Books

A YA revo­lu­tion; plus, Wed­nes­day Martin’s Un­true

Newsweek - - Con­tents - ANNA TIN­NENY @an­natinn

we came of age at the height of a dystopian trend. Our young adult best-sell­ers— The Hunger Games, Di­ver­gent and The 100— showed us a world in which children’s lives were used as cur­rency to be traded and passed around un­til a strong teenage hero­ine came along to stand up to the pow­ers that be. Hav­ing been raised to ad­mire these char­ac­ters, is it any sur­prise we’ve be­come them?

When Park­land sur­vivor Emma Gon­za­lez cried BS, when Los An­ge­les stu­dent Edna Chavez chanted

“Ri­cardo” to help us feel the loss of her brother, when

Sarah Chad­wick sends mock­ing tweets to pro-gun

politi­cians like Marco Ru­bio, they are doing what they were taught.

The par­al­lels be­tween the cur­rent U.S. gov­ern­ment and the themes of the most pop­u­lar dystopian nov­els of Gen­er­a­tion Z are strik­ing. Ev­ery day, kids are killed by guns on the streets, in their homes or at the movies or school. In­ex­pli­ca­bly, politi­cians have done noth­ing to stop this on­go­ing mas­sacre.

Or per­haps it’s not that in­ex­pli­ca­ble: They’ve cho­sen to stay com­plicit in this slaugh­ter to keep their pock­et­books lined and their con­gres­sional seats warm. Are they that dif­fer­ent from The Hunger Games’ Pres­i­dent Snow, who “reaped” dozens of children an­nu­ally to pla­cate the masses?

Ger­man film critic Siegfried Kra­cauer the­o­rized that pre­war Ger­man films fore­shad­owed Hitler and the as­cent of the Nazi Party. Sim­i­larly, I be­lieve that the pop­u­lar­ity of lit­er­a­ture in which children are reg­u­larly bru­tal­ized and mur­dered—un­til they rally and fight back—paved the way for the cur­rent gun violence preven­tion move­ment.

For years, reg­u­lar mass shoot­ings have ter­ror­ized the coun­try. Even­tu­ally, the calls for ac­tion faded to whis­pers. For decades, com­mu­ni­ties of color have screamed for change, only to be muted by an in­dif­fer­ent na­tion. For decades, too, in­ci­dents like sui­cide by firearm and do­mes­tic gun violence were writ­ten off as iso­lated tragedies that would have hap­pened with or with­out a gun.

March for Our Lives united our voices. Rather than pit­ting these nar­ra­tives against one an­other and com­pet­ing for air­time, they share the plat­form and the mic. Since the mass demon­stra­tions on March 24, sev­eral states have passed leg­is­la­tion to ban bump stocks and raise the minimum pur­chas­ing age of a firearm to 21. The

Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion has suf­fered ma­jor losses. None of that would have hap­pened with­out the in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity of March for Our Lives.

While many mil­len­ni­als are con­de­scend­ingly dubbed “slack­tivists” for post­ing about is­sues while fail­ing to turn up at the polls, Gen Z has thrown it­self head­first into or­ga­ni­za­tion. So­cial me­dia is how we net­work, ad­ver­tise our cause and gar­ner pub­lic sup­port. But, un­like other on­line move­ments, our pri­mary strat­egy is to or­ches­trate tan­gi­ble demon­stra­tions.

The Na­tional School Walk­out was strik­ing be­cause it was in­dis­putably ob­vi­ous that over a mil­lion teenagers cared enough about this is­sue to phys­i­cally do some­thing about it. I or­ga­nized a protest at Pen­nridge High School in Perkasie, Penn­syl­va­nia, stag­ing a 1960s-style sit-in. A video of this went viral, amass­ing 3.4 mil­lion views. This led to an out­pour­ing of sup­port from peo­ple around the world, and an in­vig­o­rated group of high school­ers—225 stu­dents who cared enough to re­ceive Satur­day morn­ing de­ten­tions (for them) and a sus­pen­sion (for me).

We took what we learned from Kat­niss’s trib­ute to Rue in Hunger Games and Mare’s cun­ning or­ga­ni­za­tion tac­tics in Red Queen, com­bined it with our in­ter­net savvy and gave our­selves a plat­form, along with a huge sup­port net­work. Through hon­ing our dystopian-tech­no­log­i­cal fu­sion brand of activism, our move­ment has held the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion and scared sev­eral politi­cians into re­think­ing gun re­form.

There is one acute dif­fer­ence be­tween YA dystopia and the gun re­form move­ment: In­stead of hav­ing one teenage sav­ior, we have many.

YOUTH QUAKE The cast of the ɿlm The Hunger Games: Mock­ing­jay—part 2,with Jen­nifer Lawrence as Kat­niss, in red.

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