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I Don't Want Your Damned Prayers

I am the parent of a child who will be killed in the next mass shooting. I don’t have a name yet, but I will become semi-famous in my community and on national television—all because someone will take an arsenal of weapons and murder my son or daughter.

This tragedy may take place in a school, at a concert, on a street. When it happens, I will have a vague fear at first that my child is involved, followed by the terror of not knowing and then the ultimate horror upon hearing the dreadful news of his or her untimely and tragic death.

When that happens, you will mourn for me, but hear this:

I don’t want your damned prayers. What are prayers? The dictionary defines prayer as:

  • a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship;

  • an earnest hope or wish

With all due respect to the clergy of whatever denomination I might belong to, what good will any of this do me, once my child is dead? Ask for thanks—why exactly will I be thankful following my son’s/daughter’s murder? An earnest hope or wish—how will this help my deceased child?

So leave your prayers to yourself. Don’t foist them on me.

If this happens in a school, don’t blame my child for not noticing the warning signs from the shooter. My son/daughter has a thousand other things to focus on, and frankly, this is not his/her job. There are adults in the community, state, and country with responsibility to take care of this. Don’t place this duty on my future dead child.

Do politicize it. After the mass murder, many of you will say, “It’s too soon to politicize this.” You’re wrong. It’s too late. We knew this would happen somewhere. How else could I write this with absolute certainty that such events will occur again? Since you had knowledge and did nothing, don’t give me the “it’s too early” crap.

Be honest about it. When you say that it’s about mental health (which you will), have the intellectual honesty and common decency to recognize that this is not the only issue. Yes, mental health may have played a role, but there are millions of others with mental illness who will not commit this act. The concern will be not only with the killer’s state of mind but also with how he will be able to kill so many people so easily.

Don't lie to kids. After the shooting, don’t tell the children of America that “you have people who care about you.” The fact that this has happened proves that you don’t.

Might as well let them drink. Teenage shooters can’t buy alcohol, but they can buy guns. Here’s an idea: lower the drinking age. I’d rather have them drink than shoot. I wish I were making this as a joke, but I’m not.

Educate yourselves. Learn the facts about this issue. As soon as the next mass shooting takes place, The New York Times will be ready with Nicholas Kristof’s column, because it has already been written and prepared to go out with each such event. In his column, Kristof seeks to seek a middle ground and treats gun violence as a safety issue. Read it.

Please also read another NY Times columnist, David Leonhardt, who cites a recent study that concluded that the US has become “the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into.” One of the three main reasons is our country’s epidemic of shooting deaths.

And take a look at a column by Lois Beckett of The Guardian, “Five things you could do right now to reduce gun violence in America”. See if there might be an idea you can support.

People say, “Don’t politicize this.” I won’t. Here is a conservative view of the situation, in which David French of the National Review states that standing up for the Second Amendment takes courage. Liberal pundits, he contends, should not call Republican politicians “cowards” just because they fail to stand up to the NRA. French also notes that a gun-control solution is not likely to stop the next premeditated mass shooting.

Courage or cowardice, in my future grief, I can’t help but question the NRA’s outsized, self-interested influence in gun policy—which has made it easier for people to carry guns in public spaces and harder for the CDC to study gun violence as a public health issue. And while I agree with French and others that this issue is highly complex and hardly susceptible to a neat solution, that does not mean we should fail to try. Through research, honest exploration of the issue, and bipartisanship (I know, it sounds completely crazy), we can start to reduce the impact of guns on innocent victims, if not now, perhaps a few years down the road (the Kristof and Beckett columns noted above provide some possible roadmaps).

President Kennedy didn’t give up and say that space exploration was too difficult and that waiting almost a decade for a moon landing would take too long. He made a public commitment and had his government take steps that moved us along the continuum until we reached our goal. Actions taken now might be good investments for later.

So in preparation for the next mass act of gun violence, spare me your prayers and platitudes. If you’re not interested in taking action and seeking honest resolution to this issue, then don’t complain if an aggrieved parent tells you that you have blood on your hands.

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