On October 1, American University Student Government’s Kennedy Political Union (KPU) announced a fall event featuring "the Parkland Students," David Hogg, Samantha Fuentes, and Jaclyn Corin, all survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Florida earlier this year. I don’t have any problems with Fuentes or Corin. I do, however, find the inclusion of David Hogg to be a off-putting choice for a main attraction, mostly because of his willful and pompous embodiment of the most toxic aspect of politics. He is a mudslinging, uninformative representation of why progress cannot be effected against the resistance of the status quo. Having him come speak to at AU would be doing a massive disservice to youth-led gun control reform, a movement I care deeply about.
Ultimately, my issue is with the shade that Hogg brings to his movement, which I will proudly say I’m a part of. However, by having him speak in front of hundreds of young gun control activists like myself, the KPU is effectively endorsing his behavior, and assigning him as a sort of spokesperson for activists on campus—which leads me to wonder if KPU is genuinely interested in productive debate, or if it is simply looking to hand out ticket stubs in its own interests.
I am a Democrat. I support gun control. I support universal background checks. I support a national electronic gun registry. I support more restrictive age limits across the states. I support a ban on carbine rifles that utilize intermediate cartridges and/or detachable magazines. And I don’t want to be associated with David Hogg.
Part of effecting change is being considerate to opponents, not spouting profanity-laced belittlement or targeting them personally on social media. You cannot and will not convince anybody if you’re giving more than you’re taking. Hogg makes this entire discourse personal to an extent where I can’t really see his end goal—and that’s dangerous, because people who are passionately opposed to gun control will see even worse images of the movement Hogg thinks himself to represent.
Cameron Kasky, another Parkland survivor whom I respect, gave a number of interviews over the course of the last week explaining why he would not be joining the March for Our Lives fall tour. He reminisced about a few “hard mistakes” he made on the campaign trail, most notably his cringeworthy, transparent attempts to publicly embarrass Senator Marco Rubio during a town hall. During an interview with the entertainment news publication BUILD, Kasky told host Ricky Camilleri, “One of the biggest problems I’m seeing in our political discourse right now is the fact that people are not interested in engaging with folks who disagree with them.” He continued, expressing his regret for aiming his efforts “more at turning some people against other people as opposed to uniting everybody.”
There are plenty of objective and compelling gun control experts and activists out there, Kasky included. Hogg is not one of them. In my view, practically any high schooler in the country is as qualified as he is, if not more, to lead young people toward gun control reform.
Temperament is key in public affairs. I don’t want Hogg’s temperament attached to the gun control movement, because while he appears calm and collected on camera, his actions off the screen make him come off as a giant baby, embodying exactly the caricature that opponents of gun control reform think of when they hear “gun control.”
At some point during the March for Our Lives summer tour, Kasky asked, “We’re at a point where we have to look ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘Do we want to move forward, or do we want to move farther apart?’” Gun control is an important issue—one of the most pressing of today, in fact—but it’s challenging in its narrative and complex in its discourse. It doesn’t need people like Hogg. It needs real experts and thoughtful activists dedicated to a cause and an ideal. It doesn’t need a kid who’s treating this chaos like some giant game of headlining and straitjacketing.
A grassroots movement may be represented by one leader, but it isn’t defined around one leader. Hogg shouldn’t be desirable to speak simply because of his celebrity status. There are plenty more out there who are better in almost every respect, and on AU’s highly politically engaged campus, the right people will show up regardless.