Every day students must find their way to overcome obstacles — talking to their crush, mean girls, locker room gossip, calculus homework, football tryouts, and — now — school shootings.
More so than any other country in the world, America faces the problem of gun violence. When kids should be worried about what they’re going to text their crush that evening or that upcoming Spanish test, instead we’re worried about what we will do if and when that alarm goes off in the hallways indicating there’s an active shooter on campus.
This is a problem no one expected would haunt us each and every day. We all thought Columbine would be the last time we’d see so many deaths and injuries plague our communities. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
We have run out of fingers to count how many times we’ve read a headline announcing yet another tragedy that could’ve been prevented or sat in silence with our neighbor, realizing our community would never be the same.
Columbine wasn’t the last time. Neither was Sandy Hook. Neither was Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Our peers courageously took it upon themselves to speak up and act when our government couldn’t be bothered with anything more than extending their thoughts and prayers to those who lost their lives or loved ones. Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, Sofie Whitney and Delaney Tarr had to be the ones to yell to their nation, “Never Again.”
When lawmakers, NRA members, manufacturers, distributors, large corporations and American citizens who claim to be overwhelmed by their support of the 2nd amendment start to turn a blind eye, we — young students — remind them of our friends who will never attend their prom, never graduate, never get married or have their own kids, never fulfill their dreams and who were viciously murdered by assault weapons. Murdered by people who so easily got their hands on weapons of mass destruction.
Our nation is now filled with mass destruction, and there is no turning back.
It is the young people of our nation that hold the power to prevent future school shootings. Why? Each morning, we are scared walking into our classrooms with windows that don’t open, doors that don’t lock, with four walls that fail to include even a closet for our safety. Where would we go? What would we do? What if we never found out until it’s our best friend since elementary school or our favorite teacher falling to the ground with a bullet in their chest?
We, the students of America, have all been affected by gun violence. We can all rattle off names of schools that have experienced such devastation. We can all remember what we were doing when our lives turned upside down and we no longer felt safe at school.
The nation may have become desensitized to school shootings; but, we will never forget, and we will continue to chant, “Never Again.”
For more information, please visit http://www.neveragain.com.
My relationship with Southern Methodist University did not begin my first day of classes as a freshman student. It began when I was a toddler, prancing around the boulevard in an SMU cheerleading uniform, hair in pigtails and hands holding pom-poms the size of my head. I’ve gone to every home football game for as long as I can remember.
My grandfather, Mark Ussery, graduated from SMU in 1964. For years, his old friends from the football and baseball teams have had a tent set up on the boulevard, hosting my grandparents and their friends, their children, their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren. We’d eat hot dogs and brownies and drink white wine. Their spot on the boulevard is right by the Meadows Museum; it always has been, and I think it always will be. As years go by, some of my grandpa’s friends have slowly started backing out of the boulevarding extravaganza; but my grandpa remains dedicated to the tradition of wearing red and blue from head to toe, uniting generations of SMU Mustangs at each game.
Next semester, however, the student population is moving off the boulevard. To increase student attendance at the football games, Greek life and student organizations are moving from Dallas Hall lawn to the Mustang Mall, the pathway from Moody Colosseum to Ford Stadium. Students have been quite outspoken since being told about the move in a letter only a couple weeks ago. Students and alumni will no longer share Bishop Blvd. on game day. SMU’s version of tailgating, what is known as “boulevarding” by all of Dallas, might become just that — tailgating. With this change, tradition dies.
Even with next semester’s move, I can promise that my grandfather and his friends will still make an appearance at every game. I have wondered, though, will my grandpa’s boulevard experience change once Greek life moves away? One of my favorite memories of being a toddler on SMU campus was seeing all the older and wiser students strutting around promoting their Greek organizations. I remember wanting to be just like them.
The boulevard experience has been around since SMU President R. Gerald Turner came to town. In 2000, Ford Stadium hosted the first Mustang football game against the University of Kansas. The first tailgate featured the Mustang band and spirit teams, celebrating the stadium’s grand opening. Turner brought the idea for the boulevard from the University of Mississippi, where he served as chancellor until 1995. Ole Miss fans tailgate before football games on “The Grove,” an open area in the middle of campus, resembling SMU’s Boulevard. Turner’s goal for the Boulevard experience was achieved with the construction of Ford Stadium and his desire to unite the community of SMU students and alumni.
This experience has become a tradition — something incoming freshmen at SMU can’t wait to join in on. That’s why my fellow students are not thrilled with the boulevard move. I know my grandpa, a very active alumnus, is concerned about what will happen to his party, too.
“Being on the boulevard has become tradition. Once tradition has been established, why change it? When I found out that they were changing the location for getting together before the game, I was taken back and disappointed,” Ussery said. “For us, it’s not just boulevarding — it’s getting together with friends of old and reminiscing about great times of the past and watching SMU’s future in front of us.”
“My concern is,” said Ussery, “will the excitement of game day be diminished?”
My mother has always told me that “you can’t please everyone.” It’s a part of human nature to develop opinions about people and ideas, even moments after one’s introduction to them. Humans are biologically manufactured to be survivors. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t know when a situation could be dangerous and result in our own harm. The fight or flight response is still ingrained in us all today — informing us how to judge a person or situation.
Because of our fight or flight responses and survivor-mold, people are going to judge you from the first moment they see you. It’s not necessarily a bad trait to have, considering it helps us stay alive — which is always good. However, humans are also emotional beings. Humans are distinct from any other animal, allowing us to form relationships that are far more than complex.
The Age of Enlightenment produced the philosophical movement of Romanticism, in which Immanuel Kant carried to nobility. Romanticism has a way of connecting the human features of survival and emotional expression. The movement essentially emphasized a heightened self-awareness to therefore improve society and the human condition.
Through studying the history and philosophy of free speech, I was able to interpret the bond between being a survivor and an emotional being. Romanticism does not lack a support for reality, but rather argues the perception of reality is contingent on the linking of intuition with factual knowledge. I recognized power in expressing freedom and creativity of the human spirit. I found logic in the web I discovered to be human interaction and our continuous evolution.
Being a social being is an experience, according to Romanticism. Some things cannot be studied — such as nature — and require the complexities of the human brain to decipher meaning, feeling and significance. It is philosophically rather difficult to define morality; but humans know that it exists because we feel it. In Kant’s opinion, humans do not directly see “things-in-themselves;” we only understand the world through our human point of view.
Why is Romanticism so important to me following my studies? Since adolescence, I have been an outsider. Don’t go start feeling bad for me, though, because I am so much better off understanding the insubstantial qualities of people’s judgments and perceptions.
I have been told that I am exactly the way I was when I was two-years-old. I didn’t want to play silly games with other kids my age; instead, I wanted to go explore and learn things on my own. Now, eighteen years have passed, and I remain the same viciously independent force to be reckoned with. I have never done something or believed something just because someone told me to. I have had to figure things out on my own, making a multitude of mistakes along the way, to be able to tell you today that I am overwhelmingly satisfied with who I am and my ability to never change for reasons I find insufficient.
In elementary and middle school, all these girls tried with all their might to bully me. Literally. Imagine the Big Bad Wolf trying to bully me down to nothingness rather than huffing and puffing the three little pigs’ houses down. Spoiler alert: I never budged.
When others may choose “flight,” I choose to not necessarily fight, but to not change an absolute thing. Perhaps that’s the same thing as fighting — that I am still unsure about. Alas, all my bullies went away. That is, they went away until I became a young adult in college.
In college, I have been commended by my professors and others for my sense of pride and confidence I have within my own existence. I have, too, been told I am intimidating because my beliefs don’t waver. I have been belittled and questioned for my unwillingness to “play the game.” It isn’t that I wish to defy social norms or go against authority. It also isn’t that I lack any form of self-consciousness. It is merely because I have been shown time and time again throughout my experiences that I am the way I am. I cannot change my image, increase my speed of learning new information, or suddenly become a mathematician. I can, however, take small steps every day to further my understanding of the world around me and the way people interact within it. I wouldn’t mind being remembered for my utter stubbornness as long as it means I’m not remembered for trying so hard to be like someone else. Every person in power started as a nobody whom everyone loved to hate, criticize and question.
The history and philosophy of free speech has strengthened my view that one must hold on to their opinions with all their might, no matter how hard people try to change them. Elijah P. Lovejoy was an abolitionist and journalist who died for what he believed in. If you’re not willing to die for what to believe in, you become just another person in a herd of cattle. Benjamin Franklin said everything will offend someone. If no one is perfect and all-pleasing, why would I ever consider transforming into a fraud who lets her views change to be accepted by society? The most famous philosophers demanded for freedom of speech and expression. I am simply practicing those rights.
I’ve always said: if I am not myself, then I am no one. The greatest of philosophers I have studied were excommunicated, killed, beaten, harassed and critiqued for their views. The thing is, though, we’re still studying them today because they never let anyone sway their views.
If everything in this world is up for interpretation, then I will interpret my survival skills and emotional nature every single day — strengthening my knowledge of not only myself but the rest of the world. I am no longer an outsider. I am a steadfast and hungry vacuum for understanding. Even if I were still an outsider, I’d be an outsider that knows she’s an outsider. I never want someone to tell me to play along and follow the most travelled road. I want to be told to run to experiences and have even the slightest chance of discovering something new.
You don’t like my clothes? You don’t like my hair, my makeup, the way I support the LGBTQ+ community, pro-choice, or one’s decision to not follow a singular religious theory? That’s just alright. If I die tomorrow, I know it’ll be me that’s dying and not a cookie-cutter version of billions of people that inhabit this planet. So, at this point, I thank the history and philosophy of free speech for encouraging me to trust my intuition and seek out knowledge through my own experiences instead of accepting someone’s word; and that I will take to the grave.
Come at me now, Big Bad Wolf.