Orlando. Thoughts, prayers, & inaction.

Photo: Benson Kua

As the nation was still reeling from the Orlando shooting of a former “Voice” contestant Christina Grimmie, news began to pour about the mass shooting at a popular gay bar in Orlando. I got on Twitter today, as I do most mornings, and saw the countless retweets and news articles, I was confused and bewildered… there was another shooting. As I began to dig deeper, I was gripped. I read that 20 had died, and then the death toll rose to 50, along with 52 injured. I was devastated and crying, how could anyone do this to my LGBT brothers & sisters? I then read that the guns (including an AR-15, an incredibly deadly assault weapon) were all purchased legally and registered to the shooter in question. This is when I began to get angry. Notoriously pro-gun conservative lawmakers have been tweeting all day about their thoughts and prayers — and it’s infectious. When people are murdered in cold blood, that is what we feel is the right thing to say. Celebrities tweet about their thoughts and prayers, and then WE start to do it. Your aunt = thoughts and prayers. Your old college roommate = thoughts and prayers. Your friend from high school = thoughts and prayers.

I’m here to tell you today that thoughts and prayers do literally nothing. Thoughts and prayers didn’t stop a man from entering an elementary school and killing children at Sandy Hook. Thoughts & prayers didn’t stop men from shooting up movie theaters in Lafayette and Aurora. Thoughts and prayers didn’t save the victims of the massacre in Paris.

I will admit though, it’s a very easy trap to fall into. You want everyone to know you don’t condone violence. You want everyone to know that you stand in solidarity with the victims. So we retweet, and change our Facebook profile pictures, and share photos of broken rainbow hearts. I GET it. I do it too. It can be a great way to spread and share information as well as entering a call for peace. But in a nation that has more mass shootings than any other developed country in the world the phrase “thoughts & prayers” becomes a symbol of apathy.

We say “thoughts & prayers” because we don’t know what else to do. Maybe we grew up in a notoriously pro-gun family. Maybe we aren’t pro-gun, but happen to live in a state that has ridiculously lax gun laws, and good ol’ boy politicians who keep getting elected each year unopposed (I’m looking at you Tennessee, i.e. Phil Roe/Bill Haslam). Or Maybe we just want to stay out of the fray because we want to hold our loved ones safe and close.

I constantly worry that my loved ones will find themselves in harm’s way — especially when mass shootings are becoming more and more frequent. The ONLY thing we can do right now at this very moment, is to enforce stricter gun laws. Now, I can hear the cries already — the liberals are comin’ for my guns. Living in Tennessee for over 6 years I heard it loud and often. What’s so interesting about this particular situation is that pro-gun conservatives find themselves in the cross-hairs of two groups they so openly and vehemently hate.

It takes a very special brand of cognitive dissonance to suggest that LGBT peoples should be put to death (*cough* Mike Huckabee *cough*) and then some months later offer your “thoughts & prayers” when that same marginalized group is killed in cold blood. Then on the other token you have the Republican Presidential nominee (I won’t defile my keyboard by typing his disgusting name) who is trying to take credit for “predicting” that this would happen & blaming our current commander-in-chief, instead of urging folks to donate blood and offer their support. This is the worst mass shooting in American history and there are public figures who are attempting to utilize this blood-shed for personal gain and I cannot think of a single thing more disgraceful.

This IS a hate crime, plain and simple. This hate crime was perpetrated against a marginalized group, and served to terrorize individuals who were out and proud and just trying to have fun with their friends. However, this tragedy is not a reason to incite hate against a particular group of people. To fight hate with hate would be doing a disservice to the memories of the victims.

That being said: to those who feel outraged, scared, worried, and have an urge to offer “thoughts and prayers,” CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS. Better yet, vote them out of office — let them know that the murder of innocents will not stand. Keep up with your local government, do your research, keep receipts on your representative; understand their stance on background checks and deadly assault weapons. I know that our political process is daunting and disheartening, but this is unacceptable. Real action takes real work. Do the work, and MAYBE just maybe, we can finally have peace.

And to those offering “thoughts and prayers” who have accepted my call to action — you can find your representative here. http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

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