When I see people blaming mass shootings on bullying, it really grates me down to the bone. Not every mass shooter has been the product of bullying. Bullying has been a decades-long issue. However, the widespread ownership and use of military-grade weapons has not.
When I was a child, I was a scrawny, quiet, female. I had a teacher who bullied me. Anytime I wanted to say something in class, he made sure to demean me and diminish my worth. It was because I was small and quiet. I lacked confidence and he made sure to point it out. He continuously called me “mouse girl.” A boy in my class also rode my bus and he liked to bully as well. He caught on to the teacher’s name-calling and proceeded to make fun of me the entire drive home from school on that big yellow school bus. I was a victim of bullying, but that bullying did not result in me wanting to shoot up my school or hurt others. Yes, I would like Mr. Mullin at Ammons Middle School to not have a job anymore – to not be able to harass, belittle, and bully anyone else. You look online at RateMyTeacher and boys continue to praise him in their ratings for being funny while numerous female students mention his bullying. He continues to bully middle school children – children who are at a very delicate stage developmentally and emotionally.
I remember Columbine. I remember being stunned. I vividly remember a student at my cousin’s middle school being stabbed to death in the bathroom in 2004 while my cousin sat in his classroom as they tried to determine who the killer was. I remember everyone being in shock from the violence. We now face these situations all too often. Our once stunned and confused reactions are now anger-filled. No one is shocked. We are living in a sick world where this has become the norm. Thousands of children are Marching for their lives. They aren’t marching because they don’t like the school curriculum or because they like the attention. They are marching because there are so many who cannot. They are marching for their future and to ensure others have a future.
Open your eyes and look within,
Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?
Jah come to break down oppression,
Wipe away transgression,
Set the captives free.
I look back throughout history on generations of demonstrations, marches, and protests and see their strength in the students Marching today. The older generation belittling these students’ opinions and speeches because they are young, yet their generation was around their age when they fought for the freedoms they currently have the pleasure of having. Isn’t this what democracy looks like? What made them forget the past? What made them forget how we got here?
This is how history repeats itself.
My mother, who will be 70 this year, retired after well over 30 years in the school system. She is a healthy woman and stays active. She retired, continued traveling, volunteering at Fairchild, and enjoying life. She volunteered for the 2016 Clinton campaign and went door-to-door in the rain supporting what she believed in. She attends church every Sunday and volunteers through the church. She is now substitute teaching at a school that opened because of a grant she wrote. She is not equip to face an active shooter situation. My mother was a young adult in the 60s-70s and has experienced the hell out of life. She has traveled and continues to travel the world and experienced and embraced other cultures. She combines her experiences in life with what she believes is right and forms her opinions on that. She is a journalist. She always investigates so she provides factual information. She is an educator. Not just of English, journalism, or technology, but of life. I watched generations of her students rely on her for mentorship and guidance. Growing up, she taught me to know the difference from right and wrong. She taught me independence. She taught me to form my own opinions and beliefs. Best of all, she taught me to fight for what is right – she taught me to speak up when something isn’t right. She and I talked about how inspiring the students from Parkland are. How proud we are of them. It’s unacceptable that such tragedy has put them in the limelight and we didn’t do anything to prevent us from getting to this point.
I frequently see individuals from my mother’s generation berating people from my generation for our push for what is right — on Facebook, while criticizing our generation’s use of social media. Pushing against the current generation’s action to protect others from non-sense violence such as school shootings. Pushing against the current generation’s actions against the actions of the putrid man running our nation. These marches for gun reform, healthcare, and gender equality are what democracy is made of. I know of the baby boomer generation as being one that fought for what they believed in because of my parents’ lives. I know that their generation protested the Vietnam war — I know my mother lost friends to the Vietnam War. There seems to be a closed-minded portion of that generation that sees themselves superior to the current generation, instead of embracing them and allowing the younger generations to learn from their experiences and allowing themselves to learn from the younger generations. Every generation is different. Over time we have new technological advancements, fight different wars, struggle with different things, but we can all benefit from understanding one another.
Watching the numerous protests around the world over the weekend has been so incredibly inspiring. The thousands of people worldwide supporting our students. Our soon-to-be-voting, educated, powerful students. They are being raised in a time where a wealth of information is at their fingertips. They are the generation of now. And now they’re using that information and their experiences to fight for their lives and the lives of others.
You see that little blonde girl in her school uniform holding up an “Are you afraid of what I have to say?!?” poster? That’s me. My mother was a journalism teacher for high school students. She taught me about censorship and the importance of free press. She taught me to speak up when I think something isn’t right. I protested alongside high school students and adults. I learned at a young age to fight for what is right. And thank god I did, because we’ve got a lot to fight for these days.
I’m ready to fight. Let’s do this. Let’s continue to March. Let’s continue to be heard. Let’s vote them out. Let’s continue to do what is right. Let’s continue to support one another in this very long journey to improve our nation.
Looking back on old pictures from when I was a kid, I see that my love for wearing big shirts and no pants has been lifelong. Most of the pictures I come across are from the beach, skiing, or sporting events. When I think about my childhood, it feels like I lived in a completely different world from the kids growing up now. Don’t get me wrong, we totally played video games and had some “screen time” too, but it wasn’t the same. We played outside in the neighborhood. We didn’t sit at the dinner table watching/playing with a tablet. We went to school, came home, did our homework, and played outside with friends. I grew up going to Marlins games and Dolphins games. I grew up collecting pins to wear proudly on my Marlins cap to every game. I grew up valuing the outdoors. Kids these days don’t seem to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors or the beauty of actually interacting with others.
It is too often that I go out to eat and see a family sitting at a table with their kids sitting there staring at a iPad or iPhone screen with headphones in. We wonder where the social issues come from? Right there. I was expected to talk about my day and participate in conversations with my family. What good are we doing our children if we don’t interact with them? I understand that sometimes you just need a break from your children, but if that’s the case – hire a babysitter to take the kids off your hands when you go out to dinner. And don’t hire a babysitter who is going to sit there and watch TV with your kids all evening. Hire a babysitter who will read with them, read to them, play with them, and engage them.
Before I started working at the hospital in October, I was filling my days with babysitting and nanny jobs. I understand that it is hard to keep a kid engaged for hours on end – I’ve had to do it, a lot. I have been around my best friend and her kids since birth. Prior to moving to NYC, I was around those two kiddos 3-7 days a week for years on end. I’m not completely against letting kids play some games on a tablet or watch some TV. I’m just saying that the ratio of screen time to other activities needs to change! We need to engage our children before they complacently sit by and allow the world pass them by.