In the dystopian novels of Suzanne Collins, the Capitol organizes annual Hunger Games, in which twenty-four youth – one boy and one girl from each peripheral district, which resemble colonies – are forced to fight to the death. The children, who are selected by lottery and mostly poor, are trained, armed with weapons, and pitted against each other for the Capitol’s entertainment. The Capitol is seething with corrupt and rich politicians who provide bread and circuses to keep the country under control. Their children are spared from participating in the Hunger Games. The Capitol is indeed Washington D.C. and the country is the United States of America.
In the wave of school shootings, teenagers, teachers and parents in Florida are standing up to the Capitol; to the politicians who take enormous sums from the gun lobby; to the craven NRA, which shamelessly promotes weapons of mass murder; and to the citizens who are convinced that possession of a gun is more important than the safety of their neighbors, or even of their own children. The victims are predominantly middle- and lower-class children from public schools and churches, not the children of wealthy politicians, who attend private schools. The shootings have not yet reached the Capitol’s own progeny; so far, they are protected and not required to play in this game of life or death.
In one of his first acts as president of the Capitol, Trump revoked a bill that made it more difficult for a person with a history of mental illness to buy weapons. This reversal was blatant confirmation that hunger for the games continues unabated among those members of the elite who support the diversion of violence in the provinces. Last week, the president suggested that some teachers carry concealed guns so that they can play a more active role in the games. But teachers are meant to teach. They are not soldiers trained to defend their country and to kill when necessary.
The students and teachers of Parkland, Florida are demonstrating against the depravity of those who either revel in or turn a blind eye to the slaughter of their own citizens. They, like those who refused to continue the Hunger Games, are mobilized and convinced that each human life is worth living. They don’t want to be part of the vicious game of gun violence that the Republican Party and the NRA seek to normalize. Politicians can no longer lie themselves out of the fact that guns are killing American children. A generation of teenagers, who grew up with school shootings and lockdown drills are forcing Americans to wake up to the cold reality that the Capitol is not interested in protecting its citizens at the expense of enriching itself. The old alliance of money, politics, and violence is being revealed for what it is: a game of death in which the pawns are children, who are made to run for their lives at the hands of a killer thrown into their midst. However, unlike the children of the dystopian Hunger Games, these young Americans will soon be eligible to vote and run for office.
One can only hope that politicians in the Capitol will actually listen and make it more difficult to buy assault weapons; that the teenagers and teachers don’t become discouraged, but ready for a long campaign to end the brutal games in their schools. As the young people in Parkland demonstrate, the normalization of mass shootings in American schools can only end when a majority of citizens agree to stop watching and start acting.