Gary Horton: Pray that we act against mental illness



“People who do not have faith don’t understand faith, I guess I’d have to say. And it is the right thing to do is to pray in moments like this, because you know what? Prayer works.”

— Paul Ryan, November 6, 2017, on the Texas mass shooting

My gut reaction to such Ryan’s exploitative dribble is, “Go to hell, you duplicitous bastard and take your make-believe prayers with you!” Why doesn’t Ryan take a bullet himself and tell us just how well prayers are working for him?

Holy be-geezus! We’ve got a church full of faithful, praying – getting their guts sprayed out all over the altar – and Ryan tells us to pray. Oh, “God works in mysterious ways!” For heaven’s sake – the shooter got off over 450 rounds and word is the church is so damaged the structure itself may not be economically salvageable. Hallelujah! Praise a bought-off Congress and pass the ammo!

Can you imagine the terror of being trapped inside that church as heads and torsos all around you are splayed apart and split like cantaloupes – and drywall and light fixtures and pews are blowing up like some bad Hollywood thrasher movie?

But the congressional leadership response is, “Let us pray.” Let’s us pray for what, Ryan? Really, what the hell for? We prayed a month ago for the thousands injured and impacted in Los Vegas. We prayed the month before that and the month before that and we will pray for 30,000+ gun murders this year, hundreds of them mass killings of four or more people in one single location! Paul Ryan, Donald Trump – what the hell are we to pray for?

We can pray for recovery of those surviving injured – although we know many will never be the same and some will be profoundly impaired.

We can pray for those present and physically unhurt – although we know they’re now terrorized and truly, will never be the same.

We can pray for the widows, widowers, children and parents that somehow, someway, “All this happened for a reason.” But when we’re honest with ourselves we know that many more families than we know have been devastated and will remain so. Mothers and fathers will forever grieve over an emptiness than cannot be filled. Children will grow up without the joy of their siblings or the care and direction of natural parents.

And we can pray for all this and give our “thoughts” – but when we do we’ve got to admit personal insanity! Because, plainly we know the same thing will happen again – any day now – and the same sad faced politicians will wheel out the same “thoughts and prayers” bullshit and many, (but increasingly fewer) will feel better inside and then watch something brainless on TV to distract themselves and then the whole matter will pop up again far sooner than we wish, and again, and again.

Yes, we’re an insane nation.

We’re truly one-of-a-kind nuts. We’ve nearly got more guns than people; gun rules nearly made to be broken; and a health care system that ignores the ever-increasing stress and mental illness in our society while we facilitate our mentally disturbed to arm up! And our response to gun crime is, “to pray.”

And the big, ultimate, and recurring fight is that “guns don’t kill people, people do.” Well, we can and have fought that inane fake fight for decades now and hundreds of thousands of deaths later and we’re still at a draw.

But maybe at least we can agree that, “Sane people don’t kill people, mentally disturbed people do.”

Can we get together on that one? Can we put our hollow, fake, public prayers aside for just a tidbit of critical thinking and agree as a society that, “Sane people don’t kill people, mentally disturbed people do.”

And if that’s really the case, can we finally address the increasing stress and mental illness in America and spend some of our increasing budget deficit cash on thoughtful intervention and treatment – and even laws that protect all parties?

Can you vision an America where politicians would first say their prayers and then actually do something? A country where our prayerful leaders righteously work together to solve this completely out of control, internationally embarrassing, internally devastating, plague of mass murder – overwhelmingly by guns but granted, also by vehicle, now that that too, is in vogue?

Sound policy, expanding mental health care for all and intervention and aid for those most at risk. Sound policy, more tightly controlling, yes, controlling the sale of guns to only those who are properly trained and qualify, with scrutiny at least equal to driver’s licenses, for goodness sake. Sound policy, governing the reasonableness of weapon types for civilian use. Sound policy that says if you’re sane and crime free you can get and keep your guns but if you’re shaky or risky or have no use for weapons beyond normal need there’s simply no way you’re getting them – anywhere at any time – no more!

Come, all ye faithful: We can pray our way all the way to heaven but if we don’t actually act to change the dynamics we’ll find that this mass killing thing has indeed become a “thing” and we’re gonna get blisters on our knees and hoarse throats from praying without end.


Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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