Hundreds of high school and middle school students from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia staged walkouts and gather in front of the White House in support of gun control in the wake of the Florida shooting February 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. / AFP
The riveting CNN Town Hall meeting special this week on the High School Massacre in Florida has so much to teach Sri Lankan elected, business and civic leaders, students, teenagers, educators and parents to act TODAY to bring about the changes that were needed yesterday. Who is leading this country today? No one seems to have the answer. They did not have a clear answer even a month ago.
At the Town Hall discussion, teenage students, parents and teachers from the scene of the massacre, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, came face to face with their elected leaders, the two Senators and a congressman. And Man, did they challenge them to “DO SOMETHING”!
It was deeply personal, powerful and riveting. This was a classic in free speech and democracy. America is a terribly flawed nation with a disgraceful 25% of the world’s prison population and now arguably the highest murder/death rate of any non-conflict nation. It has the world’s best and most coveted university system in the world and among the worst public school systems. I could go on and on.
Democracy comes at a terrible price. It is flawed and messy and often puts up a fight. Throughout history, ordinary citizens have shed blood to create democratic and free nations. Everybody wants to be free. I think even the Chinese and Russians!! Remember the classic movie: “Born Free”? Both humans and animals share this deepest desire. We were all born to be free.
I think it was Winston Churchill who stated: “Democracy is the worst form of Government except for others that have been tried”.
Every citizen in every nation wants to be free, wants to live in a democracy, but forgets that with freedom and democracy come individual responsibility and accountability.
Are the majority of the citizens in nations like Sri Lanka capable of accepting individual responsibility and individual accountability? Do they know what democracy means? Will they always remain followers wanting to be told what to do? I don’t know the answer to this.
Victor Hugo in Les Miserables and Alex Tocqueville observes;
“The liberty of one citizen ends where the liberty of another citizen begins”. The famed USA Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes put it colourfully: “One man’s nose ends where another’s begins”. Where are individual responsibility and individual accountability today in the lives of our elected leaders, business leaders, educators, parents, students and yes, teenagers??? For 60 years, Ceylonese and Sri Lankans have blamed someone else for all failures but are so quick to claim any success!
In the CNN Special, we saw an incredible young teenage student RESPECTFULLY challenging and questioning his elected Senator???
“Stop these guns. Ban the assault weapons. Stop taking money from the National Rifle Association, the all-powerful gun lobby”!!!
“Why do we as teenagers have to start a protest movement? Why are you our elected leaders not doing your jobs? Stop the killing”, these students are crying out. We saw a parent doing the same thing with the Senator WITH Respect. Can Sri Lanka get this civility back???
Are the majority of the citizens in nations like Sri Lanka capable of accepting individual responsibility and individual accountability? Do they know what democracy means?
Dissent and freedom of speech to make life safer and better for all of a nation’s citizens especially the most vulnerable and not only for a select few are at the core of a democracy.
A few days ago, hundreds of teenage students lay down peacefully outside the White House. In the past week since the tragedy in Florida, teenage students have been eloquently demanding change from the President and the elected leaders. On 24 March, large student protests are planned in the cities of America. A new teenage student movement has been unleashed.
Students and teenagers, if the adults fail to act NOW, the future of this beautiful island is in your hands. Again, it was Churchill who reminded us that in any democracy “The People Get a Government that they Deserve”.
Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator from Florida, who received a million dollars a year in the last three years from the National Rifle Association, made a lot of promises at the Town Hall Meeting. Now, he has to deliver on these promises. Students all over America are now telling their elected leaders: “If you don’t deliver, we will vote you out”.