All posts by Marie S.

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19 Years.

weapon-violence-children-child-52984.jpegToday marks 19 years since the Columbine High School shootings. But what was once shocking became a regular occurrence. How could we have ever known where this state of gun violence would end up?

In this final post in my three part series, I want to share my story with my peers, the rest of the Xenials/Millenials. A story of shock, inaction, repeated shock, inaction, indifference, and hope.

Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook.

I was a senior in high school when Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold went on a 51 minute shooting spree in their high school that ended up with 13 dead and 21 injured. The school year was almost over and I was looking forward to graduation in June. Life was pretty great in our sheltered pre-9/11 world where my biggest concern was what dress to wear to prom.

And in less than an hour, that innocence was taken away. I’d lived through the Oklahoma City bombing and Operation Desert Storm, but this was different. This could have been me.

As most tragedies go, the focus sadly shifts from the victims to the shooters in a very short amount of time. Why did they do it? Was it video games? Goth culture? Were they outcasts taking revenge? Even I pushed aside what happened as the news shifted to the shooters and then, when the 20/20 specials ran out of new content, moved on.

Several years later, with Virginia Tech, the same thing happened to me. Shock, anger, obsession, apathy. Then Sandy Hook, then countless others, and I stopped even being shocked.

My generation failed, big time. We could have been the ones who said enough with the thoughts and prayers. Do something. Stop this now. But we forgot. Moved on.

And then an old friend of mine got shot last year in Las Vegas. When he healed, I still did nothing.

Today kids walked out of class in solidarity to ask for gun reform. This culture of gun violence that gets normalized by the older generations with the thoughts and prayers has stopped with them. Why now? What makes them take action where their parents didn’t?

I truly believe that in addition to seeing their peers murdered on a regular basis, that social media has played an enormous role in their movement. Scott says “Your smartphone is all you need” and mentions the importance of Facebook Live (pp. 305-306). Though his writing is more in regards to marketing and PR, it still holds true for social movements. This generation grew up on social media, and they don’t hesitate to use it. Videos that are happening now, that are current, that are anything but what their parents would do to promote a cause. These kids can’t help but see what’s happening live all over the country, and the messages that spread so rapidly can create an urgency to act now.

Today, remembering Columbine, I still can’t help but feel a sense of guilt about my generation’s inaction. And yet I feel pride and hope and inspiration in these kids who have done what we failed to do. It’s not too late to join the fight.

Speaking Without Words

My audience for this blog series is anyone who is (or should be) concerned by the massive number of school shootings: students, parents, and anyone interested in safety and social justice. I will be focusing on the movements made by high school students who have been taking charge of the fight against gun violence. My goal is to make people think about how they can participate in this fight for life. 

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Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

What Emma Gonzalez Said Without Words

Castells writes that “All forms of communication…are based on the production and consumption of signs. Thus there is no separation between ‘reality’ and symbolic representation” (p. 403). In the March for Our Lives, a movement that started online and moved to the streets and government building, symbols have played a huge role in creating a shared meaning that has kept the fight against gun violence moving and growing throughout our culture.

When Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland Florida shootings, got up to the microphone at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, it was her silence that spoke louder than words. Her silence, for 4 minutes and 26 seconds, resonated with people around the country. Her silence represented the time it took for 17 of her peers to be killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

4 minutes. 26 seconds.

Silence is uncomfortable. Silence is loud.

Gonzalez has become the face of March for Our Lives. Though already well known through her fiery speeches following the shooting at her school, without words she gave us that time to stop and think. With all of the arguments going on online and offline, complete silence with your thoughts can be really hard to take in.

With 1.3 million followers on Twitter, Gonzalez has a huge presence on social media that is vital to the fight against gun violence, but it is her use of mass media that is making her message that much louder.

We can all stand to learn a lesson about the importance of symbolic representation in getting our messages across. Whatever the platform, creating a shared meaning bridging cultures, media, and age groups is vital in creating a movement. If we don’t understand, if we can’t interpret, then what does it have to do with us?

But we all understand silence. A voice with no words. It’s uncomfortable.

And maybe that discomfort is exactly what we need to keep the movement going.

 

Walk Out or Walk Up?

My audience for this blog series is anyone who is (or should be) concerned by the massive number of school shootings: students, parents, and anyone interested in safety and social justice. I will be focusing on the movements made by high school students who have been taking charge of the fight against gun violence. My goal is to make people think about how they can participate in this fight for life.

walk out

If you’ve watched the news over the past few days you are probably aware of the  Walk Out by students across the country on Wednesday. Sick of nothing being done in Washington about gun violence, teens coordinated the first national student protest on this issue. They hoped to bring an awareness of their voices and of the political power that they will soon hold. And politicians should take note- these teens, users of social media for most of their lives, will soon be old enough to vote and make their voices known at the polls. Boomers and Generation X have so far not been as focused on this topic, and it may be because they were not affected by it personally. And millenials, still a voting minority, have not made much progress with it either in spite of being the Columbine generation. Living in daily fear of school violence is a way of life for students, unfortunately normalized by our political climate and dedication to 2nd Amendment rights. But why isn’t anything being done? Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough anymore, and these students want us all to know that.

But of course there are those with the alternative solution. A solution that so far hasn’t worked. Ryan Petty, a parent of a student recently killed in the Parkland shooting, tweeted that students should Walk Up not Walk Out. In his opinion, walking out is accomplishing nothing beyond the students getting some exercise. His proposed solution would include students “walking up” to loners and making them feel appreciated so they don’t turn into school shooters. This post was in turn shared by thousands of parents across the country who thought students walking out was pointless. But I ask- is this victim blaming? If you aren’t successful with converting this potential shooter and it results in violence, is it your fault? Walk Up shows how out of touch some parents still are with the fear that children are facing, and in this case even includes parents of victims.

Walk Up belittles the point of Walk Out. No one is saying that you can’t walk up to a lonely student and talk to them, but that can be done any other day. This walk out was about the fact that these students want to be heard. They want the adults to help them. They want laws to protect them. They want politicians to represent them. On Wednesday, they didn’t need hugs- they needed voices.

This movement reminds me of Castell’s writings about the Occupy Movement, and there are plenty of similarities. Occupy was “rooted in outrage” (p. 166) which resulted in the fast propagation across the country. Students are clearly outraged about their peers being shot, and that resulted in a successfully organized protest in less than a month after the Parkland, Florida shooting. Everyone needs to be wary of the power that these children will one day hold. Their world is built around social media, and they are not limited to classroom gossip anymore.

We need to listen. Really listen to what they are saying. We may not agree with everything that they are asking for, but with what they have been through, they deserve our ears. Instead of thoughts and prayers we need to think about what we can do to make their world a little safer. So don’t belittle their voices by saying that they should be doing something else instead. Listen.

They will not forget.

Keep your (fake) news to yourself.

It’s all THEATER: Florida high school shooting survivor caught on video rehearsing scripted lines, coached by camera man

This article kept popping up in trending news, so I had to check it out. It sounded so ridiculous, and of course it is. But people keep sharing it. See the headline, hit share- isn’t that how it goes? Not reading the actual article, but buying into the new habit of mistaking a headline for credible news, when it’s anything but. I can’t emphasize enough that people should click on these links before jumping to conclusions.

With the title of NaturalNews, the site claims to be “The world’s top news source on natural health.” So now we have a supposed natural health site claiming to be the experts on calling out fake news. Fantastic. One quick look at the page reveals liberal conspiracy theories intermingled with breastfeeding tips. If someone does click the link and still somehow determines that this is a legit news site and then shares it, that just aggravates the issues.

Curious about what else this site promotes, I clicked on this article: Did you fall for the “18 school shootings in 2018” fake news hoax? It’s a complete lie pushed by the dishonest left-wing media that hates America. One quick look at the title alone shows the strong bias and intention to sow distrust. But how many times will this headline be shared? And how much division will it cause?

Deep political division, Russian bots, fake news. We need to be careful more than ever what we are sharing. Check the source, cross-check the story. It’s so much easier to just hit the “share” button. But along with this easy source of news comes the responsibility not to use it to spread false claims. Opinions are opinions, and facts are facts. And in this case, the fact is that NaturalNews is more the site administrator’s opinions than anything else.

Our country is deeply divided, and jumping to conclusions based on mislabeled news headlines certainly doesn’t help. Stop. Read. Think. Question. Cross-check. If it seems credible, feel free to share. If not, keep scrolling. Maybe share some puppy videos. I think we’d all rather see cute happy puppies, right?

 

Consensual Health

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As Bemidji State University pushes to revise the Minnesota State’s 37 college and universities’ definition of sexual assault, the focus on ending campus assault has also reached nationwide. Following up on my last post regarding #metoo, some of these issues are highly  contentious and arguably have a gray area for some. Still, the work being done by researchers and students alike to make our campuses safer cannot be ignored.

As a student at a non-traditional institution, I haven’t had to deal with out of control frat parties or dorm room assault at Metropolitan State. But having visited friends at traditional campuses, I have seen this firsthand. Drinks getting drugged. Women realizing the next day that they blacked out and have no idea if they’d been taken advantage of. Guys not thinking that they should think twice about bringing that incoherent girl upstairs. And simply being a woman facing harassment or bias just for being who I am, I can tell you that this is a problem wherever you are. Being a commuter college doesn’t mean that harassment and assault don’t happen. It just happens in a different way.

While Minnesota State tightens up the gray area of “affirmative consent,” two Columbia professors are shifting to a broader view of changing the culture. Jennifer Hirsch and Claude Ann Mellins, at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health are looking for new solutions where other programs have failed. Instead of just focusing on individuals, S.H.I.F.T., or Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation provides a broader examination of sexual assault. As Hirsch puts it, quite bluntly, “We have to stop working one penis at a time!” The program seeks to portray sexual assault prevention as part of sexual health, instead of a topic that most people would like to avoid.

So, tighten up the gray area or broaden the view? I tend to give preference to broader solutions, since tightening up the rules seems to make otherwise unaffected people consider it a taboo issue. At the same time, I do believe that individuals must be accountable for their actions, and for that I applaud the Student’s United group of Minnesota State for giving a clearer definition of “consent.” Sexual assault on campuses is nothing new, but perhaps a new approach is exactly what we need.

#MeToo, and What About You?

The #metoo movement has brought a huge change in our society. Women feel that they can speak up, but do we? What do we share, how do we define assault? It’s become a more complicated topic than just a hashtag.  I hate to say that the initial empowerment  felt as a woman has already faded. After the Aziz Ansari fiasco on Babe, I’m left wondering what the standards are for calling out #metoo. How far is too far? Do some put verbal harassment on the same tier as rape? Should we even have tiers? I’m so confused. So, what about you? I for one am getting sick of being an undefinable hashtag.

As Jia Tolentino writes, it’s stressing her out. Check out The Rising Pressure of the #metoo Backlash and get back to me. Ladies (and gents), how has #metoo affected you?

Skeptic with a Capital S.

I remember exactly when I realized that my generation was screwed. As an early Millenial (Xenial), I witnessed how our Capitalist economy, once the dream of my Reagan Republican parents, collapsed in front of my face. My store went out of business. Rents became out of reach. And I realized my college dream would end up leaving me with tens of thousands in potential debt, while getting paid less than what I made 10 years ago. I am not alone. Yes, Millenials, we did truly get screwed.

I like the idea of this “We First” mindset that Mainwaring is going for. But I remain skeptical about this utopian dream. Social media reaches a wider audience, one that may be able to solve problems. But we’ve had the American Capitalist Dream so ingrained in our heads for generations, that seeing this as the solution to all our problems may take a lot of convincing. And the current political climate isn’t making me feel any better about this supposed utopia happening. If anything, the “Me First” mentality is back.

But in spite of my skepticism, I’d like to think that things will change. The generation that sees the struggle we will have with maintaining material possessions on our own, might see the strength that a community of “We” can have. Our social media obsessions might lead to more than a hashtag. Just look at how #metoo is already changing mainstream culture.

Mainwaring says that “The rise of social media gives consumers new leverage to persuade corporations to accept greater social responsibility for their behaviors, while at the same time offering corporations opportunities to strengthen ties to their customers”. I want to believe this is true. So I ask you: What can “We” do to convince this Skeptic?
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I hope that the angle I’m taking (skeptic) is abundantly clear. My main audience for this post is the Millenials, namely those who are affected by the financial challenges are generation is facing. My challenge is for the reader to prove my skepticism wrong, and think about what we CAN do to create a better future society. I’d like my audience to identify with what I’m feeling, and use that anger/doubt/skepticism to do something (via social media) to resolve our current situation. If actually writing a post, I may possibly go into more depth, but probably not. From my personal experience, too much content can lead to skimming and/or completely missing the point. So writing to my peers, I would keep a blog post of this topic fairly short. Save in-depth content for the books.