Action Instead of “Thoughts and Prayers”?

by Fiona O'Connor By | April 6, 2019 at 1:00 PM
Photo: Virginia Woods-Jack for TIME

New Zealand didn’t even try “thoughts and prayers.” Within hours of a white supremacist opening fire in two Mosques, murdering fifty Muslims, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a statement that New Zealand would enact stricter gun laws, possibly banning semi-automatic weapons. They’re taking action as the world mourns those lives stolen while they prayed peacefully on a Friday evening, in a seemingly safe community, in a country that does not condone bigotry and hatred. That gunman is being referred to globally as a terrorist.

Yet in America, from the August 5th, 2012 shooting in Wisconsin at a Sikh Temple to the October 27th, 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Congregation, white gunmen are not referred to as terrorists. No matter their motive. Is involvement with White Nationalism not involvement with a terrorist organization? The rest of the world seems to think it is. Donald Trump was named in the terrorist’s manifesto as a “Symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” With the MAGA rhetoric in ‘Trump’s America’ I am not at all surprised.  

“They’re taking action as the world mourns those lives stolen while they prayed peacefully on a Friday evening, in a seemingly safe community, in a country that does not condone bigotry and hatred.”

I’m not surprised because it was seemingly Trump’s constant anti-Free Press rantings, and a statement made by Milo Yiannopoulos, to at least two news outlets, just days before the Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis, MD: “I can’t wait for vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight” that fortified the gunman in June of 2018.

Trump’s incoherent delusional Twitter feed calls journalists and journalism, “Fake News Media,” anytime they report facts that aren’t what he wants to hear. The Capital Gazette gunman tried to sue the Gazette for defamation long before the murders. To be clear: It’s only ‘fake news media’ if it’s not true; it’s only defamation if you didn’t actually do the things they say you did. That gunman blasted his way into the Annapolis news office, less than a mile from my house, murdering 5 of my fellow Annapolitans—in a building that also houses my doctor and pharmacy. Trump’s response to the murders was a tweet of his “thoughts and prayers” but he declined to lower the US flag to half mast when Mayor Gavin Buckley called to ask. Trump only changed his mind after Governor Larry Hogan instructed that the Maryland state flag fly at half mast. Only AFTER these honorable men responded correctly to the heinous event did Mr. Trump call for the US flag to fly at half-mast until sunset on June 3rd.

So let’s break this down:

  • Both gunmen are Trump supporters, one actually naming him in his manifesto.
  • The Prime Minister of New Zealand immediately calls for stricter gun control to ban semi-automatic weapons after one shooting.
  • The President of the United States tweets “thoughts and prayers” but won’t lower the US flag until better men do the right thing.

While Donald Trump is not the first elected official to respond with inaction in regards to gun violence, he is the first to share the same values with a terrorist. He is the first to brush aside the requests of grieving Americans when they ask for the flag to be lowered after a shooting. Shots ring out and American lives seem to be worth less than New Zealander lives, less than the value of a gun. ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ the chorus of inaction being sung as America’s Mothers, Fathers, Daughters, Sons, Family, and Friends are laid to rest. In the USA it’s reasonable to wonder “Will my last moments be facing down the barrel of a gun”.

“Now we have a clear example of what leadership and action look like. We now know what it means for a leader to say, “We value the lives and safety of our citizens”.”

Any terrorist attack anywhere in the world causes great sadness. We’re all left with a sense of loss and we wonder how to stop these things from happening in the future. As I mourn the fifty people murdered in Christchurch New Zealand with the rest of the world, I also feel something else. I watch the statements given by New Zealand’s governing officials and lawmakers with a sense of, sad to say, wistfulness. The mass shooting that happened in New Zealand was met with immediate action. Mass shootings in America are met with…“thoughts and prayers”…

Americans march, petition, rally, and beg for our lawmakers to take action to change our gun laws. Now we have a clear example of what leadership and action look like. We now know what it means for a leader to say, “We value the lives and safety of our citizens”. When will we know what it feels like for our government to value American lives, American Safety, and show us what that looks like? We know how much necessary change is achieved by “Thoughts and Prayers”.

Sources:
ADL
The Root
Scientific American