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'Thoughts and Prayers'

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'Thoughts and Prayers'
Taken at The Museum at Bethel Woods, Bethel NY; Love for Sale: The Commercialization of the Counterculture exhibit (2017)

When tragedy strikes, we immediately see an onslaught of social media posts containing the phrase, "thoughts and prayers." After the initial reaction and media coverage, the topic is dropped and we move forward. But that tragedy still exists; people are still affected by it.

Take a look at Hurricane Maria that just bashed the island of Puerto Rico. We were all so emotionally invested by the devastation and we sent our "thoughts and prayers" to the country. But that's it. We sent thoughts. We sent prayers. But what about water? Medical supplies? What are we doing about the water that has been severely contaminated by sewage? What about are the people who are rendered homeless from this destruction? When will our "thoughts and prayers" be used?

Last night, on October 1, 2017, another tragedy struck the United States. We had yet another incident of gun violence and mass murder. On Twitter this morning, politicians were tweeting their "thoughts and prayers" to the victims and families affected. There is no clear motive as to why this gunman decided to commit this heinous crime; all that is known is that it was committed. This just furthers the argument that some changes need to be made on our ideas and legislation behind gun control. When this kind of tragedy strikes, and the culprit had a mental illness or motivation, we blame the man behind the gun. In reality, it doesn't take mental illness or any motivation to open fire. Anyone with a gun can at any moment in time go up to someone and shoot them in the face.

Think of all the people who go to shooting ranges to "let off steam." You had a long day at work, you're stressed out, so you go to a place, are handed a gun, and you shoot. You shoot at targets and refine your sharp shooting abilities. This is considered a normal activity. During the summer months, people are often confused if they hear a gun going off or fireworks. Again, this is considered normal. Our culture is embedded with imagery of guns. While people continue to fight for the right to bear arms, there are still people who are discriminated against for the color of their skin. People are still harassed on the streets for being with their significant other of the same gender. We put regulations on who can use certain bathrooms. Women are paid less than men by a significant amount for the same job. And yet, some people find it more crucial to own a firearm than to end such discrimination. We continue to send "thoughts and prayers" while another person potentially plans another mass shooting.

When will the issue of gun control stop being looked at as an individual issue and start becoming a societal issue? Society is to blame for access to firearms. Society is to blame for the normalization and integration of shooting guns for fun. Society is to blame for not having stricter gun laws. How many more instances of gun-related violence needs to happen before we stop sending thoughts and prayers and start voicing our concerns? How many more people have to die in order for change to be made?

Right now, we need to hold a critical lens to our current legislation in terms of gun control. Gun-related crimes are skyrocketing. The last mass shooting was the Orlando Pulse night club massacre 16 months ago. 16 months ago; that's it. We need to take action. We need to admit that guns are a problem. While sending "thoughts and prayers" has a positive intention, the action is nonexistent. We need to take a stand so tragedies that are preventable are actually prevented. The lives of the innocent are more important than the right to hold an assault rifle. It's time we start to consider this notion as a reality.

Charlie Diefenbach
Charlie Diefenbach
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