Friday, February 16, 2018

Here is What You Can Do with Your Thoughts and Prayers

How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see? Bob Dylan

At 21 years of age, well before I was even born, Bob Dylan’s prescient mind anticipated the current mass-shooting crisis that ominously stands before us now.

There are many people in our nation today, including many of our elected officials, whose primary response to this crisis is essentially this: “What is needed now are our thoughts and prayers. Shame on anyone for trying to politicize this issue when precious lives have been lost.”

With all due respect, that is such a bunch of garbage and we all know it. It is beyond insulting. This thoughts and prayers right now thing is part of a strategy - one that tries to inflict guilt and one that clearly is designed to deflect attention from the real issue, which we all know to be gun control (at the very least this is the primary issue, and we all know it (see unequivocal evidence for this point here).

Let’s dissect “thoughts and prayers” just a bit and see how American of an idea this really is. First off, the foundation of our nation rests upon a bedrock of separation of church and state. For “prayers” to be a primary response to an event such as Parkland from any government official in our nation slaps our forefathers in the face. Separation of church and state, please. This is the United States of America!

Further, let’s think about “thoughts.” I’m a behavioral scientist by training and by profession. We divide psychological phenomena into mental states and processes (such as thoughts) on the one hand and actions or behaviors on the other. Isn’t this nation built on action? Isn’t that what the United States is all about?

The United States as a Nation of Action

If you’re following this little thought exercise, then please join me in considering the following:

How did George Washington and his revolutionary colleagues respond to unfair treatment from the the British? Was the Declaration of Independence based on the premise that colonists needed to think and pray to solve their problems? Thoughts and prayers?!?

Imagine if the primary response of the United States to Pearl Harbor was “thoughts and prayers.” Right?!

How did Martin Luther King, Jr. lead the civil rights movement. Was it all thoughts and prayers?

What was George W. Bush’s response to September 11? If I recall correctly, it involved a lot more than thoughts and prayers.

And so on.

As you can see, this thought exercise is a bi-partisan exercise - with the primary point being this: The ethos of the United States, going all the way back, is an ethos of action. That's who we are. 

Listen to the Kids of Parkland, Florida

Don’t just take my word for it.* Several of the kids who survived the nightmare in Parkland, Florida are speaking out on social media. And they are saying things like this:

“F*** you. We don’t need your thoughts and prayers. GET BETTER GUN CONTROL.” (Kyra)

“I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all about the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.” (Carly)

“... don’t want your condolences you f*****g piece (sic) of s**t, my friends and teachers were shot” (Sarah)

On the other hand, Tomi Lahren of Fox News tweeted the following, which captures exactly the problem I’m talking about:

“Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti–gun owner agenda? My goodness. This isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic. #FloridaShooting.”

This tweet was not met positively across the board, to say the least. In fact, several students who were in Parkland during the horror chimed in calling this tweet out as incredibly off-target and insensitive. Sorry, Tomi. We are too smart for that kind of political sleight of hand.

It IS about Gun Control. It Just Is.

The “thoughts and prayers thing” is a red herring. It’s a “look over there” political maneuver. And we cannot stand for it. The founding fathers of our nation would be embarrassed by the “thoughts and prayers” thing - and we should be too. We can do better. As the below meme from the Resisterhood states, let’s change “thoughts and prayers” to “policy and change.” Thoughts mean little compared to action. And our nation is premised on this fact. Let’s make our forefathers proud. Let’s look this national crisis in the eye, band together, take action, and resolve it. For our shared future. 


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Note that the views expressed herein are expressly the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Move Forward New York as a collective entity.