Last night, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students David Hogg and Cameron Kasky joined Bill Maher to discuss the campus shooting in Parkland, FL, and their campaign to prevent future gun violence. I was skeptical that two 17 year olds would be able to handle themselves on Maher's show, and even more skeptical that they could make me believe that their movement could actually lead to gun reform in America. Boy was I wrong.
The two young men were bright, extremely articulate, and displayed a self confidence I do not remember coming across amongst my peers when I was their age (almost 20 years ago). Such was the self possession of Hogg that he had actually hung up on the White House last week, offended by Donald Trump's refusal to attend CNN’s town hall meeting with survivors the mass shooting that saw 17 of their friends and classmates die at the hands of a disturbed teenager with an AR-15. He told a somewhat stunned Maher that:
“I ended on this message: We don’t need to listen to President Trump, Present Trump needs to listen to to the screams of the children and screams of this nation,” said Hogg.
Kasky was equally as scathing about America's politicians. “We want Americans to stop being afraid of demanding our politicians to take action," he said. "They work for us, we don’t work for them and the march is us coming out and saying to our employees ‘You guys suck at your job.’“
Kasky also went after those who are dismissing them because of their age. “We’ve seen our friends text their parents goodbye," he said matter of factly. "We are the experts."
It was Maher's face more than anything that told the real story of the Parkland kids' visit to his show. He quite literally couldn't believe what he was seeing and hearing -- teenagers who weren't interested in political games, weren't interested in the destructive tribalism that has torn the country apart, but were interested in taking down the establishment that has refused to protect their lives.
“I honestly thought kids were a lot stupider,” Maher told them. “You’ve really given me faith that the kids today are actually very bright, way brighter than we were.”
“We have never seen change like this.”
No, we haven't. As a Brit who has lived through hundreds of mass shootings in America, I genuinely never thought I would see something like this. In the wake of a mass shooting in Oregon in 2015, I wrote that the lack of action against this type of barbarism was forcing me to consider moving home:
This gun violence will not stop unless massive political action is taken, and as sad as this is for me to say, I see no possibility that it can, or will happen. And for that reason, there will probably come a point when, out of fear, I will feel compelled to go back home.
For the first time in my adult life in America, I feel less fear now. The kids are alright, and they might just be taking back their country.