For a long time the typical social media response to a tragedy was “thoughts and prayers to the victims of _____” and people accepted that as an appropriate response. Though it was not something I often posted about, it was the typical thing people across the board would say. Now, however, “thoughts and prayers” is now viewed as a political statement, especially when it comes after a shooting of any sort.
After the Las Vegas shooting Bill Maher said “I’m so sick of thoughts and prayers” and since then there has been increased hostility behind that phrase being used in social media posts. When people use “thoughts and prayers” now, others respond with “your thoughts and prayers are not enough”. With the numerous shootings in the news right now, people are demanding that their peers take some sort of action and they see “thoughts and prayers” as sitting on the sidelines instead of getting in the huddle. But what if it isn’t their game to play?
Solving gun violence and mass shootings is not a simple issue. Legislators have been going back and forth for years about the appropriate way to address these problems. To get to a point where I could understand these problems, I’m going to need a lot of time, which I don’t have. I would love to see gun violence end in America just like I would love to see cancer get cured and world hunger to end, but maybe my skills are not best suited to pursue those things. Maybe I’m passionate about other issues more than I am about gun violence.
We need to be able to make a distinction between those who are in a position to affect firearm regulation and legislation and those who are not. If you want to argue that Paul Ryan’s thoughts and prayers are not enough, then I think there is some validity there because he is a person in a position to advocate for legislative change. I don’t think that argument is helpful, but I don’t think it is incorrect. However, when it comes to the average person, when they are not in a position to change the situation, then we shouldn’t be criticizing them for their thoughts and prayers. It is incredibly hard to express grief for victims of terrible tragedies, especially for those who we don’t know personally.
Demonizing thoughts and prayers is demonizing the people who believe in the power of prayer and can’t do anything else in the situation they are in. We all can’t spend time protesting, writing letters, researching, and filing lawsuits about gun violence when our time is already stretched thin. If you want to let the victims of a tragedy know you are thinking about them and recognize their pain, but don’t have time to devote to their situation because you have to devote your time to something else, then I see no problem with someone sending “thoughts and prayers” to those victims.
If thoughts and prayers are not enough, then what is? Leave a comment and let me know. If you like this, share it with your friends and social media. Let me know if you have any topics you want to see me cover. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @evinkellis. See you next time!