The world came together yesterday in solidarity with the American protests against gun violence. There were over 800 marches worldwide with the vast majority of the United States, but protests were pinned on most global metropolitan cities spanning from London to Sydney, Berlin to Sao Paulo.
I was fortunate to walk along the edge of Central Park with my sister, who is in high school, and my fellow friends in solidarity. We have never been affected by gun violence directly; we got to walk in protest under the sun yesterday, and we are the lucky ones.
However, I can’t say that for those who stood around me. I don’t know their motivations for attending, be it compassion or deathly personal.
Through traveling, I have found that most people aspire to be proud of their country. Of course, selective biases have us highlight the positive and overlook the negative aspects of our nations. Nevertheless, it is incredibly hard to be proud of my country, the decisions my politicians are making, and the unnecessary and unruly violence plaguing my country.
It must be unfathomable for those in other countries to understand the subtle hostility that blows through our country like the western wind. People in Japan, who have the lowest gun homicide rate in the world, probably don’t hesitate when they walk into a bank or a cafe or any other seemingly normal space social space and think, “ What if someone here has a gun?”
I’m not saying that there isn’t violence in other nations, but I personally feel like there is always an edge in America. I remember acknowledging that subtle sensitivity once when I was taking a tram in Prague and for the first time thought, “ I don’t fear being shot here.” It was a novel feeling. One where I could go about my day and not question my own safety in seemingly innocuous public spaces
The thought of being shot never crossed my mind.
That thought has pleasantly carried itself with me through every country I have been to; it packs itself into my bags and I wander the world with no fear of being affected by gun violence.
That feeling changes the moment I come back onto American soil. It isn’t a pervasive feeling or something that limits my ability to move about, but there is always a moment of hesitation before entering a bank or a post office or a mall.
The strange fear has blanketed itself over our country and now looms over our schools, a place where students should be learning how to read, not dodge bullets. Fear has no place in the education system.
To the rest of the world, we look insane.
What I thought was the most pervasive aspect of March For Our Lives was the sharing of stories.
There were a few moments of this, like when the use of storytelling was able to capture a moment stronger than statistics.
At the Washington D.C. protest, Emma Gonzalez led a 6 min and 20 second moment of silence, which is how long it took the gunman to kill the 17 students in Parkland. Out of the 380 seconds they sat in silence, one individual died every 22 seconds. That’s abhorred.
Or when Paul McCartney, who was walking in the New York City protest stated, “One of my best friends was killed by gun violence right around here.”
Or all of the powerful messages, quotes, and tales on the protest signs held up by the arms of individuals who were carrying more weight than a stick and paper.
Storytelling is a powerful tool. It can be used for good, and it can be used for change.
We can not let the stories of those who have been victims to gun violence fade away. Those stories must turn into cautionary tales to parents, into persuasive arguments towards politicians, and into conversations with schoolmates who seem to be in need of support.
Although their lives were untimely ripped away, sharing their stories makes them a little immortal. They are allowed to live on in the collective consciousness and part of the larger story we are all shaping and construct a more peaceful world.
We can not let them be forgotten.
You can donate to March For Our Lives.