When I was first offered the opportunity to write an editorial concerning the tragic events in Parkland Florida, I decided to refuse. After all, what do I, a 15-year-old junior, know about serious stuff in the world? Aren’t I just another “lazy and unrealistic” teenager with a brain addled by hormones who understands nothing compared to “knowledgeable” adults?
But I do understand that last month, 14 “lazy and unrealistic” teenagers were murdered in one of the worst school massacres in American history. Leading up to the shooting, there were no less than 18 calls received and ignored by the “knowledgeable” sheriff concerning the shooter’s intentions to harm others. Today, thousands of “lazy and unrealistic” teenagers are pushing for stricter gun regulation despite copious hate mail from “knowledgeable” adults. Thousands of “knowledgeable” adults are unwilling to change, content on sending “thoughts and prayers” to the “lazy and unrealistic” survivors.
Wistful thinking backed with half-hearted reassurances will change nothing. Until we work together make a better world, we will continue to have mass shootings. I understand that many are reluctant to take part because of other responsibilities, such as maintaining relationships with family members and friends who have different beliefs. Many of the students of Stoneman Douglas High School probably felt the same concerning the alarming behavior of former student Nikolas Cruz. But it was Cruz who would eventually return to massacre his former school. Must it take the deaths of our own family members and friends for us to learn?
Although many Americans disagree about what to do in the wake of the recent shooting, I know we all want the same thing: a safer and more peaceful country. And although I believe that establishing stricter gun regulations would help, some of you may not agree. I am not going to say that you are wrong. Instead, I want to offer an alternative that will make a difference: reach out to those in need and follow your morals, regardless of what others think.
Nikolas Cruz displayed many warning signs leading up to the shooting. In addition to displaying unruly behavior at school and at home, sharing pictures of weapons on social media, and slaughtering small animals, Cruz frequently talked about being a school shooter in daily conversations. In September 2017, Cruz posted a YouTube comment that read “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” Although it garnered interest from the FBI, the investigation was closed quickly after. Many concerned neighbors noted Cruz’s violent tendencies, but did little to intervene. “He fell through the cracks because we don’t know what to do,” said Cruz’s previous English teacher Laurel Holland. How many others today have fallen through the cracks and haven’t been noticed?
Reach out to those in need. Imagine what wonders a genuine gesture of empathy and compassion means to those who have been without it for so long. If others showed Cruz that he mattered, he might have done the same. Ask people if they are okay. If not, discuss ways of making things better. As a hardcore introvert, even simple acts of kindness like friends at school saying “hello” mean the whole world to me.
Do not say it is not your problem. Do not say it is not your concern. Do not be content to ignore those who are obviously a danger to themselves and others. What will happen if everyone else thinks the same, hoping that someone else will make the problem magically disappear?
Respect your moral compass, even when others do not follow their own. Your opinion matters. Consider every possibility, every possible future you would have to live through. What will your silence cost?
Cruz, like many teenagers throughout America, probably felt socially isolated from his peers. There are many children and adults throughout America that must be properly assessed. They are not as distant as you may think. Who do you worry about? What can you do? Will you live up to the stereotype of being a “lazy and unrealistic” teenager or a “knowledgeable” adult?