The Next Time

The next time you say “thoughts and prayers” will be a waste of your breath. We, as a society, may as well adopt templates composed of these words to cut and paste into meaningless text on a screen of thousands of others in preparation for all futuristic incidents.

The next time you say “thoughts and prayers” , it will not be a preventative measure, nor warranted — the next time you say “thoughts and prayers”, the newly dead will soon be forgotten in lieu of the next to suffer from something entirely preventable. The toll counts higher and higher still until the numbers are lost in a plethora of overlooked statistics and debates in comment sections.

The next time you write it into the intricate text box to deliver the empty message, ownership of your gun(s) will continue to preside over ideas of reform and change. The next time you write it will not result in the emptying of safes or the votes of politicians. The next time you write it, the majority will continue to value their property and hobby over the safety of school-goers and their educators. The next time you write it, an outdated amendment 200 years of age will be neglected the re-consideration it has earned. The next time you write it, you will have already forgotten the last time you did, along with the time before.

The next time we say “thoughts and prayers” into the cold blue of a screen it will only be a prologue for the next instance, the next time we utter the baseless phrase; it will soon only be an epilogue for our losses once full understanding of the damage has been mentally approached by the masses. The next time we say it, it will do and mean even less than each time prior — the next time we say it, it will fail to address the mental illness that plays a colossal factor in these tragedies. The next time we say it, the bullied and neglected will still be denied the help in which they are in dire need of.

The next time we say it, children will close themselves away within cabinets of flimsy wood during drills in which schoolteachers rattle the doorknobs and the children cry, for who is to know which instance is a drill, and which is a reality? The next time we say it, the teachers will stand breathlessly among them, contemplating how they would protect the twenty children assembled before them if they did hear those first shots in the hallway, those first screams braiding into a rope of sound.

The next time we say it, there will be another child contemplating these actions as an only resort. There will be another child acknowledging the fame of the shooter with the syllables of their name finding major headlines and stories, and wondering what their own fame would look like painted across the television networks.

The next time we say it, it will only be a phrase of welcome for the next tragedy.