I saw the news and I felt numb. Yet another cruel shooting in my home country of America… in sunny Florida even. Yet another senseless slaughter of innocent children. And what followed was just as disgusting. Instant denial and deflection from spineless right-wing politicians. I’d lost hope. Maybe there is no solution to America’s violence. Maybe they should just encourage everyone to arm themselves to the teeth and then leave the country to sink into gun-slinging chaos and anarchy. Let your neighbour with the most guns win. I’d lost all hope.
But then I heard the voice of Emma González. She stood in front of a huge bank of microphones in Washington at the #MarchForOurLives rally on March 24th. This tiny girl stood bravely before over 300,000 people and started by emotionally naming each of the 17 students who had been killed. Then she lifted her eyes and stared out at the vast audience. She took a deep, shuddering breath and went silent. Her face was stoic. Her stature was immoveable. Sometimes she screwed her eyes shut as waves of emotion poured over her and rippled out over the audience. Tears ran down her face but she did not wipe them away. She stood in this stoic and articulate silence until a timer beeped. 6 minutes and 23 seconds had passed – the time the attack on her school had lasted. The time that children hid in closets or lay still pretending to be dead beneath the corpses of bleeding and dying schoolmates.
The symbolism, the restraint, the courage and the waves of emotion that were present in González’s silence were one of the most amazing displays of political expression I have ever witnessed.
Emma González is only a 17 year old girl. At this age she should be happy, care-free and enjoying her last years as an innocent teenager. Not only was she attacked by a killer, she is now being brutally attacked by the right-wing media. Critics have attempted to harass, ridicule, shame, vilify and even threaten her. Fake photos have have been published. Cruel tweets with vicious lies abound. All of this because she dared to speak-up against America’s love affair with their guns.
My life’s work has been to encourage people to find their voices and to speak up. But be warned that the price can be high. Maybe none of us should speak out. And if you speak up, you WILL be criticised. The stronger your message is, the stronger the attacks will be. But please don’t be silent. Now more than ever, the world needs your voice.
Find your Voice. Speak your Truth. @GetVoiceable