A call for passionate activism


Photo credits: Vashi Chintalapalli

Anna Banerjee, News Editor

Yesterday at 10 A.M., our school participated in a walkout in conjunction with the #NationalSchoolWalkout movement across the country. As I was heading toward the band doors to walk out of the school, a friend and I decided to step into a freshman classroom in an attempt to rouse some of them to action.

We were met with unaffected stares and guilty half-smiles. Eventually, a hesitant student placatingly told us that his parents wouldn’t sign him out. We left, joining the crowd on the football field.

I am not, in any way, asking people to do anything they are A) not comfortable with or B) unable to do at all. The subject of this article is not anyone’s fault directly: risking detentions and the accompanying punishment from parents or other authority figures is a difficult task for many people, and I certainly understand how it may be impossible for others.

Instead, I am addressing a very specific type of apathy that could be found throughout the school this week in light of the walkout. It’s not one that stands out like the venomous distaste some people seem to feel for the movement (alleged counter-protests, tearing down posters, destructive comments toward participants, etc).

Rather, it is simply the sense of ennui which characterizes a good deal of students at PV.

This apathy rears its head in the form of students who didn’t really feel like going out, students who assumed others would protest for them, students who were worried it would be too cold, students who had that, uh, test for which they had to study, students who weren’t even aware that anything was happening. It even includes students who did walk out, but maybe only did it because they didn’t really have anything going on in their 3rd and 4th period classes and felt like it could be fun.

Passivity, of any form, can be a movement’s worst enemy, whether it be related to #NeverAgain or not. Any movement centered around teenage protest is subject to heavy criticism from onlookers, and one of the key components of their argument is that teenagers are unwilling or unable to respond with any depth or interest to a situation. People write off our actions as a part of teenage rebellion, a growing fad that will soon die as a new one comes to take its place.

These arguments are categorically incorrect, as seen most recently by the hundreds of thousands of teenagers registering to vote. It takes a simple Google search for “teenage apathy” to find a plethora of articles defaming teenagers for not being capable of caring for something. But passionate teenagers have been responsible for all the major paradigm shifts in recent history.

It was passionate teenagers who ended school segregation in the 50s.

It was passionate teenagers who fought to end the Vietnam War in the 60s.

It was passionate teenagers who protested nuclear warfare in the 80s.

It will be passionate teenagers who end the school shooting epidemic today.

Passion will be the catalyst with which real change can be effected. “I believe that it is passion which brings effective activism, that it is love for the ‘service’ that sparks a voice for advocacy and that it is dedication that brings an appeal for change,” said #NeverAgain PV leader Vashi Chintalapalli. “Passion is what allows us to […] be unequivocal with our thoughts; it is what pushes us to think beyond the confinements of the status-quo.”

Without a doubt, passion can be scary. It’s scary to care about an issue deeply because it means that you are putting yourself and your thoughts in the line of fire. When you do so, you risk harassment or worse — but if you don’t, you risk being complicit in a system that requires no change of itself. You risk stagnancy by silently agreeing to keep things as they are.

It is, and always will be, scarier to not care.

Pleasant Valley is full of remarkably passionate, strong and intelligent students who are capable of achieving great things together. While we did have around 250 students walk out, which is remarkable in and of itself, that accounts for less than 20 percent of our student body.

Now is not the time for passive engagement, but rather the time for people to march in the streets, walk out of classes, call their congressmen, and make change a reality.

This article is not associated with the #NeverAgain movement nor does it reflect their viewpoints.