Thoughts and prayers pathetic without action
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.