On guns: Couldn't have said it better myself

From today’s Washington Post:

America’s ritual of outrage 

By Anthea Butler

It is an American ritual, engaged in on almost a monthly basis. A mass shooting. Screaming. Frantic families. Shell-shocked survivors. Carnage. Grim-faced police and emergency responders, and news reporters smelling blood in the air, angling for the right shot of grief-stricken friends and family.
Then, the tweets and statements flow. “Thoughts and prayers” is the most popular. It is used as an absolution, to cleanse lawmakers from the guilt of taking National Rifle Association money, and to placate the small voice inside that says, “This could be me.”
Religious leadership devoid of action is meaningless at times like this. Mass shootings are so frequent that even the leaders of religious groups join the chorus of rote, providing meaningless speechifying. The Catholic bishops pray, the Southern Baptists lament about the failure of society, mainline denominations issue statements and other religious groups express their sorrow. Occasionally, some actually march. But often nothing happens. Even religious leadership has become inured to the suffering. Many are only in the business of burials, and pontificating about sexuality or abortion.
So with the Parkland school shooting, we can quit pretending that thoughts and prayers mean anything when we can’t expect action to follow. They certainly don’t when the NRA and gun manufacturers can insure silence by giving hefty contributions to lawmakers.
Pious words mean nothing without action. Faith without works is dead, the Bible teaches. If your local priest or pastor just asks you to pray, and not to resist the evil of gun violence and the sale of assault rifles, you are complicit. If you have an AR-15 in your house for “recreational” purposes, your money has gone to a corporation to make more weapons to murder people.
The founders and framers who spoke of a “well regulated militia” never could conceive of that right imperiling the lives of American children. The greatness they envisioned for America is being destroyed by the NRA and the elected officials they have purchased. We have fallen into a bleak cycle of violence and death, but it is up to us to break the cycle of ritual outrage.
Anthea Butler is a professor of religion and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

19 thoughts on “On guns: Couldn't have said it better myself

  1. There were so many warning signs. Sending an email to teachers saying that he should not be allowed on campus with a backpack is not doing enough to make a safe environment for teachers and students. I live in Canada and have very little exposure to guns until recently. Both our sons are in the military and now have guns in their homes. A fiance is an RCMP officer so she has a gun at her side all the time at work. I do not know what else to say.


  2. Anonymous

    18 school shootings this year. That's 3 a week. I am also Canadian, in the US for the winter, and I'm not coming back to a country where there has averaged 1 mass shooting every day this year, where thoughts and prayers are almost as common as the guns Americans have ingrained in their culture.


  3. “Thoughts and prayers” and even worse, “Now is not the time to discuss gun control, now is the time to grieve”. With shootings every single day, when exactly is the right time? So sad!


  4. I was mentioning this latest tragedy to my wife over the dinner tonight and was wondering what exactly has changed that has caused this situation to sort of become the “norm”? I grew up in a time where we played cowboys and indians, cops and robbers and each got shot, got up, and continued to play another day. We were taught a different set of values in school and at home where life was important, you didn't going around killing people and there was a difference between TV cowboys shows, and life in the streets of the city. Discipline was allowed in class, both in public and parochial schools and the nuns did a great job of making the best impact of the ruler on your knuckles if you did something bad. Now CPS would haul Sister Mary Ignatious away.Today it seems like time outs are the worst punishment, everyone is a winner and has plenty of self esteem and the school is over run by bullies. We had bullies but somehow we learned to deal with them, and in all my years I cannot recollect any child committing suicide because “bullies” got to them. Moral instruction and values were both taught in school and from families. Guns were accessible but we didn't see mass shootings or workplace violence incidences. There is no reason to have weapons that wipe out large quantities of lives unless you are in the army, but lets be real. If they don't find an AR, now they just use a pick up truck and start mowing down people on the street. There is a greater problem which no one seems to be addressing, but now the knee jerk reaction will fill the news propose more laws and in reality nothing will happen. The cause needs to be addressed, violence which has become the normal from Hollywood is unchecked and is imprinted on the minds of the children 24 hours a day. You don't see other countries like Japan or other cultures that honor family having these issues, or is it that I just don't pay attention. The media in my estimation is also part of the problem, as they say, blood doesn't sell newspapers.


  5. Here's my plan: Ban the manufacture, importation, or sale of assault weapons. Have the Federal Government offer to buy any assault rifle currently in private hands at a price that makes it very hard for anyone else to compete.


  6. I'm not sure what to say either, except that relying on emails to teachers that some nutty student should not be allowed on campus seems to place the teachers in the role of police officers, something they are hardly qualified to perform. The same for the suggestion that it's all a mental health issue, unless we're willing to concede that Canadians are much saner, given the rarity of mass shootings up there. al


  7. Slowly, definitely too slowly, there may be a movement forming to expose politicians who take NRA money and mumble BS every time there is mass shooting. It seems to be hitting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a guy who has the principles and spine of an amoeba. al


  8. And big money it is. According to PolitiFact, the NRA poured more than $200 million into political campaigns between 1998 and 2017. People who clamor for gun control have to be willing to put their money where their mouths are in order to counteract that sort of political force. al


  9. I believe that Australia implemented a very successful buy-back program after some mass shooting there that shocked everyone into action. And there was some sort of assault-weapon ban in the U.S. for several years that expired and Congress failed to renew. I'm not feeling too optimistic though. Congress failed to act even after the killing of 20-something elementary school kids. If that didn't trigger action I don't know what will.al


  10. I would truly like to see a student rebellion like we had in the Vietnam war era. Nail these politicians and tell them that unless they take on the damn NRA the students will organize their families, friends and neighbors to put them out of office. It can be done, they work for us and someone has to remind them of that.


  11. I too grew up with toy guns. In fact there's truly ridiculous picture me when I must have been ten years old, at a birthday party, dressed like a cowboy and pointing a gun at the camera. This was in Cuba, where we don't have cowboys and the Spaniards killed off all the Indians. Yet through the power of television or the movies we took up the cowboys-and-Indians routine. Weird. And yet my dad taught me to be kind to people and animals and I've never had any serious thought of owning much less pointing a weapon at anyone. More than violence, I think we might be living in a society where FEAR is part of the operating system and guns are a response to that. I agree with your thoughtful observations but I'm stumped how we turned this thing around. al


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