence of our generation. The simple fact is that we know what we want, and our youth does not determine our capability of understanding policies that directly affect us.

Jacob Russian is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]