A YA revolution; plus, Wednesday Martin’s Untrue
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.