Safety and freedom are not mutually exclusive

Opinion: Letters to the editor

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On March 14, students at Riverside-Brookfield High School walked out. We spoke against the very real and very terrifying epidemic of gun violence in this country. Our administration at RBHS, as well as many members of our community, supported our activism and we are infinitely grateful to be able to feel like our voices were heard. 

But that is not enough. Not only has our fight just begun, it is far from over. 

As students, we are the voice of change. Our generation has grown up in a society where it is normal to turn on the television and see shooting coverage. For so long, our predecessors have shielded their eyes, drowned out the pleas of survivors and activists, and neglected underrepresented people still affected by this issue. 

We think, as a country that prides itself on so much, it is shameful that we seem so indifferent to mass violence that can be quite easily deterred. However, we are more active, informed, and powerful than ever before. 

This walkout was our response to the frustration built up by continuously seeing the same things happening, and nothing getting done. We will not let anyone silence us or dismiss as "too young" or "too naïve." 

We are the leaders of the movement that is turning the tide in this country, and we have a responsibility to keep making waves. 

Gun violence continues to be normalized in our society as legislators and gun activists defend weapons used for carnage, claiming a movement centered around safety is an attack on 2nd Amendment rights. 

Our movement is not about taking away freedoms or attacking rights. Safety and freedom are not mutually exclusive. We believe in the right for us, as students, to feel secure when we go to school. 

Our focus should be on learning, not whether or not our lives will be threatened that day. We have a strong belief that this country can be improved without fighting violence with violence. 

Freedom to us is also not being fearful that your teacher will soon be armed in the classroom, permanently altering student-teacher relationships by bringing life and death into our learning environment. 

Children and students like us all over the nation now have that fear ingrained into them and that, to us, is not free.

As well as continuing the fight for increased gun control, another responsibility of our movement is to make sure to represent everyone. We, as a nation, cannot pick and choose who to care about when it comes to gun violence. 

A black child in the city who dies from a stray bullet should have just as many people rallying behind their life as a white child from the suburbs who dies in a school shooting. 

We are not making enough of a difference if we are not making a difference for everyone.

We, the students of Riverside-Brookfield High School, urge our community to join us and make this movement stronger. 

To further action and awareness in our school, we are in the midst of starting an equality and activism group for the next school year with ties to organizations like Students Demand Action and Women's March. 

The power is in our hands, as members of a constantly changing society, to be active and stay active. Join us in writing and speaking to our senators and representatives about gun control, voting, walking out, organizing or joining activist groups in our schools and communities, making our students feel safe, honoring the victims of gun violence in not only school shootings, but in every situation where underrepresented victims don't get the justice they deserve and staying informed to keep this movement alive. 

We cannot let those who want to politicize this issue sway or divide us. We cannot shy away from communication. We must use this momentum to definitively change our society. 

We cannot wait, we cannot hold back, we cannot shove this issue under the rug as others have done in the past. We, together, are creating our own future, and we are just getting started.

Kylee Hernandez, Kenna Howorth, Olutosin Olowu, Audrey Santora and Casey Whisler

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Thomas Jacobs from Riverside, IL  

Posted: May 19th, 2018 3:26 PM

Dear Kylee, Kenna, Olutosin, Audrey, and Casey: Your courage to speak out, organize, and take action is not only inspiring, it is the type of leadership we adults have failed to embrace for too long. As a result, you are faced with a system that is close to a breaking point - true dialogue is now hard to come by as our tribal instincts lead us to retract into our echo chambers of already-held beliefs. So the task before you, and all of us, is enormous. I wish it were different. But you have already risen to the challenge in a way that makes me wonder what I could tell you that you don't already know. My experience is that when you discount the cynics, the greedy, the power hungry, the manipulators, the misogynists, etc, there actually aren't that many people left who YOU might want to follow. So I'd like to share 4 people who I think you'd like to meet, and possibly follow (online, because some of them have already left us): - Maya Angelou, for her wisdom, warmth, and razor-sharp wit - Peter Drucker, because his insights into the economy, business, and management are key to an understanding of what businesses ought to and could be (including gun manufacturers) - Brenee Brown, for her groundbreaking research and ability to communicate about the connection between vulnerability and courage (which I know you experienced in writing your opinion) - and Simon Sinek, because his understanding of the conditions you were born into is sharper than anything I've heard or read on the topic. Finally, please let me know how I, and the countless other reasonable adults who are frustrated about our situation, can help or support you. You may not realize how many of us are looking towards you for direction. Tom Jacobs

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