For Joey, It’s Now or Never

“Candid Camera” was the world’s first and most watched comedy reality TV show, airing from1948 to 2004. (Forty-seven years longer than the “Roseanne” reboot.) It featured ordinary people, unaware they were being filmed, placed in strange and even disturbing situations.

By the time the unsuspecting “victim” was thoroughly bewildered, the show’s amiable host, Allen Funt, appeared saying, “Smile, you’re on ‘Candid Camera!’” Though embarrassed, the person was completely relieved what they just experienced wasn’t real.

That’s how I feel about the Trump presidency. I wish it was just a “Candid Camera” episode. This POTUS has told so many lies people don’t know what’s true anymore. Leslie Stahl reports Trump confided to her it’s intentional so the public won’t believe negative stories written about him. Isn’t that just lovely?

Even Trump’s surrogates lie shamelessly. Alex Jones, Trump’s friend and host of the right-wing nut website “InfoWars,” despicably suggested that the horrific mass murder at Sandy Hook of twenty 6 and 7-year-olds was staged. He asserted that no kids died and the parents who testified before Congress were actors. (Like Roseanne, I wish he and Trump could just be canceled.)

Since Sandy Hook, shockingly, there have been over 200 school shootings, an average of one a week! And since Columbine, 16% of the shootings have involved pre-schoolers and kindergarteners. As for 2018, or season two of the “Apprentice President,” more students have been killed in school than U.S. soldiers killed in combat. For Santa Monica High School junior, 17-year-old Josephine (Joey) Choe, enough is enough.

Inspired by the courageous students at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who survived the mass shooting, Joey recruited her friends at Samohi and they formed “It’s Now or Never.” The group is determined to make a difference in the fight for sensible gun control.

In addition to being a straight-A student (I was more like a “straight-C” student), Joey’s passion is combining art with technology. In response to the Parkland tragedy, in March she came up with the concept of an anti-gun violence photo that would, hopefully, have an impact in school, the community and even online. Easier conceived than implemented, the project required seventeen friends and the expertise of renowned Santa Monica photographer, Jim Sanderson.

The photo took two long days on the beach, one of rehearsal (including battling the wind) and one for the shoot. And, oh yes, the use of a drone to get the compelling aerial view.

Essential elements included costuming, make-up and props, all of which had significance for Joey. The students were positioned in the sand to form a peace symbol, while purple lipstick signified this is a non-partisan issue and all are holding a prayer book. The orange in the costumes represents gun violence and the black signifies mourning.

The photo was so well received it was entered in the Congressional Art Competition where Joey won Honorable Mention! She also met our Congressman, Ted Lieu. “Joey’s powerful art demonstrates just how critical youths’ voices have been in fighting to end gun violence.” Thanks to Samohi Principal Dr. Antonio Shelton, Lieu came to Samo last month. “I’m constantly inspired by the passion of the young people leading this movement and want to do my part to elevate their voices.”

Unfortunately, Democrats’ hands are tied as House Speaker, Paul Ryan (whom I affectionately call a “moral weakling”) won’t allow any gun control legislation to reach the floor. Clearly, change can only come with the midterms this November. Joey and her friends are planning protests, demonstrations and “get out the vote” campaigns to defeat candidates who take money from the NRA. (That’s you, Devin Nunes.)

The tragic irony is the majority of the country (as high as 90%) wants change. Even 70% of NRA members want universal background checks. And yet, the NRA leadership defies the will of the people.

My heart goes out to students and parents who live with the fear of a school shooting. Imagine, these kids have never known school without it. It’s like a horror movie about America in 2080, only it’s not a movie and it’s now. In no other industrialized country does this exist.

Recently, I saw an Internet ad for “bulletproof backpacks” for kids. Talk about surreal. And the other day I was watching the French Open and saw tennis players carrying enormous equipment bags. I suppose if these bags were bulletproofed, when the shooter shows up at school, the kids could just climb in. Good Lord, what have we come to?

I still wish Allen Funt would suddenly appear, saying, “Smile, you’re on ‘Candid Camera.’” (Or better yet, “Smile, he’s being impeached.”) In the meantime, to inspire us to vote for change, I’m following the kids, like my awesome friend, Joey.

June 1 is “National Gun Violence Awareness Day,” #wear orange. To get involved go to: On Instagram follow the L.A. Student Activist Coalition @lasac.activists. Lastly, to see a short but powerful video, go to:

Jack is at