In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, the phrase “thoughts and prayers” has again emerged for consideration.
The root of “thoughts and prayers” as a hypocritical form of condolence was made clear in The New York Times Oct 4 article aptly named, “Thoughts and Prayers and the N.R.A.,” which listed the top twenty Republican members of the Senate and House who have taken money — from $8 million down to $100,00 — from the powerful gun lobby. The article included each Congress member’s post-Las Vegas tweet, which typically used the idea or the words, “thoughts and prayers,” to the victims and their families.
It is also well known that President Trump is a longtime friend of the NRA, and the Center for Responsive Politics says the organization spent more than $30 million to help elect him.
Though the phrase has traditionally brought comfort to speaker and recipients alike, the words can ring equally hollow as a refuge for doing nothing — such as when politicians who vote against any form of gun control or assault weapon regulation send “thoughts and prayers” to massacre victims and their families.
Granted, politicians are not the only ones to use “thoughts and prayers” as a cynical spoken harbor. Ordinary citizens can do it too:
If you Google “thoughts and prayers meme,” you will find many cartoons and pictures humorously demonstrating in many earthy interpretations the phrase’s potential shallowness. One family-friendly meme shows two cats stretched out in the sun on a lounge chair, fast asleep, and reads: “I named my cats Thoughts and Prayers because they are useless.”
There is also a parody video game called “Thoughts & Prayers: The Game” that flashes US massacre sites on a map, while calling for the player to “Think More!!” and “Pray Harder!” (Lives saved: 0)
All this new awareness of the slippery nature of “thoughts and prayers” means the next time tragedy strikes we should think twice before using this phrase — or it might be received as the verbal equivalent of hurricane survivors being tossed so many rolls of paper towels.