So, with the recent events around here, there's a lot of talk about how we should be responding. After the attacks in Paris, everyone's profile pictures on the Book of Faces suddenly were red, white and blue. And that's fine. But then there was a sort of backlash, including from myself. People who understood the horror of the Paris attacks but who also were horrified at similar, coordinated attacks in Lebanon or the commercial airliner shot down over the Sinai Peninsula. And when we commented on those things, we were accused of "grief shaming."
Now, with the massacre in San Bernadino, CA, in all of our minds, there have been a number of responses to the usual "thoughts and prayers are with the victims" type tweets and posts. And the people who have said "hey, your prayers aren't bringing people back or stopping future carnage" are now being accused of "prayer shaming."
Here's the thing, though: it's neither.
No one is saying that it's wrong to change your profile avatar. No one is saying you can't think of or pray for the victims. What they, we, are saying is simple: it's not enough. It's not enough to say "oh, that's so sad." It's not enough to say "oh, those poor people." In the San Bernadino (and Colorado Springs) situations, specifically, as Americans, it's absolutely not enough, because we are the ones who are allowing it to continue to happen.
There have been 355 mass shootings in the US this year. We have a month left to go. Yes, many of those were non fatal. But the problem is this: our leaders, the people we elect to help us drive this enormous bus, CAN make changes, and the majority of us seem to want that to happen. And yet, after every tragedy, the ones that make the news and the ones that don't, we see no progress on limiting access to weapons. We hear platitudes and prayers, but nothing improves. We see record sales numbers on guns from this year's Good Friday.
It's not about shaming people for praying, especially leaders. It's about admonishing them for ONLY praying. It's about demanding that they, that we, take action.
If the people on the political right want to make it about mental health, then great, let's expand mental health treatment and funding. Let's cover therapy and make it as cheap as over prescribed drug treatments. Let's provide universal access to health care. But none of the people on the right who insist that it's about mental health are interested in providing those things necessary for positive mental health: medical leave, access to care, improved programs to battle hunger and homelessness, expanded mental health services, drug decriminalization, etc.
If it really is about access to weapons, then let's start enforcing the rules in place. Let's close a few loopholes. Let's start criminalizing slack behavior regarding guns and gun ownership. Let's take the guidelines on the NRA website and make them law: there are no accidents when it comes to guns. Let's make sure that good guys with guns are actually good guys. Your kid shoots someone accidentally with your gun? You go to jail. You are messing around, showing off a gun at a gun show and it fires? You go to jail. You accidentally discharge your shotgun at a mall while doing your self appointed "duties" as a so-called Oath Keeper? You go to jail. Your weapon is used during a crime? You are liable for not securing your weapons and making them inaccessible. These things won't end gun violence now. But they will start an attitude change about guns and gun ownership: you want to own a weapon that can kill numerous people in a matter of seconds? Then you have to demonstrate your responsibility for that carnage.
This isn't about trying to shame people for praying. It's a reaction by people who are angry and who are tired of hearing about thoughts and prayers that don't become actions. It's a cry for help in doing what we've asked: close loopholes, expand background checks, enforce waiting periods, expand access to mental health services. None of these things has been done, and people keep dying. Prayer just isn't enough.
If this were a thing that happened rarely, thoughts and prayers would be welcome, but it's happened 355 times this year alone.
People can pray and they SHOULD pray. Then they should get to work.