Our worst national holiday is upon us again: Thoughts and Prayers. A mass shooting took place last night while country star Jason Aldean performed at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more.
Tragic moments like these bring out a certain response in people. Offering your thoughts and prayers to victims of gun violence is the very least we can, a basic human decency. But it seems like Americans—at least, based on what starts trending on Twitter immediately after the news of another shooting breaks—are ready to contextualize the latest mass shooting with the one that just happened. There is no desire to treat each shooting on its own, because these attacks are no longer unprecedented. This morning, you may have thought back to the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando last summer (the deadliest one in recent U.S. history before Las Vegas) or the elementary school shooting of Sandy Hook in 2012. The recurring nature of these deadly events isn’t lost on Americans, who start to wonder why there are few calls to action by politicians, the NRA, or anyone with enough money to enact real changes to America’s basic relationship with guns. Of course we look to those with a bigger platform to speak on these issues—and while most still offer “prayers,” little meaningful progress on gun control has actually been made.
Which side will the music community take: the one that offers “prayers” as a reflexive balm during hard times, or one that demands action from our lawmakers? Or will the music community simply not speak up at all? The Guardian last year reported on the Nation Rifle Association’s attempt to court Country music’s younger audience, as they saw that gun-owners are growing in age, as young people buy fewer weapons. These moments should cause more self-reflection by the country music world, not because that’ll stop the next shooting, but because hopefully it will encourage more artists to speak out and demand change in times like these. If prayers are the only things that can be offered up, and not real legislative change, then we’re never going to stop praying?