Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Fighter for the Everglades

Marjory Stoneman Douglas–a school, as far as most people knew. The school that crashed into the news because a 19-year-old acquired an automatic weapon and went on a shooting rampage, killing 17 people.

Amidst the grief and the political hypocrisy, and the shame of unchecked gun ownership that is killing America’s kids, it’s worth remembering the woman for whom the Florida school is named. Douglas was a writer, an editor, a journalist who died twenty years ago at the age of 108. She was known as the Defender of the Everglades, and  a large swath of the park is named for her. Among her works are two novels for young readers, Alligator Crossing and Freedom River Florida, 1845.

The writer of this Chicago Tribune article, Mary Schmich, met Marjory Stoneman Douglas when she was 95. Her profile is both revealing and relevant. Excerpt:

“What does it matter if I’ve been discouraged or encouraged over the years?” she said, brusquely. “This thing’s got to be done. It’s not a question of how I feel from moment to moment.”

“Not a question of how I feel.” Words to live by.

We don’t know how Douglas would have felt about gun violence. It wasn’t an issue of her time. But here’s an example of how she dealt with authority figures. Once, when she was giving a speech addressing the practices of the Army Corps of Engineers and how they endangered the Everglades, a colonel in the audience dropped his pen on the floor. He bent to pick it up, and Douglas stopped her speech and said to him, “Colonel! You can crawl under that table and hide, but you can’t get away from me!”

We could use that razor-sharp tongue right now. I like to think that she’d tell the young activists of today to do the thing that has to be done. Like her, they’re not afraid to call out the people in charge.

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