Marcos is a student studying vocal performance at New York University and a member of Cultures Advisory Council. Below is his reflection on school shootings and how we can work on finding our power in discourse to address this issue.


 

Finding Our Power in Difficult Discourse

By Marcos Ospina

 

I grew up in Colorado, the birthplace of modern American school shootings, where the consequences of Columbine run deep and damagingly in the hearts of Coloradans. It still amazes me that so many students have been shot in this country and so little has been done. Considering the sheer number of shootings this country has experienced, it would make sense that laws would change in consideration of school safetysomething generally accepted as essential for children no matter class, race, or political beliefsbecause we love and live for our children, right? It doesn’t seem like it. No matter, it’s up to us kids to change things, right? Maybe.

My generation is the only one that knows what it feels like to be targeted by other students in high school. My generation is the only one that knows that adults in positions of power will not take the necessary actions to keep us safenot from an enemy abroad but from the sickness in our own communities. We live knowing that there are some adults who will mock and dismiss our demands for change. We live these truths every single day. Recently, I read an article in The New York Times that described a walkout of one in a small rural school in Wisconsin. The school had planned an assembly on kindness. The article described a lone freshman girl who had walked out and sat by a flagpole in silence for seventeen minutes, one minute for each student gunned down in Parkland just weeks ago.


My generation is the only one that knows what it feels like to be targeted by other students in high school. My generation is the only one that knows that adults in positions of power will not take the necessary actions to keep us safe—not from an enemy abroad but from the sickness in our own communities.


 

As I read the description of the girl, the scenario was instantly real. The flagpole was tangible, the cool air was harsh, and the girl was right in front of my eyes, stoic and silent. My reaction was visceral. I was angry. Now that I’m in my first year of college, I feel like less of a target but I’m still just as angry. No matter how low or hate-filled my peer feels, he (yes, he) should not have such access to assault rifles to take out illogical rage on my classmates, my bullies, my friends, and me.

Last weekend I participated in the March For Our Lives. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other media showed angry teenagers demanding the importance of safe schoolswhether or not the adults in their communities support their demands. As young people, we must hold the adults in our lives accountable by being relentlessly knowledgeable of who is in office and who is running to take their place. We can research who is backed by organizations like the NRA or who wants to maintain and implement common sense gun control policies. We have a duty to conduct research that is more than basic rearticulations of what we already agree with or believe we know.

Our mission, although it doesn’t seem like action, is to actually know things and not be afraid to speak about them.

It doesn’t matter if you have the money to donate to politicians or gun control advocacy organizations; words hold power, even online. It is not just teenagers who suffer from the pressure to “be chill” on social media and in school; adults, too have the same pressures. To them, though, it’s to be “diplomatic” or “appropriate.” Have you sat at a dinner table with your family or your friend’s and been informed that religion and politics shouldn’t be brought up? We can change that. Students have the right to be angry if we’re scared to even go to school and we have to make that real to our parents, teachers, and politicians. We have to make difficult, direct discourse the norm, and not an instant sign of teenage angst and rebellion. If everyone becomes less afraid of talking about the “hard” subjects, things may actually change.

I implore kids in high school and in college to spend less time trying to tell adults that we know things and to instead engage with people about those things that we know. A fact that kids in school are targets is a grisly one, but it is a fact. Because of this, the rhetoric surrounding this truth must be gritty and demanding. A term used to describe the language of politicians is doublespeak; a concept Orwell noticed and defined in Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is language that uses vagueness and question-begging as “defense of the indefensible.” The wildly loose gun control in this country is indefensible. Our political leaders continue to get away with defending it through their doublespeak. It’s time for the country to embrace a style of discourse and action that is urgent, honest, and anything but diplomatic.


If you have any questions for Marcos about finding our power, email curious@culturesofdignity.com