Skip to main Content
National Opinions

Students, parents say #Enough to excuses for inaction on mass shootings

  • Author: Clarence Page
    | Opinion
  • Updated: February 23
  • Published February 23

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School parent Andrew Pollack, with his sons, talks about the death of his daughter Meadow as U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a listening session with school shooting survivors and students at the White House in Washington, U.S., Feb. 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Sometimes a word is enough.

In the case of Andrew Pollack, the word was "enough." He had seen and heard and lost more than enough.

His 18-year-old daughter, Meadow Pollack, was one of 17 students and faculty members killed on St. Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., with a military-style semiautomatic rifle. A 19-year-old drop-out from the school has been charged.

Regardless of your politics, you would have to have a heart of Florida sand to be left unmoved by this father's anguish.

He's the father who could barely hold himself together in a meeting on school violence with other parents and students and President Donald Trump at the White House.

"There should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it!" he said. "And I'm pissed!" The p-word popped in the silent, golden room.

"Because my daughter, I'm not going to see again. … She's in North Lauderdale King David cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now."

Yeah, somebody should have fixed it. How many of us have said that after a mass shooting in recent years in a school? Or a theater? Or a college? Or a church?

Some people with exceptionally bad taste saw Pollack's photo online. Photographed by the Palm Beach Post on the day of the killings, he is seen holding up a cellphone picture of his daughter as he waited in a car outside of a Broward County hospital for word of her condition.

In the photo he wears a "Trump 2020" T-shirt.

For that, he was widely said to have been twitter-bombed with online criticism, although the Snopes fact-checker site found only a "very small minority" of criticisms. The trolls, says Snopes, were "overwhelmingly outnumbered" by offerings of condolence and support.

But as unfair as it would be to blame Trump for this tragedy, he tried to get ahead of it with the eagerness of a man who wanted to take the public's mind off his other embarrassments, such as, for example, ongoing investigations of Russia's possible ties to his election campaign.

So with all those concerns elbowed aside, there sat our nation's president listening to survivors of a variety of gun-related massacres, as he clutched what appeared to be a crib sheet of talking points.

It appeared to begin with "What would you most want me to know about your experience?" and end with "I hear you."

That sounds familiar. Conflict resolution specialists stress the importance of good listening. We saw a lot of that in Trump's campaign. He was better than the more politically experienced Hillary Clinton in hearing what was troubling his target voter base. Merely giving voice to what outraged them was enough, whether he had a workable solution or not.

But will that be enough this time? Unlike the earlier gun-related tragedies, a new theme dominated the national conversation, maybe this time is different.

But how? With all three branches of the federal government and most state governments currently run by conservatives, it was no surprise to see President Trump make a pitch for one controversial remedy in particular: Arm the teachers.

"If you had a teacher … who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack quickly," he said. Or you could have a situation like Parkland, where the only armed security guard on campus "never went in" to a building to stop the shooter, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday. The guard resigned. Two other deputies were placed on restrictive leave.

Frankly, having covered tragedies like this for more than 30 years, the one big difference I see this time is the kids. With their no-nonsense "I call BS" spirit in their marches, rallies and TV news programs, angry survivors of the Parkland massacre inspire us. Millions of dollars have been raised online for a "March for Our Lives" in Washington in March.

I'm too old and cranky to expect miracles, but every great movement for social change starts somewhere, when enough people decide they have had enough.

Clarence Page is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.

Comments