“I named my cats ‘Thoughts’ and ‘Prayers’ because they’re useless”
February 28th, 2018 – Sending someone your thoughts and prayers used to almost unanimously be considered a meaningful and welcomed action in the aftermath of a tragedy. If it were still 2012, those condolences would probably come and go without a second look. But since December of 2012, when a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there have been at least 1,607 mass shootings.
Those numbers have transformed words from powerful comfort to hollow fodder. Politicians have sent their “thoughts and prayers” so many times over the years without attaching any tangible action or legislation which would actually reduce the number of times they have to repeat the phrase.
Democratic politicians have expressed their exhaustion with the phrase through speeches and protests. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said:
“It is positively infuriating that my colleagues in Congress are so afraid of the gun industry that they pretend there aren’t public policy responses to this epidemic. There are, and the thoughts and prayers of politicians are cruelly hollow if they are paired with continued legislative indifference.”
Congressman Ted Lieu of California walked out of a moment of silence in the House chambers after the church shooting in Texas in 2017 which left 26 people dead.
“I’ve been to too many moments of silences. In just my short career in Congress, three of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred. I will not be silent. What we need is we need action. We need to pass gun safety legislation now,” he told his followers in an online post.
Politicians aren’t the only people tired of only seeing “thoughts and prayers” after each mass shooting. Comedians, cartoonists, media companies and everyday social media users have turned the phrase on its head. Political satire obviously isn’t new, but seeing it become the first response in place of “thoughts and prayers” is a recent trend.
Only a few minutes or hours now pass before people begin creating and sharing memes, cartoons and jokes as their reaction to gun violence.
While plenty of people have tried to make others feel bad about making jokes about prayer, those dishing it out explain that they aren’t making jokes about prayer but making a joke of it. They’re making a joke out of the fact that our collective action to mass murder is to repeat the same phrase over and over again. #RepeatTheRitual can pop up on Twitter and shine some light on the inaction but when artists, students, and comedians take the reigns they can help affect change.
The deluge of “thoughts and prayers” jokes may have had some impact on politicians who have relied on the phrase in the past. Slate noted that after the Parkland shooting, which left 17 people dead earlier this month, politicians refrained from using that exact phrase in their Twitter statements.
S we may be seeing “thank you, first responders” memes in the near future.