Action and policy; not thoughts and prayers

Kaili Berdge of Scottsdale, Ariz. makes sure candles stay lit at a memorial for the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. Wednesday, Oct. 4. Gina Ferazzi | Tribune News Service

By Brittany Dekorte

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, and their families.”

It’s a simple phrase we hear variations of over and over again. It comes from the mouths of politicians, public figures, police chiefs and pastors. Every time tragedy strikes, and it feels like it’s been striking more often than not.

Chattanooga, five military men killed, two others wounded.

Charleston, nine black churchgoers killed during prayer.

Aurora, 12 killed and 70 injured while watching a superhero movie.

San Bernardino, 14 killed and 22 injured at a company holiday party.

Sandy Hook Elementary, 26 killed, the majority of them first and second graders.

Orlando, 49 dead, 58 wounded in a gay nightclub.

And now Las Vegas, surpassing all of these, with 58 deaths so far and 498 injuries at a country music concert.

These are only a handful of the mass shootings that have happened in the U.S. since 2012.

And after each, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, and their families.”

It’s not just the big names who say it, either. All over social media, after a tragedy, friends and family post similar things. “Praying for them”, “my thoughts are with them”, on and on.

There is something positive that comes out of this, an awareness that something bad is happening, a comfort knowing that there are others out there who are upset and wish things were better.

But thinking and wishing something was better, doesn’t actually make it better. Praying won’t change things, but it might give you a false sense that it did. Even writing about it, as I am doing here, won’t really help in the long run.

Only action will.

And yet no one seems to want to talk about action. No one wants to learn from the actions of other countries who don’t have these mass shootings, or ones who never had many to begin with. The official statement by the White House last Monday, after the Las Vegas shooting, was that “there will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.”

But what better moment is there to discuss these problems, than when they are most prevalent, causing the most harm? If someone was diagnosed with cancer, the doctor wouldn’t wait to discuss treatment options.

And yet, the pattern seems to be to say it isn’t the time, until the public consciousness has moved on, and any law that could have made the act more difficult to repeat, or could have made lives easier for the victims, is left on the sidelines.

At least, until the next shooting rolls around. And then we’re back to that phrase, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, and their families.”

I don’t want to hear another politician say that their thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We’ll never have a world with zero tragedy, but I want to see what they are going to do to put us as close to zero as possible.



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