Every morning when I read the news, my mind fills with ideas of stories I could explore. But, of course, I can’t write about every single thing—and as I’ve been thinking about this further, I’ve been reminding myself that I don’t need to write about everything, because sometimes listening is even more important than speaking.
I’ve felt this especially with the discussions about gun control reform in the United States. Like so many others, I was absolutely horrified by the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February (and similarly so by the recent school shooting in Texas, and last week in Indiana). When I heard about what happened in Parkland, I was sitting in a classroom on a break during one of my politics classes. I was at an educational institution, and I felt safe—but the students in Parkland had probably felt safe, too, before their lives were taken or forever altered.
I can certainly share my perspective on events like school shootings because I’m a student; but I think the voices that are really important in that conversation are those of the students who were involved, both those who have received a lot of media attention and those who feel they have been left out of the narrative.
Oftentimes, it’s really important to just be quiet and listen. Sometimes that means not putting your own voice into a discussion, because you don’t want to speak over others or assume that your own experiences speak to those of other people. Of course, we can all contribute to a discussion about gun control—and we should all contribute to it. But we should contribute when we have done our research so that we can give an informed opinion. We should contribute after we have listened to the people who are most directly impacted by an issue, and we should continue to listen even after the breaking news is no longer “breaking.”
This is, I think, why the student protests and mobilization after Parkland became so powerful. We were hearing from the students who had lost friends, hidden in closests; the students who were sharing their stories not to ask for pity, but to ask for change. I don’t know about you, but I got goosebumps from seeing Cameron Kasky ask Marco Rubio if he would continue to accept money from the NRA at the CNN town hall and from listening to Emma González’s speech at the March for Our Lives event. Their words were (and continue to be) powerful, and they were coming from the people who needed to be saying them.
Interestingly, after the Parkland shooting, there was an all-time high for support of stricter gun control measures, as a Quinnipiac University Poll suggested. But in the months since, despite other cases of gun violence and mass shootings, this support has seemed to waver. From February to April, the number of voters who said gun control was a major factor in which candidate they would vote for fell from 59 per cent to 46 per cent, according to an article from The Economist.
As writers, journalists and human beings, we can write or talk all day and night about something. But listening is really important, too, and sometimes it seems like a forgotten part of arguments and discussions.
If you’re feeling like I was—like you don’t know how to contribute your voice to certain discussions—try taking a step back and thinking about why you feel the need to speak, and whether you’ve listened to other opinions. You don’t have to speak out, or write, about everything. Sometimes, it’s better to just take a step back and listen.