The recent protests, marches and town halls over the mass shooting in Florida have stirred many students emotionally over the past weeks.
The country watches as people not even 20 years old weep over their lost friends, publicly processing grief and trauma most can not imagine. They choose to go to the legislatures, town halls and protests with deep pain and voices raw with grief because they see the United States needs to follow the example of nearly all other developed nations to enact laws to limit access to deadly weapons.
They know that without these changes, more lives will be cut short by mass shootings.
Some meet this movement with cynicism, seeing the students as blissfully naive of the political weight of lobbying and special interests. It seems to be impossible to get anything done.
How, then, has the U.S. made so much progress in other areas of government?
The civil rights movement, for example, is an ongoing struggle that has made great progress since the 1950s. That is because the civil rights movement has faced the costs of upsetting the status quo and, nevertheless, persisted.
Upsetting the large systems bent on staying static has many consequences, but perhaps the most devastating to any cause is waiting. Bureaucracy has a way of slowing down the most obvious decisions, and those who are passionate about change lose their passion for standing up for what is right in the midst of few results.
Perhaps this is why Martin Luther King Jr. was deeply influential in American history: He emboldened masses to stand up for justice in the midst of discrimination, beatings and waiting for anything to actually change. When it seemed as though conditions would only worsen, he reminded his followers that the arc of the moral universe is long, even longer than they may think they can bear, but it does, indeed, bend toward justice.
In an age of new tweets coming in every few seconds, it is hard to keep this outlook in focus. Retweets and shares may pile up, but in a few weeks, when the internet is infatuated with newer, flashier headlines and the world seems to have forgotten the previous wrongs, many will lose hope.
Some probably have lost hope already. They know that the public may forget, but the NRA will not forget to write checks to its choice candidates. It seems like change is impossible.
But change is possible. Consistency is the forgotten key in achieving progress.
Those unhappy with the current state of affairs must continue in their pursuits of justice after the likes online. Without action, the likes become no different than the standard thoughts and prayers offered by those who do not act in Washington.
We already know what to do after the dust settles. We have to educate ourselves on the facts, from empirically driven sources. We have to have conversations that matter; individuals rarely make progress alone. Maybe these conversations will become larger expressions of the desire for change, such as the March For Our Lives in Oxford on March 24 to advocate for common sense measures to prevent future mass shootings.
Perhaps most important, though, is voting. We have to know which candidates support our ideals of doing something about injustice. If you are unhappy with the current state of gun laws in our country, use your voice to vote.
The changes may seem small or even nonexistent at first, but that is how progress works. Without perseverance, we can never move forward.
Daniel Payne is a sophomore integrated marketing communications major from Collierville, Tennessee.