There has been mixed response to the devastating recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Most parents and students across the country reacted with understandable shock, empathy, and concern. Some people, however, reacted with ignorance and eye-opening hypocrisy.
In a televised interview with CBS Miami, Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose Facebook banner declares his desire for a “safer, stronger America”, publicly referred to gun control as a “complicated issue” and said, “I reacted to the Parkland shooting as a father first, with daughters the same ages as the victims, and a political leader second.” Rubio went on to say that, as a political leader, he wonders if he could have done something differently, or if they “missed something” regarding this issue.
While Senator Rubio’s assessment of gun control as “complicated” is accurate, and his reaction to the Parkland shooting is understandable and expected, his words reveal hypocrisy. According to Time.com, in the 2016 election cycle, 19 federal election candidates in Florida races received more than $40,000 from the NRA. Rubio raked in the highest donation, receiving a total of $9,900 (NRA donations are capped at $10,000 per candidate, $5,000 for a primary election and $5,000 for a general). Rubio also received an A+ rating from the NRA. How, then, can Senator Rubio and his colleagues promote a “safer, stronger America” when they legitimize guns by accepting monetary donations from the NRA? It’s time for Rubio, et al. to put their money where their mouth is and initiate change. They should follow the admirable example of the surviving Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, who have constructively channeled their anger and grief into organized activism and emerged the voice of the people.
Student David Hogg, a 17 year old survivor of the shooting, is one of the most vocal student activists. Hogg, a student journalist and the son of a retired FBI agent, recorded events at the high school on his cell phone as they unfolded. Conspiracy theorists have since claimed the young man is a “crisis actor” planted at the school in the aftermath of the shooting. (Such wacko theorists also believe such mass shootings are staged.) An aide to a Florida state representative sent an email to the Tampa Bay Times positing that Hogg is an actor; the aide was promptly fired. Shockingly, these conspiracy enthusiasts have shown no empathy toward David Hogg and his fellow grieving classmates. They have, however, displayed remarkable ignorance and alarming irrationality.
Last, but not least, there’s President Trump, who, try as he might, can’t seem to exercise sincere sensitivity. While victims of the Parkland mass shooting were being memorialized and buried, Donald Trump was playing golf at Mar-a-Lago. While being photographed with Parkland police officers and medics, Trump gave a thumbs-up, an inappropriate gesture hopefully intended as a pat on the back for these first responders rather than for himself. The bereaved do not need a thumbs-up from a self-aggrandizing president! They do not need gossip and rumors! They do not need senators giving lip service to reform! Americans need leaders who truly care. We need empathy, action, change. Now.