Walkout conduct requires purpose, respect




A serious tone as people stand huddled in the rain. A stony silence screaming this is not right. Seventeen minutes for 17 lives lost in what was an undeniable tragedy, no matter how someone looks at it. The intended scene of the March 14 student protest against gun violence – with symbolic stillness that speaks louder than words ever could – at least had purpose and meaning behind it, no matter which side of the issues someone falls on.

What actually happened could not have fallen further off mark. With a chatter of students holding casual conversations, grouped on the stairs to get out of their second period, and some that don’t care about or don’t know about the cause, the walkout failed to become anything more than an interesting excuse to abandon our classrooms and socialize without facing consequences.

Which I suppose makes it a win if we’re speaking in terms of improving the tedium of the school day.

Nevermind that people designed the walkout as a form of protest and memorialization of lives lost to a school shooting, or that our school allowed it to take place with the intention of respecting students’ right to express their views. I guess it’s better for students who care little about expressing their thoughts to attend a demonstration than sit in a stuffy old classroom any day.
The crux of the issue is what seems like disrespect on our part as students actually stems from absent mindedness and ignorance. No one who attended the walkout meant any harm; it was simply an interesting twist on an otherwise dull school day and a break from work. It’s practically student nature to take advantage of such an opportunity, just as it’s practically human nature for those same people to strike up conversations with their friends upon arrival.

It’s especially easy to fall in this trap when all someone knows about the walkout is that it has something to do with guns and a school shooting. Then, rather than adding a disrespectful twist to something that’s concept directly derives from the loss of student life, it becomes a harmless adventure.

That doesn’t change the fact that it is disrespectful. That 17 minutes respecting 17 lost lives turned into 17 minutes of purposeless socialization. Nor does it excuse anyone for joining just to join without making a statement or reflecting on themselves.

Because it’s not 17 minutes of silence for no reason. It’s not even necessarily 17 minutes of silence for gun control. It’s 17 minutes of silence for 17 people. Yes, it is related to a controversial issue which not everyone will necessarily support, but it also pays respect to a tragedy that, regardless of our stance on the political matter, no one is in favor of.

And it is our job as responsible, compassionate people to understand what a walkout is before joining in. If we do not agree with a cause, nor disagree and want to make a statement, then we need to learn to suck it up and miss that brief lapse from the class period. It’s our duty to become informed before we take part in something, and to make sure our voices matter because we are using them with purpose, not just collectively pretending to support someone else’s statement for amusement.

The school shooting did not take place here, and might not have had an impact on the lives of many students on this campus. Those students might not feel the need to make any powerful statement, which is perfectly okay. But instead of standing now and misusing an opportunity to speak up, they should sit back down and wait to raise their voices when it really matters. There is power in silence, something we would all do well to learn.