Columnists discuss “thoughts and prayers” and sexual harassment

by Dylan Carlson and Katie Zhao, ’19

As journalists, we’ve seen the same scenario play all too many times. A gun massacre happens, and politicians in Washington tweet out the all-too-expected “I offer my thoughts and prayers.” Or a new allegation comes out about another powerful man, one more person who abused their power to take advantage of others. The letter is all too familiar: the “I did not know how much I hurt these people” line and the “It is time for me to take a hard look at myself and my behavior” line.

The prevalence of simple cookie-cutter responses is concerning in today’s world. It’s a way of hiding behind one’s words without needing to face the actuality of the situation.

After a massacre, most Republican senators’ Twitter feeds are filled with “thoughts and prayers” or some variation offered to the victims and their families. It’s a way of offering condolences without promising any change or reform.

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the many other figures it has taken down, perpetrators’ apology letters seem to read like a template. The same lines, making them out to be flawed individuals rather than knowing predators.

Condolences have been offered and apologies given. Where is the change? Are guns any more difficult to obtain for dangerous individuals? No. Have we enacted universal background checks? No. Have we seen significant changes in corporate action regarding sexual harassment? Is there any indication that the toxic environment in which many women work in will change?

That is yet to be seen. But if we are to take an example from “thoughts and prayers” and gun reform, the outcome does not bode particularly well. The rage will simmer down, and these incidents will be shelved and forgotten. After Sandy Hook, little changed. Let’s hope that the impacts of the sexual assault scandals don’t fade into obscurity the way “thoughts and prayers” have.