What is happening in our world? Who is doing what? what is going on now? These are questions that will be answered. Enjoy.
David Hogg and Lauren Hogg Talk New Book #NeverAgain
You know that old chestnut, “Turn your pain into progress”? Few embody that truth more wholeheartedly than David and Lauren Hogg, two survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, during which a gunman massacred seventeen students and faculty members on Valentine’s Day. In the months since, David and Lauren have courageously banded together with their classmates to found March for Our Lives, a nation-wide movement that fights to end the American epidemic of gun violence not just in schools—but in movie theaters, night clubs, churches, and every other environment where no person should have to fear for his or her life.
David and Lauren didn’t seek or desire this platform, but with it, they’ve ushered us into a new era of activism, drawing hundreds of thousands into the streets to advocate for sensible gun legislation. Together they’ve written a book: #NeverAgain: A New Generation Draws the Line, which is at once a memoir of their childhood, a manifesto for political change, and a ringing declaration for our times that will draw a new generation of individuals to activism.
Esquire.com sat down with David and Lauren to discuss their collaborative writing process, the importance of empathy, and how you—yes, you—can change the world for the better.
ESQ: You’ve mobilized an army of millions of millennials. What do you think makes this generation special?
David Hogg: What doesn’t make any generation special? I think that’s the question to ask. We’re all unique individuals that collectively make up an age group. It’s generalizing us—that doesn’t make us special. But when you get down to it, everybody is completely different, and because of that we’re able to work toward a better and safer future for us all. So for our generation, we just have to work together.
Lauren Hogg: I also think one of the things that makes our generation so special is our knowledge of the world around us. Because of social media and because of TV, we’ve grown up in a world where we’re constantly fed information. We see people that aren’t like us, and we hear stories about things that happen to people that don’t necessarily happen to us. So I think being made aware of so many different issues, whether it be immigration, or gun violence, or climate change, but not necessarily having to partake in being a part of either one of those, but knowing about it—I think that and our loving and inclusive nature for most of millennials is one of the reasons why we’re different from other generations.
ESQ: Tell me about the process of collaborating on the book. I loved how the sections dovetail into one another, and how what you’ve written as individuals works in conversation. What was it like writing together?
DH: It was pretty interesting. It was kind of therapeutic for us, working together on such a big project and letting out our childhood. For me, looking through a lot of our old memories like growing up in California and then moving to Florida was really interesting. It gave me a new perspective and a way to look back on everything that has happened. What do you think, Lauren?
LH: Like David said, it was really therapeutic for us, and it was really interesting because we’ve been so numb, and we’re so focused on one thing lately, to think about our childhood, to think about the world around us in a different way by having conversations with each other. Just talking to each other really was therapeutic, and it made me think a lot more, get into a better state of mind healing-wise. It really helped me with that.
ESQ: I found Chapter Seven of the book, where you print personal details about victims of gun violence going as far back as Columbine, very moving. What was your research process like for acquiring that information?
DH: We worked hard with that part to make sure we were doing everything right. We mainly collaborated with the editorial team at Random House to get everything together on that, which made it a lot more of a streamlined process. Once we finally got it all together and read through all of it, I was reading it out loud to Lauren when we got the first copy of the book, and it was unbelievably long. It took us a very long time to get through all those names and read.
It’s just unbelievable that this has continued for so long, and I feel like this is a deeply moving part of the book. I hope that people see each one of those individuals, and they see them when they say their name, and they close their eyes and they imagine that person is the person that they love most. Because that’s what those people that died, what each of them are to someone. And they’re never going to be able to speak again, so we have to continue to fight and speak for them.
ESQ: I’m sure you’re familiar with the literature on how gun violence is often connected to domestic violence; you mention it at one point in the book. What are your feelings on that issue, and how do you think we can combat that within the broader issue of gun violence?
LH: So I think when we’re talking about different issues, I think misogyny and gun violence kind of come together in a weird way, and we see legislation that really doesn’t help with this. There’s this thing called the “boyfriend loophole,” where if you’re married and your husband or wife is accused of domestic abuse, they can’t purchase a gun—but if it’s your boyfriend or girlfriend, and you claim something against them, they still can purchase a gun. That’s one of the ways it connects. I think domestic abuse is one of the leading causes of gun violence.
DH: It’s highly connected because domestic abuse is one of the biggest predictors of who will commit these atrocities, a lot of the time. In a lot of states, even if you know that somebody has been violent before, at a federal level you can take their guns away if they’re a domestic abuser of their wife, but you can’t take their guns away if it’s a girlfriend or somebody that they’re stalking in most states. And that’s where extreme risk protection orders come into play, and why they’re so important and integral in this role. There is a lot of violence, especially towards women, that causes a lot of homicide, especially in the household. There’s a significantly higher chance of a woman being murdered in a domestic violence situation if there’s a gun in the household. And that’s a major thing that we have to make sure that we work through and fight, especially considering how many lives have been taken as a result of it.
ESQ: You’ve both suffered a slew of online harassment. How do you keep your chins up in the face of that?
DH: I think, for me—I’ll let Lauren speak her part in a second—but for me, it’s seeing smiles from the kids in the south side of Chicago, and their strength, and the beauty in that community. In places like Ferguson and in places like Parkland, and everywhere affected by this. We’ve all lived through something horrific, but the strength and beauty and knowledge that we’re going to win eventually is what keeps me going. And I know that, so long as I can make one person happy today, what a million others say about my personality and about me doesn’t matter so long as that person’s happy, and I’m happy too.
“We’re not trying to take your guns away, we’re just trying to save lives. We’re trying to make sure what happened to our friends doesn’t happen to other people. “
LH: I think when it comes to online harassment, the best way that all of us in March For Our Lives have dealt with it is laughing about it. We of course think it’s important, if you ever get any commentary on something that you’re doing, to read it, to take it in, to digest it and to contemplate what you should do. But with a lot of these things, like for instance, when people call members of March For Our Lives Nazis and other just horrific things, I think you need to look at their character by what they say. I mean, they’re attacking a survivor of a school shooting. And it’s not like we’re trying to do anything crazy—we’re not trying to take your guns away, we’re just trying to save lives. We’re trying to make sure what happened to our friends doesn’t happen to other people. And so I think when people say these horrible things, I think it just shows their character. We just look at that, and a lot of times it’s so stupid that we just laugh it off and make jokes out of it.
ESQ: Of course we live in highly polarized times. What have you learned about changing the minds and hearts of people whose opinions are diametrically opposed to yours? Do you feel like you’re butting up against a brick wall sometimes?
LH: I do feel like we’re fighting against a brick wall sometimes, but I think something that all humans have in common whether it’s Dana Loesch from the NRA or me or David or Cameron or Emma, I think it’s that we all have this shared human connection. We all have these feelings of love, these feelings of empathy. Even if sometimes I feel like they don’t show it, we all have this embedded in us, and I think that’s something that we really use, in such divided times.
I think we need to look at the fundamentals of our human spirit. We need to look into each other’s eyes, and we need to just love each other. It sounds so fake, but honestly, I think that’s the only way we’re going to win. I think it’s why we’ve kept our momentum and why we’ve been so successful in our March For Our Lives movement. It’s because we fight, but with love and not hate. We don’t use fear tactics; we use love and compassion, and we’re trying to open people’s eyes who haven’t necessarily experienced gun violence, to show them that this is a real problem, and that we all share the same thing. We all have brothers, sister, boyfriends, girlfriends, and none of us want them to be taken because of senseless gun violence.
David Hogg speaks on stage at March for Our Lives in Washington, DC, March 24, 2018.
DH: I think that’s what this book shows and teaches: empathy. It’s bringing it back and showing how we’re really just kids, and the same carelessness that we had in California when we were growing up until we moved to Florida is the same carelessness that all kids should have. When I was Lauren’s age, a rising sophomore in high school, I was in California boogie boarding everyday. I was hanging out with my friends. That’s all these kids should be doing. But right now my sister is traveling the country with me and going on all these interviews, trying to stop the next mass shooting. It shouldn’t have to be us, the kids, that are doing this. It should be the adults that are taking action and changing things, but clearly that hasn’t been working for most of America. Although I will say that not all adults have failed us. There are a lot of amazing people that I’ve met in the south side of Chicago, in Ferguson, Parkland, Liberty City, and different areas that have been working their asses off for years to stop this. I know because of them that it’s going to work.
Once all of America stands up against this violence, hopefully in part because of some of the things we say in this book, and realize what an epidemic this is, we will change things, we will have an impact. We will change things if people stand up for what they believe in against injustice and death to save themselves and the future of America, and the world.
ESQ: How have you both adapted to the suddenness of your new life in the public eye? What has it been like to go from being a teenager to a widely known activist?
DH: It’s been pretty interesting. I used to really like journalism, and I still do to some extent, but it’s also been kind of heartbreaking to see the inequality. We talked about this in the book as well—the inequality and the bias in media, how now because a bunch of privileged white kids have been shot it’s like we all have to start caring. But in reality, this has been happening in poor communities of lower socioeconomic status, and to people of color for centuries now. If you think about it, the first mass shooting was Wounded Knee. And now that it’s a bunch of rich white kids that are being shot, it’s like, “Oh my god, we have to end this.” We have to remember that these things have been going on for centuries.
We talk about that in the book, how there’s still bias in the media coverage of these people, and what causes these things to continue. When people automatically attribute anyone’s death in one part of a city because there is a gang there to gang violence, even if they’re a member of that gang, that’s not helpful in any way, shape or form. And what we need to know, and what America needs to learn, and what I hope this book teaches, is that it’s just empathy. Realizing that everybody’s just a person. Put yourself in their shoes and remember every time that you see somebody on the news that’s died as a result of gun violence, they’re a kid or a person like you, or me, or your best friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, or anybody you know that you care about. That’s who that person was.
ESQ: People often grow a bit defeatist and think, “I’m just one person. What can I do?” How can people young and old who care about the issue of gun violence affect positive change and get involved in their communities?
DH: Obviously vote, but if you can’t do that, something that I’d say you can do right now is, if you want to join March For Our Lives, you can text CHANGE to 97779 to help join our national group and volunteer. If you don’t think you can have an impact just because you’re one person: I’m sitting in New York City right now in a skyscraper because a group of people worked together to build this. It’s the individual effort of everybody working together towards a collective goal that causes real, effective change in America and in the world. If every person doesn’t believe in themselves, nothing happens. I wouldn’t be sitting here right now if people didn’t believe in themselves. If people just make the simple act of believing that they can have an effect on the world and they can end the silence, they’re more than halfway there, because I know they will.
The best way you can do that, again, is text CHANGE to 97779, and if you want to start, talk to your parents, work on political campaigns, work with politicians that aren’t Democrats or Republicans, but are Americans and human beings. That aren’t going to serve at the hand of a special interest, but at the hand of their constituents who voted them into office.