Thoughts and prayers pa­thetic with­out ac­tion

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - COMMENT - ROBIN BARANYAI

Amer­i­cans have had it with “thoughts and prayers.” The words of so­lace have lost their abil­ity to com­fort, ten­dered far too of­ten as a pro­phy­lac­tic against mean­ing­ful ac­tion to pre­vent fur­ther tragedy. The Bi­ble it­self, the tem­plate for Chris­tian prayer, says faith with­out works is dead.

Peo­ple are an­gry. They’re strug­gling with the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by a 64-year-old male with no known his­tory of vi­o­lence or ex­trem­ism, a law-abid­ing cit­i­zen who passed back­ground checks while amass­ing a mas­sive arse­nal of high-pow­ered weaponry.

But they’re also an­gry be­cause so much gun vi­o­lence is pre­ventable, and it just keeps hap­pen­ing. With each tragedy they hear the same grim sta­tis­tics; the ir­refutable cor­re­la­tion be­tween more than 300 mil­lion guns in civil­ian hands and 30,000 gun deaths a year.

Even satire is stuck on repeat. Satir­i­cal pub­li­ca­tion The Onion re­cy­cled the headline: ‘No way to pre­vent this,’ says only na­tion where this reg­u­larly hap­pens. It has now run the story five times, nearly word for word, sub­sti­tut­ing a dif­fer­ent city, a dif­fer­ent body count.

In this heart-rend­ing ver­sion of the movie Ground­hog Day, the re­peated thoughts and prayers of elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives be­come syn­ony­mous with will­ful in­ac­tion.

Gun-con­trol stal­wart and Con­necti­cut se­na­tor Chris Mur­ray tweeted, “To my col­leagues: your cow­ardice to act can­not be white­washed by thoughts and prayers. None of this ends un­less we do some­thing to stop it.”

A ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans sup­port com­mon-sense gun-con­trol mea­sures in­clud­ing univer­sal back­ground checks. Yet their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives con­sis­tently thwart leg­is­la­tion to close even the most egre­gious loop­holes, kow­tow­ing to the pow­er­ful Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

Re­spond­ing to ques­tions on gun con­trol, the White House fol­lowed the typ­i­cal NRA play­book, con­flat­ing pol­icy and par­ti­san­ship. “There is a time and place for po­lit­i­cal de­bate,” press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said Mon­day. “It would be pre­ma­ture for us to dis­cuss pol­icy when we don’t fully know all the facts.”

Yet the test of good pol­icy is not only whether it could have stopped the Las Ve­gas mas­sacre, but any of the 521 re­ported mass shoot­ings in the U.S. dur­ing 477 days be­tween June 1, 2016, and Oct. 1, 2017.

Anger over thoughts and prayers has been build­ing for some time. Nearly two years ago, af­ter the San Bernardino shoot­ers mur­dered 14 peo­ple, the New York Daily News pub­lished the prayer tweets of prom­i­nent Re­pub­li­cans with the all-caps headline: GOD ISN’T FIX­ING THIS.

The out­rage was re­newed af­ter Or­lando — the last time we mourned the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in mod­ern Amer­i­can his­tory — en­cap­su­lated in Hasan Min­haj’s ad­dress to mem­bers of Congress at a din­ner. “You make al­most $200,000 a year to write rules to make our so­ci­ety bet­ter,” he said. “Not tweet. Not tell us about your thoughts and prayers.”

Min­haj con­cluded with a hypothetical pro­posal to out­spend NRA cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions. “If $3.7 mil­lion can buy po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence to take lives,” he asked, “if we raise $4 mil­lion, would you guys take that to save lives?”

A New York Times story ex­posed the mem­bers of Congress whose ca­reers have ben­e­fit­ted most from NRA cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions, right up to US$7.7 mil­lion for Sen. John McCain.

Speak­ing through tears, co­me­dian Jimmy Kim­mel broad­cast the faces of leg­is­la­tors who have voted against gun re­form “be­cause the NRA has their balls in a money clip.”

Vot­ers would do well to keep these faces in their thoughts and prayers.

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