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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

THE POWER OF SILENCE


I just watched on my computer a video of the speech delivered by Emma Gonzalez at the Washington march organized to work for gun regulation.  Gonzalez is one of the students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who were trapped during the brief, deadly shootings there.  Her speech is the most chilling, powerful, oratorically courageous performance I have ever seen.  You can view it here.

For those who do not understand what she was doing, Ms. Gonzalez called the names of all of her classmates who died in that terrible event, and then stood stock still, absolutely silent, for the six minutes and twenty seconds it took from the first shot was fired until the last.  Six minutes and twenty seconds in front of a vast audience is an eternity.  The members of the audience, puzzled by the silence, strike up chants and call out support, but she does not budge, and little by little the efforts by the audience die away.  Finally, when the time of the shootings has elapsed, she speaks again and explains what she has done.  This, she is saying by her silence, is how long it took for all of the fellow students whose names I have called to die.

I have seen videos or films of many great speeches, but none was as powerful as those six minutes and twenty seconds of silence.

5 comments:

RobinM said...

I agree. I was most impressed by the first speech she made shortly after the shooting when she called out the gun industry and the politicians who prostitute themselves to it. But this one went to a different level. The very unsettlement and anxiety her silence generated left me wondering what it must have been like to actually experience those six minutes and twent seconds surrounded by the dread that something horrendous was going on in one’s immediate vicinity. I also wondered whether she was aware of Cage’s piece on silence which prompts one to ponder what it really means to listen.

Anonymous said...

The silence was suggestive in a number of respects. One columnist fancied that, as a drama student, Emma Gonzalez was referring to "the rest is silence" line that Hamlet utters as he is dying. That seems a stretch. More simply, the silence is that of the dead, who not only can't do what Emma Gonzalez refers to in her speech, but also can't speak of what they can't do.

When I came home from our local march, I watched all of the DC speeches on the C-Span video. Emma Gonzalez's was, indeed, rhetorically powerful and memorable. I also recommend watching D'Angelo. Now that young man knows how to give a speech; clearly he's been schooled in the Church. Samantha, who still bares the marks of having been shot, throws up mid-speech and manages the exclamation, "I just threw up on international television and it feels great!" There's also Naomi, who, at eleven years old, spoke for how African-American women have been victims of violence. And finally, there was Yolanda, grand-daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As you wrote, Professor: "And a little child shall lead them."

David

Carl said...

No. "Real Quick: my speech today was abt 6 mins & 30 secs, including both my speech and my silence. The fact that people think the silence was 6 minutes... imagine how long it would have felt if it actually was 6 minutes, or how it would feel if you had to hide during that silence" —Emma Gonz├ílez, on Twitter

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I am delighted to be corrected. It felt like an eternity. It was unforgettable.

Anonymous said...

Six minutes and thirty seconds is this generation's four score and seven years. Both felt after similar senseless carnage.