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.
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.