Thoughts and Prayers

So. Another day, another few mass shootings, one of them dreadful enough to occupy the national media for a day or two.

Gayle King on CBS told me how many mass shootings have taken place this month — and she emphasized she was talking about March, not the entirety of three-month-long 2023 — and it was some impossible number, but I don’t remember what she said, and what does it matter, really? Whether it’s the number of shootings themselves, or a body count, do we really think any of these numbers actually matter? Or are going to make a difference?

You’d think there ought to be a tipping point, but there never is. There are people for whom that number happened long ago, and they join organizations and demand action, but the only real action keeps coming from the guns themselves — you know, the innocent victims in all this, because they’re just guns and it takes people to pick them up and use them to kill. Otherwise, they’re really quite harmless.

There’s a man named Andy Ogles. I hadn’t heard of him until yesterday — didn’t hear him issue his thoughts and prayers for his constituents in Tennessee’s fifth congressional district, now down six constituents who were going about their everyday business of schooling before an alumnae blasted her way in and set about enacting her highly-detailed plan to kill people. With three guns she had legally purchased.

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

There’s a woman named Shannon Watts. She’s a mother of five who went from communications executive to full-time mom until she found her tipping point with the Sandy Hook school shooting. The one that a lot of us thought might have been the tipping point for the country at large. Should have been. It was for Ms. Watts: she founded Moms Demand Action, a gun violence prevention organization.

Yesterday, after Rep. Ogles issued his pretty much obligatory thoughts and prayers but probably not much else, Ms. Watts publicized a photo he had posted on Facebook in December 2021. You can see it up above, although maybe no longer on Rep. Ogles’ Facebook page. Apparently what seemed like a good idea on Sunday wasn’t such a good one Monday afternoon.

I have to say, I really don’t understand this “fad” in holiday pictures. Rep. Ogles is far from the only one to issue holiday “greetings” in this fashion, although his is made creepier (if perhaps a tad less appalling) by putting a wholesome Christmas book in his youngest’s hands rather than something less heavy than semi-automatic weaponry. Most families seem to opt for the Glock for the youngest child.

My* representative

[* I would like to say that thousands of us here in Colorado’s third congressional tried: we changed our affiliation to vote against Lauren Boebert not once but twice, trying to oust her in a primary where her opponent ran the most lackluster campaign in the history of campaigning. But we tried. Twice. Three, if you count the first election we voted against her.]

is one of those people, and she’s gone one step past her annual Christmas photos in demanding that we make the AR-15 our “national gun.” In the only nation in the world where guns outnumber people, it certainly makes sense that we should have a national gun alongside our bird, flower and poet.

Besides, it’s not the guns that kill people, right?

There is nothing about a holiday photo like that I understand (except the kid happily holding elves rather than a gun). What about any gun, never mind semi-automatic weaponry, says “Peace on Earth”? Or even “Joy to the World”? I actually am not sure I’ve ever received a card where any of my friends have displayed any object worthy of the same adoration as the Christ child. They send a group photo from vacation, maybe, or at home, and sometimes everyone is in holiday attire, maybe even matching, but they’re not holding up their fishing poles or new iPhones or even the Christmas fruitcake.

When did we reach a point where we venerate weapons of mass destruction in a familial way, at the time of the year when we feel most generous and giving? From our family to yours: we’re giving you the full magazine?

And why, if we’re going to reach for the religious, in the name of all that is holy, is this not some sort of national tipping point?

I found myself wondering this morning what my response would be if some friend or relative sent me a card like that. It seems a highly theoretical question — I’m having trouble picturing any of my friends, even those whose politics skew more conservative than mine, thinking that would be a delightful picture their friends would all appreciate.

If I saw it on Facebook (completely theoretical, since I don’t have a Facebook page), I imagine I would take the quiet way out. Block that friend from ever sending me anything again and quietly ghost them. But what if it came in the mail? Throw away the picture, first step, but what next? Ghost the friend and just keep throwing holy hell holiday pictures away each year as they arrive?

Or should I be like Ms. Watts, willing to stand up and say, “This is not okay. Please do not send me pictures like that, and I can’t imagine who among your friends really wants to see your arsenal disturbingly placed in the hands of your teenagers.”

Or do I assume that someone unhinged enough to make the effort to dress everyone in holiday attire, right down to the carefully selected highlights of the family’s gun collection (hopefully taken out of a usually locked gun safe, but here we’re once again relying on hope) would have no problem gunning down someone attempting to make a reasonable request? Is “please don’t break out the guns for Christmas photos” really a fireable offense? I’m afraid in this angry, gun-laden day and age, it could be.

As someone who recalls the Second Amendment in its entirety, including the part about bearing arms as part of a well-regulated militia, and remembers this was written in an age of musketry in a not-yet-country with no standing army, I am tired of the presumption that this single sentence triumphs over everything that comes before and after it in our national Constitution. Which is one sentence more than the Bible devotes to the exultation of guns.

In poll after poll after poll, there are more of us who side with Shannon Watts, who fearlessly called out Andy Ogles for the “thoughts and prayers” that aren’t going to bring back any of three nine-year-olds (perhaps the same age as his youngest?) or three school employees who coincidentally happened to be my age. Except that we — I — leave Ms. Watts to do all the heavy work while despairing that anything will ever move beyond a thought and a prayer that so far keeps getting answered with more Christmas-worthy guns.

Here’s the thought we should probably all have: At least it didn’t happen where I live yesterday. And the prayer: Hopefully it won’t happen here today. That seems to be all we can ask for. Which is pretty damn sad.

One thought on “Thoughts and Prayers

  1. I have family in Tennessee. All of us were just disheartened by the aspect of another mass killing, this time by a female perpetrator and a graduate of the school. She did not resist the police when they shot. She wanted to die when she shot the students and school personal. We can nash our teeth, and pray for those departed. Not much else is available John, ‘Grabonzo Beans For Breakfast” is weekly, sometimes more or less frequent. He writes about his family in Gunnison and the thorns of life. If you care to read it, type the title in the URL line and it should be there


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