By Emma Fetzer, UCYD Caucus Chair— When I was sixteen years old, there was a shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. People across the country were devastated. My high school organized a walkout on the same day as the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington D.C. About half the student body, including myself, walked out to the football field in the middle of class. We stood in silence for seventeen minutes—one minute for every person who died at the hands of a gunman in Parkland.

With every minute that passed, the air around me began to change. There was a collective realization that we could be next. Our teachers, our mentors, our neighbors, our friends, could all be dead tomorrow. Unless we did something about it.

This walkout was completely organized by young people. March For Our Lives was completely organized by young people. If they could do it, why couldn’t I?

That was the moment I decided to become an activist. I never thought about my age being a barrier, because it was young people who were most affected by the problems facing our society. It was my understanding that we would have a seat at the table.

I was wrong. Every time I tried to talk about women’s rights, gun reform, LGBTQ+ issues, mental health, climate change, or anything related to public policy and current affairs, I was shut down:

“You’re just a kid, no one is going to listen to you.”
“You’re too naive.”
“They’re not going to take you seriously.”
“Be quiet, the adults are talking.”
“You’re too innocent.”
“What do you know?”
“Why do you care so much?”
“You’re too young.”
“You’re too young.”
“You’re too young.”

I’m “too young” to be a feminist. I’m “too young” to know my own sexuality. I’m “too young” to be depressed. I’m too young to protest. I’m too young to be an activist. I’m too young, too stupid, too naive.

And they’re right. I am too young.

I’m too young to be scared of bullets ricocheting through my school, embedding themselves into my classmates and having to watch the life of my best friends fade away, knowing I will never be able to laugh, smile, or talk with them again. I’m too young to wonder if I’m next, or to wonder if I just said “I love you” to my parents for the last time.

I’m too young to be scared of being assaulted by a man while I walk down the street because I can feel his eyes watching me and I should have waited for someone to walk with me so we could walk together—because now if something happens to me, it’s “my” fault.

I’m too young to be scared of finding my friend dead because they decided dying was better than living and I couldn’t make it in time to save them.

I’m too young to be scared of finding my LGBT friends killed, abandoned, or sent off to a conversion camp—because all they wanted was love and acceptance but instead found hate and rejection.

I’m too young to be scared of the fact that in ten years, Earth probably won’t exist anymore—because the people in power are still denying the horrid effects that climate change is having on our world, and are instead letting the corporations actively destroying it live on because for some reason money matters more than life.

I’m too young to be scarred, bruised, bloody, and beaten by a war that I did not start or choose to fight in.

They’re right—I am too young for homophobia, racism, sexism, rape, self-harm, suicide, gun violence, and school shootings to be normal to me. I should not be so desensitized by this violent reality.

My generation was born with information at our fingertips. Yet we have been told to sit still and be quiet because “the adults are talking.”

Well, “the adults” had their chance. It is OUR turn to speak. OUR turn to fight. It is THEIR turn to sit down and listen.

My generation will be the one to instill change and bring peace, because we grew up in a hating world spiraling into darkness. A reality where watching the world burn around us was expected. But we fully intend to repair the damage “the adults” have so carelessly caused.

We refuse to sit back and watch the world burn when we know we have the power to stop it. Jane Goodall said, “There is a powerful force unleashed when young people resolve to make a change.”

In order to change this world for the better, we need YOU, our younger generations, to stand up and speak up. Join our Young Democrats Caucus so we can fight together to make real, lasting change.

Our voices matter. Our voices are needed. Join the team. Join the fight.

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