Commentary: We have failed to keep our children safe

Commentary: We have failed to keep our children safe
March 29
12:00 2018

(When adults argue, and debate children die.)

There is an incision in their smiles and a blister on their souls as children desperately are screaming enough is enough. “Our prayers and thoughts are with you” quotes are like dumping tons of salt on open sores.

The March For Our Lives in over 800 marches in the  U.S. and around the world is not about bump stocks, the First Amendment, political parties or photo opts. It is about a safe and orderly environment in schools conducive to teaching and learning. It is also about staying alive at home, parties, playgrounds, in neighborhoods, as well as the streets.

Millennials have not bought into politically correct behavior, Teflon politicians, public relations spin machines or famous charismatic celebrities. They are reeling from the fact that 187,000 students have been exposed to gun violence at school since Columbine [High School massacre in 1999]. The March For Our Lives may have lasted for a few hours, but its impact will last a lifetime.

It is shameful that teenagers challenge adults to protect them. Seven thousand youth are killed by guns each year and another 3,000 die on the way to the hospital. If terrorists caused this much carnage, Congress would go into an emergency session and pass a bipartisan resolution within a week.  Drills, getting under desks, being armed with rocks is like being in a war zone. Their response to policy makers is a volcanic resounding sound of “B. S.”

As small children they figured out the emperor was not wearing any clothes, but now they know what is going on behind the curtain of the bi-partisan political Wizards of Oz.

There is an eerie feeling in the air that this movement will last beyond the spring, 2018 and 2020 elections. They are not afraid of the NRA, Democrats, Republicans and local legislators.

Plus, students are determined and energized in a manner we have never seen. Politicians have never faced the wrath of intelligent, articulate iphone digital experts savvy enough to mobilize millions using 21st century technology.

Young people are experiencing post-traumatic stress symptoms before they graduate from high school. They want adults to listen, demonstrate empathy, take them seriously, and to be safe and stay alive. Nothing is more unstoppable than a day of destiny that has arrived. Today is a wake-up call for the country.

Children are hurting as they watch siblings and classmates die.

Automatic rapid-fire weapons and AK-47 guns have replaced safety and solitude of everyday lives. Sirens are the new lullabies as babies sleep. In America, children sleep on floors because parents are afraid of the bullets that are randomly sprayed through windows each night.

Weekend death tolls are listed in the daily tabloids. Students come to school on Mondays talking about who got killed over the weekend. Parents borrow money to bury their young. Teachers periodically scratch names off attendance rolls and reassign seats. Funerals are short. Graves are narrow. Tears dry up fast.  Children have an incision sewn into their smiles and frowns. But, they are still children! Black, white, DACA rich and poor are equally stressed out.

“Vote them out” is the battle cry for a tone deaf political system embedded in name calling, hatred, tribes, debates, television addicts and warmongers. When adults fight, millions of children end up dead and victory is proclaimed.

Millennials no longer believe or trust that the baby boomers have the credibility, courage or political will to ignore their special interest groups or respective “bases.”  Their protection is not a priority.  Time is up. Enough is enough.

Impassioned by Parkland, Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School students, a small number of juvenile speakers periodically used profane phrases “sh…y,” “f….g,” and  “b…s” to demonstrate their disappointment in adults who have been cowered and silently complicit in the murder of their peers, friends, classmates and siblings.

Yet, well-meaning educators, parents and grownups in denial are still asking their memorized pivotal question.  “What do you want to do when you grow up?”  Neither the inability nor unwillingness to hear children’s answers brings comfort. “I don’t think I am going to live long enough to grow up.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with America.  Life is not a reality show or dress rehearsal.  It is the real deal.  Like the blink of an eye, lights out!  Enough is enough!

Henry J. Pankey is an author and former educator. You can reach him at

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