empty gesturesThis image was created using Wonder AI. It is not a live image of a school shooting, However it is intended to gove one a sense of the horror of school age childern lying on the ground after an active shooter with an assault rifle finishes his (or her) business. If you are sickened by the image, then it did its job.


empty gestures
This image was created using Wonder AI. It is not a live image of a school shooting, However it is intended to gove one a sense of the horror of school age childern lying on the ground after an active shooter with an assault rifle finishes his (or her) business. If you are sickened by the image, then it did its job.

Empty gestures by mostly Republican, federal, state, or local, politicians fall into a single category. The go-to talking point raised in the wake of school shootings is simply thoughts and prayers. The same holds true for other random acts of gun massacres at shopping malls, offices, and concert venues. The price paid by American citizens is high and getting higher. We must brace for yet another person with a gun killing innocent people.

The scourge of school shootings in America has cast a long shadow. How many since the infamous Columbine High School Massacre of 1999? These traumatic events have left communities reeling, parents grieving, and the nation grappling with an ongoing crisis. Yet, a disturbing pattern emerges in the responses of many Republican politicians to these tragedies – the ceremonial offering of “thoughts and prayers.” This routine reaction has ignited a profound debate, highlighting a stark contrast between professed faith in divine intervention and the glaring lack of tangible action to address the root causes of gun violence. It is a paradox that demands our attention.

Empty Gestures — The Cynical Ritual of “Thoughts and Prayers”

 In the wake of each school shooting, it has become a predictable spectacle to witness Republican politicians offering “thoughts and prayers” as their primary response. This ritual, while intended to convey empathy and concern, has increasingly taken on the appearance of a political platitude. It is an empty gesture, a well-worn script, that fails to offer real solutions or meaningful change. The profound questions this raises about the sincerity of such responses require our scrutiny.

A Tragic Timeline: School Shootings Since 1999

While the listing below does not come close to rendering a full list of school shootings in the United States, I wish to pose the question, why is more than one of these tragic events acceptable to those of us who are entrusted to solve problems through legislation? To shirk their responsibility is nothing less than a complicit relationship to any additional shootings in schools or elsewhere, by those who mockingly offer up thoughts and prayers.

Columbine High School Massacre (1999) Empty Gestures

  1. This horrifying event left the nation shaken and searching for answers. However, it also set the stage for an alarming cycle of inaction and political impotence.
  2. Solution…Thoughts and Prayers!

Virginia Tech Shooting (2007) More Empty Gestures

  1. The deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, claiming 32 lives, sent shockwaves through the nation. It allowed policymakers to take decisive action, yet meaningful reform remained elusive.
  2. Solution…Thoughts and Prayers!

Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting (2012) Still More Empty Gestures

  1. The massacre of 20 young children and six educators laid bare the inadequacies of the system. It should have been a catalyst for change, but the political will to act proved lacking.
  2. Solution…even more Thoughts and Prayers.

Parkland School Shooting (2018) Even More Empty Gestures

  1. Seventeen lives were lost in a devastating attack, and a new generation of activists emerged through the March for Our Lives movement. Still, their impassioned calls for gun control reform fell on deaf ears.
  2. Solution…Would you believe Thoughts and Prayers?

Santa Fe High School Shooting (2018) Empty Gestures Once Again

  1. The nation was again reminded that the hollow offering of “thoughts and prayers” had not prevented another tragedy. It was a stark illustration of the ineffectiveness of this response.
  2. Solution…Thoughts and Prayers with a dose of sarcasm.

Saugus High School Shooting (2019) With nothing positive to offer, Empty Gestures become the Workhorse.

  1. Another tragic event, another round of “thoughts and prayers,” but no substantial change. The pattern persisted, leaving the nation disillusioned and questioning the commitment of its leaders.
  2. Solution…Yep, thoughts and prayers for the umpteenth time.

Empty Gestures The Paradox: God’s Will vs. Gun Control

Republican politicians, often vocal about their belief in divine intervention, seem to ignore the possibility that God’s answer to their “thoughts and prayers” is a resounding “NO” when it comes to addressing the issue of gun violence. Their reluctance to enact sensible gun control measures, given their professed faith, presents a paradoxical moral dilemma. If they genuinely believe in the power of prayer, why do they not channel that faith into tangible efforts to protect lives that are within their control and do not pass the buck to God as their fallback position? This history of cowardly refusal to work to make schools and other public places safe is barbaric.

The Embarrassment of Inaction or the Consequences of Empty Gestures

The use of “thoughts and prayers” as a convenient political tool in response to school shootings is not only disheartening but also an embarrassment to the nation. It showcases a glaring failure to lead and protect the lives of children, an issue that should transcend political divides. The United States, often seen as a global leader, stands mired in inaction as other nations implement effective gun control measures and protect their citizens.


None of the above minimizes mass shootings outside of schools or undervalues school shootings less lethal than the six selected above. To the contrary, I selected school shootings as the focus of this piece to express the idea that the unthinkable is forever being met with cynicism and platitudes, It seems to not be influenced by place or type of action. What is compelling, however, is that there is never any serious action taken to curtail this disease inflicting on the United States as a whole.

The consistent reliance on “thoughts and prayers” by Republican politicians in the face of ongoing school shootings raises significant questions about their commitment to meaningful change. This empty ritual, when contrasted with the tragic timeline of school shootings since 1999, underscores the urgent need for comprehensive gun control reform. The time for genuine action is long overdue. As the nation grapples with this ongoing crisis, legislators must move beyond the empty rhetoric of “thoughts and prayers” and take concrete steps to protect the lives of their constituents. The future of our children should never be a partisan issue, and the time for decisive action is now.

By Politics-as-Usual

Roger is a retired Professor of language and literacy. Over the past 15 years since his retirement, Roger has kept busy with reading, writing, and creating landscape photographs. In this time of National crisis, as Fascist ideas and policies are being introduced to the American people and ignored by the Mainstream Press, he decided to stand up and be counted as a Progressive American with some ideas that should be shared with as many people who care to read and/or participate in discusssions of these issues. He doesn't ask anyone to agree with his point of view, but if entering the conversation he demands civility. No conspiracy theories, no wild accusations, no threats, no disrespect will be tolerated. Roger monitors all comments and email communication. That is the only rule for entering the conversation. One may persuade, argue for a different point of view, or toss out something that has not been discussed so long as the tone remains part of a civil discussion. Only then can we find common ground and meaningful democratic change.

Leave a Reply