After so many tragic mass shootings in this country, I've got no patience left with the "thoughts and prayers" crowd -- unless their thoughts and prayers are accompanied by a strong call for action. This is why I found a recent Statesman Journal editorial so irritating.
A few years ago I wrote about this in "Why I don't like 'Our thoughts and prayers are with you.'"
I respect the need people have to pray. But that prayer is meaningless unless you get off your knees and do something.
To which I Twitter-replied, "Amen." Later someone else commented on scriptdave's tweet. He told them:
I hear you. People need to reflect, meditate, process tragedy. But prayer being the end all is ludicrous. Do something real.
A double Amen to that.
And only last December, I blogged "Another mass shooting. No more 'thoughts and prayers.' Gun control ACTION!"
Only in America do we have this much gun violence. Why? Because we have way more guns per capita than any other nation. So we have way more gun deaths.
Responsible gun control is the answer.
Thoughts and prayers are useless. They accomplish nothing (if a person directly affected by a shooting is told you are personally thinking of them, then they might feel a little bit better, but this rarely happens).
So, please Americans, stop with the thoughts and prayers.
All these rote expressions of sympathy accomplish is relieve your guilt that you're not doing anything to stop the needless gun violence.
Support those calling for universal background checks and other reasonable gun control measures. Refuse to vote for politicians who mindlessly do the bidding of the NRA. Put pressure on federal, state, and local officials to prevent more mass shootings.
It's fine to feel for the victims. But if this is all we do, feel, we're being uncaring, not compassionate. One direct action to stop gun violence is better than a thousand thoughts and prayers.
So it was frustrating to read Dick Hughes' editorial in the Salem Statesman Journal about the Orlando mass shooting -- the worst in the history of the United States -- and find a lot of thoughts, but a zero call for action beyond vague platitudes like these (emphasis added by me):
This is a day for rational people to stand strong — shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, hand in hand — with people whose sexual orientation or religious practices or world view differ from our own.
This is a day to remember that America was founded on the ideals of political freedom and religious tolerance, by people who rejected the state-enforced religion of their British master. It is a day to remember that throughout our history, America has been seen as the great melting pot of civilization, where people of different heritages and different beliefs and different skin colors can live together and promote the good of all.
Wow. Stand strong and remember. That'll do a lot to stop the next mass shooting. (NOT!)
After I went to our paper box, got that day's Statesman Journal, and read Hughes' exceedingly toothless editorial, I sat down at my laptop and expressed my frustration in a comment on the online opinion piece.
This editorial gets the problem wrong. "Rational" was mentioned many times. But more rationality isn't going to stop mass shootings. The gunman, Omar Mateen, almost certainly wasn't mentally ill. He just believed in some weird stuff, like Donald Trump does, like a majority of Republican primary voters do, like WE ALL do.
Yes, religions are the source of much of the weird stuff people believe. Many Muslims and Christians share a mistaken belief that homosexuality is forbidden by God (who somehow also creates gays and lesbians). But we're not going to be able to do away with religions, no mattter how good this would be for the world.
Modern psychology and neursoscience understand that emotion, not reason, is the foundation of most of our actions. We FEEL that something is right, then we find reasons to support that feeling. Science, by and large, is our best way to use facts and reason to understand the world.
But scientific understanding isn't going to stop mass shootings. As I said in a blog post last night, it's obvious that the problem isn't people, it is guns. The United States doesn't have more people with weird beliefs; it has way more guns. That's why our nation's gun death rate is so far above that of other countries.
Universal background checks is one thing that could be done to prevent people from getting guns who shouldn't have them. Banning assault-style weapons is another good idea. See:
This editorial failed to say anything about what concrete, realistic steps should be take to reduce the number of mass shootings. Big omission. It just talks about the usual useless "thoughts-and-prayers," "be kind to each other" stuff that has done, and will do, exactly NOTHING to stop innocent people from being killed by shooters.
Let's see another Statesman Journal editorial with specific recommendations to stop mass shootings. Only then will I believe that the SJ editorial board really wants to do something about this.
As noted in my comment and the linked blog post about the Orlando killings, here's four things that I think would help to stop the endless string of mass shootings in this country:
(1) Elect Hillary Clinton as the next president, so she has a chance to appoint Supreme Court justices who will revisit the horrible 2008 Court decision to overturn the previous long-held legal position that allowed reasonable regulations on the individual "right to bear arms."
(2) Pass a federal ban on assault-style weapons, just as President Ronald Reagan favored.
(3) Pass legislation across the country for strong universal background checks on gun purchases, an action favored by about 90% of American citizens.
(4) Pass stronger gun-control legislation in the 2017 Oregon legislative session.
So what are your recommended actions to help stop mass shootings, Dick Hughes and the rest of the Statesman Journal editorial board?
Do you have any specific realistic actions? Or are you guys content with "thoughts and prayers" -- which so far has done nothing to stop people from being killed in mass shootings?
[Update: I just came across a New York Times piece that supports what I said in this post. "Why Do Terrorists Commit Terrorism?" concludes that it really isn't possible to know why someone does something (applies to everybody, not just terrorists). Instead, the focus should be on what they want to do. Like, commit a mass shooting.
Stopping them from doing the what doesn't require knowing the why behind the what. Yet the Statesman Journal editorial wrongly said:
But we also know that the number of mass shootings has increased in the U.S. And to stop such actions, we must understand what drives them.
No, we don't need to understand the why of what drives them. We simply need to stop the actions undertaken in a mass shooting: one of which is buying guns and using them to kill people.]