We Can Do Better Than 'Thoughts and Prayers'

I'm absolutely devastated by what we all witnessed this past weekend. I worry that we've all become so numb to these atrocities that only their quick succession kept them from being swept under the rug like so many others. It can be difficult to maintain sympathy for the victims and their surviving friends and families when our lives keep marching forward unimpeded, but we can't let ourselves lose our humanity. Human lives have intrinsic value, and we can never forget that, even if it makes contemplating our American reality that much more painful. 

I know exactly what my opponent says about mass shootings, so I'd like to address the state of mental health in our country. First of all, the narrative that people with mental illness are a danger to us is nonsense, it is insulting, and it is a dangerous kind of othering. People with mental illness are people. They are members of our community and of our families, and laying blame at their feet due to cowardice in the face of gun lobbyists is pathetic and harmful to our society.

 

That being said, if some would like to pretend mental health is the reason mass shootings keep happening and remain a uniquely American phenomenon, then we should push for free mental healthcare for everyone living in the United States. I have a plan for that, but I doubt those who like to make our mentally ill brothers and sisters scapegoats to appease the NRA have anything so useful to offer.

 

Extremism clearly plays a role in these shootings, and unfortunately anyone could be groomed into extremism. I’ve seen how easy it can be to strip humanity from a group of people to make their deaths something to celebrate rather than mourn, and those that fell victim to the rhetoric seemed like such rational and intelligent people. Currently, our president is using the kind of language to describe refugees and asylum seekers that is typically reserved as a justification for the carnage of war. Is it that surprising that it has riled up and emboldened so many white supremacists?

 

And of course, there is the most obvious issue: that object people are quick to point out can’t fire itself and yet is always there at the scene. We have more guns in this country than humans. We will never get anywhere in solving gun violence if we can’t understand that our glut of firearms plays the biggest role in why our country and only our country suffers from such frequent shootings. I respect the right to own a firearm, but I demand we collectively acknowledge what a responsibility that places on all owners and our lawmakers. We need to respect the wishes of the American people and finally pass universal background checks and ensure nothing hinders our ability to study gun violence at a bare minimum.

We can do better than ‘thoughts and prayers’, and everyone who has ever had their life cut short or felt the heartbreak of losing a loved one in this way deserves something real from all of us.

Ian Todd