“If you need any, you know, photographs of me, naked, but like blurred out, let me know. Because I want you to be, like, Cameron Kasky, unhinged. This is everything he is.”
Kasky doesn’t hold anything back; he says what he’s feeling in exactly the way he’s feeling it. He’s something our generation would call “authentic.” Kasky called me at around noon on a Thursday. He was back at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, Fla., hanging around at lunchtime with friends. Only, to view this as a portrait of a funny 17-year-old kid messing around at high school is inaccurate. This is the portrait of a 17-year-old kid who’s back at school two weeks after a 19-year-old showed up to that school with a semi-automatic rifle and massacred 17 people.
Kasky, along with other students at MSD, is sad and anxious and absolutely furious. But they’re about to make real change. In the time between Feb. 14, when the shooting occurred, and today, Kasky and his friends have done more for gun control in this country than anyone who came before them. They created the #NeverAgain movement, which is organizing rallies and protests across the country, led to a town hall where Kasky went head to head with Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, and planned the “March for our Lives,” which will take place on March 24. With all this going on, Kasky hasn’t had much time to process the traumatic shooting. But there is one thing he knew then and there: “I instantly knew that I was betrayed, and I was left by the people who were supposed to be protecting me.”
On the left, the feeling of government betrayal is not a new sentiment. In 2012, 26 people died at the hands of a mass shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Of this number, 20 were elementary school students. In 2014, a school shooter killed four people at Marysville Pilchuck High School. In 2015, nine people were killed at Umpqua Community College; the perpetrator was a student with a rifle. The list is most disturbing because we know how it ends: with seventeen people dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Or, perhaps it’s so disturbing because we know it’s not the end. With the state of gun laws in this country, this is bound to happen again. And again.
But this movement seems different. It’s sticking; it has momentum. Kasky and his friends are smart, and they know what they’re up against.
Kasky says it simply: “It’s about understanding how to bring change from people who don’t want anything to change because they’re getting money.”
The process of understanding this fact is brutal and frustrating.
“Now I’ve learned that Republicans won’t do anything unless they think they’re gonna be heroes,” Kasky said.
There are still the people who claim the mass shooting problem in this country is a result of violent video games and television. Kasky is done hearing that.
“Let me tell you, they play the same shit and watch the same shit in Australia. And Australia doesn’t seem to have the problems we do.”
The problem is gun laws, and the #NeverAgain movement seeks to change our gun laws so kids can go to school and be safe because that is not a privilege but a right. And America seems to be ready for that as well.
“It’s a mixture of the fact that Stoneman Douglas is a school of amazing leaders, who know what we’re talking about, and the fact that it’s just fucking been enough. I don’t know how many people need to die.”
Through all of this, Kasky has created a bit of a media firestorm with his ability to maintain a dark and hilarious sense of humor.
“It sometimes comes out in some interesting places,” Kasky joked. “If they made a blooper reel of the shit I’ve said on camera that hasn’t made it on TV, I’d probably be sent to Guantanamo Bay.”
But much of this is intentional. Again, Kasky knows the game he’s playing: “If we respect the media, the media is going to walk all over us. We have to let them know that they’re working for us—we’re not working for them.”
Kasky began posting on social media in the car ride home after the shooting. His fear quickly turned to anger, an anger that is largely fueling this movement.
“We’re the generation who has been failed, and has been neglected, and we’re fucking sick of it.” But it’s easy to be paralyzed by everything that needs fixing. Kasky knows this. He pauses briefly. Then he tacks on the most important part. “Oh, and we’re doing something about it.”
Jodie Kahan is a member of the Class of 2021 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.