I don't know where you were when you heard about Wednesday's high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. I don't know what you were doing, or how you tried to process the news. I do know this: you thought to yourself, not again. And yet, again. Of course. Of course.
We are the first generation to be forcefully rendered numb by mass shooting after mass shooting after mass shooting — over and over again, every day, every week, every month, until we can hardly feel it. We are the first generation of Americans to have this forced on us, and I don't believe that we will be the last.
This, you have heard before: That meaningful gun reform is possible, must be possible, because Australia and the U.K. suffered a single mass shooting and decided it could never happen again. That a majority of Americans can agree that some degree of gun reform is needed right now. That 150,000 children and young adults went to school at some point in the last two decades and found themselves trapped in the midst of mass murder.
This, you've also heard: That there is a way, must be a way, to get ourselves out of this, because no developed and civil and educated nation can sit and watch as its citizens are slaughtered, brutally and repeatedly. Surely. Surely.
OK. So what is it?
We are a generation caught in a catch-22: You can numb yourself to the pain, the base instinct to feel empathy for other people's grief and suffering. Or, you can force yourself to feel each trauma as though it's the first, as though each Parkland, San Bernardino, Orlando, and Las Vegas are as shocking as Columbine was in 1999.
There has to be another way, you're thinking. There has to be a middle ground, where you can feel the storm of emotion and then channel that grief and anger into real, lasting change.
I have to ask you: What is it?
You can, and should, donate to organizations that work tirelessly to support gun reform. You can, and should, dismantle the myth that owning a gun makes a person safer. You can, and should, use your voice to protest, sign petitions, tweet, march, write letters, make calls — all of it.
And yet. There is only one way to significantly reduce the number of mass shootings in the United States, and it is meaningful, common-sense gun reform. This is far more than one piece of legislation — but nothing meaningful has been passed since. Nothing.
Thoughts and prayers have not worked. Devastatingly candid speeches by parents whose young children were shot to death have not worked. A president's aching desire to fix gun culture in some way, somehow, did not work. Outrage over a president blaming everyday students for their own massacre will not work.
So what will? I'm genuinely asking, because I don't know the answer. After all, we are a generation who has seen a guy who once said that he could "grab women by the pussy" become president. We are a generation who has seen 58 people massacred at a festival and our government collectively shrug. We are a generation who is learning that, sometimes, there's not a damn thing you can do.
Even when it's unjust. Even when it's grotesque. Even when it's the worst thing you can possibly think of, when you let yourself consider it happening to your sister, your child, your wife. Even when you let yourself think about it, just for a second, just because you want change so bad.
What can we do? What is there left to do? Please. Please. Tell me.