A scratch or crack in a vinyl record can cause a phonograph needle to jump backward, replaying the same bit of music over and over until life as we know it ceases to exist. Or so I remember.
At some point in the 1940s, the phrase “like a broken record” became common, meaning something that repeats uselessly, redundantly, annoyingly. I have no idea why it’s not “like a scratched record,” but that’s not really the point.
The point is, I’ve said many times over the past couple of years, in various forums, that I don’t care for social media. I think it’s deadly, toxic, and possibly the worst single change in our culture in my lifetime, releasing the Id Monster in all of us, ungoverned emotional outbursts that reflect something, maybe something truthful and maybe not.
But I also know that climate change is real, and that we’d go a long way toward mitigating this far worse change if we all stopped eating beef. And every once in a while, I really want a cheeseburger.
So a couple of times a day I check my now-limited Facebook feed, and slightly more often I’ll look at Twitter, which is easier to curate and to skim. I feel my hypocrisy every day, then.
And what I saw yesterday on social media bothered me.
Not the news, although that put me into a funk, like everyone else. Not even the sniping back and forth about guns and rights and lack of laws. These always feel like odd abstractions, like alternate histories, trying to imagine What If when we have blood in the streets. I have no optimism but the discussion is good, and I’m not interested in the usual “not at this time” crap. We have one mass shooting in this country pretty much every single day. There is no right time. There is always a time.
And I’m not talking about the need to vent, to express, to suffer out loud with our personal reactions. Normal, human reactions. We get a small comfort, sometimes, by just saying it in public, to our friends and family. I get that.
I also get the anger toward hypocritical leaders, the ones who consistently reject any talk whatsoever about laws that might prevent, in an abstract sense (again), the carnage that we saw. I completely get that anger, when one of our representatives tweets “Thoughts and prayers go out to ______” while jingling their pocket change that comes out of the coffers of the only accredited terrorist organization in the U.S. I’m right there.
But I saw at least three Facebook posts from different people, and too-many-to-count tweets, that not only didn’t distinguish their targets, but implicitly expanded them. These people railed against anyone who uses the phrase thoughts and prayers. If you’re part of the landscape, I assume you’ve seen some of this also.
I don’t know why people pray. I pray, sometimes, sometimes often. I always have, since I was a child, even in my sturdiest atheist periods. Dunno. Weird. Still.
I don’t really believe people think that praying gives them superpowers, lightning bolts or spider webs shooting out of their extremities toward violence and suffering. Maybe those people who squeeze their eyes so tight on TV, but I don’t know anyone personally.
And I’ve always been skeptical and suspicious about intercessory prayer, anyway. The vast majority of the universe is a mystery to us, even with our increasing knowledge. Most of reality is made up of matter and energy we can only infer. Inferring a connection to all of this has never seemed a stretch, but the devil is always in the details of causation and correlation.
But I’m praying for the victims of this horrible crime? Really? You want to trash these people for feeling helpless because they ARE helpless, with no way to change anything other than doing what they do anyway, vote and write and so on? You want to challenge folks who say I’m sorry for your loss because, y’know, it won’t resurrect the loved one?
I know. These outbursts of outrage over semantics, really, come out of a frustrated place. I know.
But attacking some lady in Des Moines because she posts I’m praying because you think that’s an ineffectual thing to do doesn’t make you right. It makes you an asshole.