Thoughts and prayers will never be enough

Illustration by Charlotte French

Whenever I see what seems to be the millionth headline about another mass shooting, it makes me sick, especially when fueled by over-zealous bigots who feel that their hate is acceptable and exercising it in a violent fashion is too. I wonder who I should fear and what places to avoid. Unfortunately, the places we should consider safe, like schools, grocery stores and places of worship, have become the targets for terrible atrocities. 

It is ridiculous that gun violence remains one of the defining issues of our time. It even makes me sick to see a post from a well-meaning family friend on Facebook or a sign with a messily painted pink heart reading “thoughts and prayers” to the families and the cities who mourn their losses. 

We are past the time of thoughts and prayers. In a country where students fear going to school because a gunman could be lurking through their halls as they learn about Shakespeare; in a country where an unsuspecting family doing their back-to-school shopping at their local Walmart is hurt by a man who traveled nine hours just to annihilate them; in a country where followers of a faith congregate together in worship only to be shot simply for the color of their skin or their beliefs; in a country where an individual can evade universal background checks to go on a shooting spree along a Texas highway; in a country where young people must march for their lives and mothers wear orange to bring awareness, thoughts and prayers are a meaningless sentiment. 

Instead, the energy of prayer  should go toward strong protest directed at the hallowed chambers of the U.S. Capitol. Protesters should demand accountability from politicians who drag their feet because they would rather accept money from gun lobbyists. This accountability must extend to the politicians who do not act because they question if they are withholding a right protected under the Constitution. The Second Amendment is about protecting our country and its people, not harming others through appalling brutality.  

Our leaders have to be efficient in taking action and must gather to create legislation that will change the course of the decade ahead. There should no longer be questions regarding when enough is truly enough. Borrowing from the musician Michael Franti, the flower must bloom from the gun. A flower is not only a symbol of beauty and individuality but also symbolizes rebirth and tranquility where there is preventable violence. The flower is peace disarming hatred through protest against bigotry. The flower is healing for families, friends and places who are currently mourning their loved ones. The flower gives them hope for a brighter future. The flower is justice for those who have been lost in this fight for safety and those standing together in protest until a change is made.

People are the peace. Mothers are the flower in the gun. Young activists are the flower in the gun. I am the flower in the gun. With gun violence, there cannot be justice or healing without proper legislation. The question that lingers on the growing vine is whether politicians will be the flower in the gun. They have the power and now is the time to use it to further sow the seed.

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