Monday, June 13, 2016

The power of prayer on public policy (hint: none)

Prayer is great for introspection, but it does not get anything practical done. It's the only option many of us have in horrible situations, other than our vote. But make no mistake. It doesn't accomplish anything concrete other than to make us feel better and let others know we're thinking of them. Sometimes, that's all we have and all we can do. But other times, it needs to be used in conjunction with other things - like meaningful public policy.

Prayer doesn't stop people from buying assault weapons. It doesn't create rain in a drought. It doesn't fix floods. It doesn't stop the decay of our atmosphere from overuse of fossil fuels.  Do you know what fixes these things? Policy. Money. Governments. Commitment. People.

In the wake of another mass murder using assault weapons legally purchased (even though the murderer was on the terror watch list at one point, was a domestic abuser, and had been interviewed by the FBI 3 times for terror) all politicians had to offer up was their thoughts and prayers.

Igor Volsky called them out as hypocrites on twitter for their thoughts and prayers. It's not that thoughts and prayers aren't important on a personal level. For many of us, they are. But incessant thoughts and prayers when you are in a position to change outcomes eventually become meaningless.

Do you know what would have kept Volsky from calling those politicians out? Had those hypocritical politicians said "Sending thoughts and prayers for the victims. This is unacceptable and I will work to fix our flawed gun legislation."

When you are in a position of power to make meaningful change, thoughts and prayers only go so far before they become meaningless.


If you want those thoughts and prayers offered up by politicians to mean something, then we as a nation need to do a few things.

1. Speak with your vote. Elect representation that supports curbing gun violence with assault weapons bans, universal background checks, putting terrorists and felons and domestic abusers on a no buy list, and a constitutional amendment regarding campaign finance reform that takes special interests (like the NRA) out of the equation (thanks for Citizen's United, SCOTUS).

2. Demand that your representatives do their jobs. Call. Email. Write old fashioned letters. @ them on social media. Tell them that you expect more than thoughts and prayers. You expect them to ACT.

3. Get involved. Join a legitimate organization, volunteer. Make your voice heard and help others to make their voices heard.

4. Elevate the discourse in this country. Ensure that we don't allow super-nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, and religious zealotry to have a legitimate voice in public policy.

5. Speak with your wallet. If organizations promote hatred, don't shop there. If you don't agree with an organization's political position, it's ok to not give them your hard earned dollars. Here's some examples: I don't agree with Chick-Fil-A's homophobic position. I have never eaten there. I haven't bought food from Domino's since I discovered in the early 90s that they gave $0.10 of every dollar to the Right to Life foundation. It may not mean anything to those organizations individually, but if many people do it, then it has the chance to work. Even if it doesn't, it makes me feel better to know that I am not personally funding hatred.

6. Promote public education. Insist your states & localities fund it. We had a wonderful public education system until ignorance and religion, as well as budget crises, underfunded it. This is why our government collects taxes.

Speaking of taxes... government does not exist to be run as a business. It's not a for-profit entity - no matter how much some people think it is. It exists to take care of its citizens. Tax dollars are important and are the primary way the government takes care of its people. Among other things, they keep our roads drivable and our bridges crossable, our people healthy and sheltered, our children educated, and provide disaster relief.

From the Preamble to the Constitution (bolding mine):
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
From Article 1, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States
If you feel like your government isn't taking care of you, then insist that it does. First and foremost, with your vote. Then by being a vocal advocate.

One other note: we have freedom of speech in this country. However, freedom of speech in public does not free you (or me) from the consequences of that speech, especially when it comes to your employment or your reputation. Example: Using your employment platform to spout your personal beliefs.

So continue your thoughts and prayers. I'm sure that they make you feel like you are doing something to fight back in a violent and uncertain world.

But if you are in a position to do effect meaningful change, your thoughts and prayers are not enough.

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