The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Modify my views on guns, or vilify traumatized teens? I have chosen the latter.

Students spoke at a rally for tighter firearms regulations on the steps of the Florida capitol on Feb. 21. (Video: Patrick Martin/The Washington Post)

I am very concerned about the schoolchildren. For their own protection (too late), it is important to me that they have their microphones taken away from them, stat.

I only wish that in addition to the nightmare they have had to live through and the loss they have had to suffer, someone will lovingly place duct tape over their mouths, so that they will not interrupt those of us who are trying to explain why AR-15s are just like children and deserve to be kept in the home until graduation and then sent off to colleges and allowed to wander wherever their dreams may take them.

It is cruel to these children that we allow them to be seen when they are so angry. It is upsetting (for them, not for me, of course not for me) to hear their voices on the television, demanding through tears that something change. It is unfair (to them, of course to them) that they be allowed to continue to speak about the horror they have experienced. It will only make them sad when nothing changes. Have they not suffered enough (from something I will not specify until this blows over)?

They should be older, if they wish us to listen to them. They should be older, like me, and less traumatized, like me. If they wanted to go on television, they should have had the foresight and presence of mind not to be children when this innocence was ripped from them.

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Do not listen to the children. They are not money.

There are certain sorts of people whom we once thought we should give respect and space to. Gold Star mothers. Gold Star fathers. The victims of unthinkable tragedies, in the few days after those tragedies. But that was when they had the grace to be silent and let us determine, for ourselves, the moral of what they had lived through. That was when they did not demand that we take responsibility.

Now, if you don’t want to hear from any more high schoolers traumatized by gun violence, then you either decide to try to create a world where high schoolers are not traumatized by gun violence, or decide to create a world where you do not have to listen to the high schoolers. It looks like we’re picking the latter!

We are not monsters. This burning shame that keeps us awake is their fault. If they were not there pointing the finger at us — We are being personally victimized! We are the real victims here! They have the audacity to point fingers at people for doing nothing! We haven’t done anything!

We are not trying to create a nightmare Catch-22 where people who were recently the victims of gun violence are too traumatized to be taken seriously on the subject of gun violence. That would be the act of monsters, which we, as specified, are not.

I am very concerned about the children. I am concerned that the act of telling the story of the thing they have lived through will be too unpleasant for them. Not for me, never for me! I understand that these things sometimes happen. What is obscene is not that they happen at all, but that they are being forced down my throat like this. If someone who had been burned in a fire came on television, I would be upset that we saw the protuberance of bone and melted skin.

The shame is that we are being forced to see it. Not that it happened. Not that they are begging us for it to stop.

Somehow I maintain all these things at once. The children are being coached, and paid, and also they are too traumatized to be allowed to talk. They should be ashamed, the people who have given them a podium should be ashamed too. I should not be ashamed. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Get them away from me. I don’t want to look at them anymore.

I am concerned about the children.

I am concerned that someone may listen to them.