Trying to write anything about the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, seemed redundant. Spitting in the wind. A lost cause. Because, as The Onion has proven so brutally by publishing the same story following virtually each mass shooting since 2014, the only thing that seems to change from one scene of American carnage to the next is the location and death toll.
Then I watched 17-year-old Parkland survivor David Hogg on television. And then I listened to the searing oratory of fellow Parkland survivor, 18-year-old Emma Gonzales. And in a state where "Stand your ground" has come to be synonymous with a virtual license to kill, these students and a rising tide of others like them are standing their ground against the epidemic of mass murder in America. They're finding – and using – their voices in a way that is a slap in the face to the acceptance and lethargy that has plagued any debate about gun control for too many years. They've galvanized a movement long moribund, sparking not just discussion and energy, but focus as well – on the National Rifle Association and its trucklers in both Congress and the media.
Like so many other Americans in the wake of Sandy Hook, journalist Dan Hodges' observation that "Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over" for any possibility of gun control succinctly summed up my feelings on the subject. Today, thanks to the fearlessness of these high schoolers and their unvarnished demand for the right to attend school like so many of their contemporaries in so many other countries – without the fear of being murdered by someone who can procure an assault rifle with greater ease than registering to vote in many states – I don't feel it's a given that our safety – our children's safety – will forever be beholden to the gun lobby and its toadies.
It's hard to fathom how these young activists can travel down the long, tortuous roads of recovering from such a traumatic experience and of taking on the most intractable special interest group in the country. They will be attacked – hell, they already are being attacked– by politicians and the gun lobby/right-wing propaganda machine at the same time they are trying to heal. And this fight is against an entrenched, well-funded opponent with a surfeit of allies.
But it's even harder not to be inspired and strengthened by their resolve.
Scott Wagner: Completing his transition from outsider to insider, the Republican gubernatorial hopeful was endorsed by the PA GOP at its winter meeting, triumphing over, among others, another millionaire candidate in Paul Bartos and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai in the quest to unseat Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf.
Pittsburgh: In a landmark moment for its longtime resurgence, the city emerged from Act 47 status – 14 years after entering the state program for financially distressed municipalities.
Philly bikers and smokers: After a number of deaths and injuries to bicyclists caused by motorists on city streets, Philadelphia City Council is finally moving forward on expanding the city's network of bike lanes. And in a continuation of the decriminalization of recreational marijuana use, Philly DA Larry Krasner tossed some 50 marijuana possession cases and indicated he wouldn't pursue such cases in the future, preferring to dedicate resources to other DAO priorities.
Margo Davidson: In what can charitably be described as not a good look for legislative entitlement, the state Rep. was charged not once, but twice with driving with a suspended license – including allegedly fleeing the scene of an accident, as well as failing to notify police of the accident, drive a vehicle at safe speed, and give information and render aid.
Vanessa Lowery Brown: In a blow to the state Rep.'s long-running defense against charges of corruption, the judge in her case rejected a bid by her lawyers that contended she was the victim of racial bias in a 2014 sting.
Prospective homebuyers: Specifically, minorities looking to purchase homes in Philadelphia – as well as an outrageously high number of other municipalities across the nation – are still being victimized by banks that continue to engage in the malevolently antediluvian practice of redlining – denying financing on the basis of race.