'Thoughts and prayers?' No one cares
If thoughts and prayers meant anything, we wouldn't still be dealing with rampant gun violence in America. The mass shooting in Texas this past weekend serves as just another recent example.
In the aggressive, resentful song “Thoughtz & Prayerz” by Cleveland-based punk rock band Heart Attack Man, lead singer Eric Egan perfectly sums up the visceral repulsion some may feel when the two words are offered in the aftermath of yet another mass shooting in America.
“Thoughts and prayers; thoughts and prayers, no one cares,” Egan shouts in his signature gritty vocals.
Those lyrics instantly came to mind following a shooting in a Dallas suburb on Saturday, when 33-year-old Mauricio Garcia killed eight people and injured seven more with an AR-15-style rifle.
Even network TV anchors amplified the calls of many who dismiss the idea that simple mental exercises could have any potential impact on curbing issues that plague society such as gun violence.
On Saturday, CNN’s Paula Reid questioned Republican state Rep. Keith Self on the topic, but the Texan’s response only further demonstrated the delusion among many conservative Christians.
“Well, those are people that don't believe in an almighty god who has, who is absolutely in control of our lives,” Self said, later telling The Washington Post that the immediate aftermath of a shooting was not time to get political.
Actually, yes, it is the time to get political. And the truth is that conservative policies are fostering gun violence.
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As some lawmakers may not know, or at least refuse to acknowledge, is that the policies on the books are what either limit or encourage violent crime.
Self in the CNN interview said that shootings in the area were rare. It’s not like what is seen in places such as Chicago, he added.
There’s a problem with that statement.
For one, it was debunked by Colin Woodard, director of the Nationhood Lab at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy in Rhode Island.
“In reality, the region the Big Apple comprises most of is far and away the safest part of the U.S. mainland when it comes to gun violence, while the regions Florida and Texas belong to have per capita firearm death rates (homicides and suicides) three to four times higher than New York’s,” Woodard told POLITICO in April.
“On a regional basis it’s the southern swath of the country — in cities and rural areas alike — where the rate of deadly gun violence is most acute, regions where Republicans have dominated state governments for decades.”
With the South’s lax gun regulations, which studies have linked to an increase in gun violence, four out of five of the states most impacted by deadly gun violence are in the region.
While Texas itself ranks 27th in the country with 15.6 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, according to that same CDC data, nearly half of the country’s 10 deadliest mass shootings in history have occurred in the Lonestar State.
It also leads the country in terms of gun ownership, with more than 1 million firearm licenses reported in 2021 — nearly double that of Florida, which ranks second.
In total, Saturday’s massacre was the 201st mass shooting in the country this year, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.
But gun violence isn’t the only issue infiltrating the spirit of conservative politics; right-wing extremism and the refusal of other Republicans to distance themselves from it is also becoming more prominent.
The far-right side of the party, mingling with fascism if not full-on embracing it, spews religious platitudes while standing behind those who use the Second Amendment as a reason to bear arms and wreak havoc.
CNN and other outlets reported on Sunday that the killer in the shooting from the day before, who was killed by police, was reported to potentially have ties to extremist groups by the same token.
The deceased shooter is said to have been wearing clothes bearing an insignia that read “RWDS,” an acronym that stands for Right Wing Death Squad.
The Southern Poverty Law Center in the past has noted that some members of extremist groups have been seen wearing similar patches.
In addition, investigators have also said the shooter’s social media pages display posts and images espousing neo-Nazi and White supremacist ideologies.
It’s far from a reach to connect hate and violence. Hate crimes are rampant, racially charged rhetoric is accompanied by violent crime and many are degraded for their belief systems.
For some, combatting those crimes entails serious legislative action such as a renewed assault rifle ban or increased penalties for hate crimes.
As for conservatives, many call into question the perpetrator’s mental health while pretending to care about a human’s well-being— unless that person is Black or homeless, as evidenced by the recent murder of Jordan Neely in New York City.
Now that doesn’t sound like something a person of God would do.
In the end, in a nation in which a deranged form of organized religion has become intertwined with the conservative orthodoxy, events that demand swift, powerful responses are met with only thoughts and prayers.
And no one cares.