Our nation’s politicians have an unfortunate habit of hijacking vigils and memorial services, in order to gather support for their own political gain.
Students from the Highlands Ranch STEM school walked out of a community vigil organized by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence after invited community activists and politicians used the tragedy as a platform for their personal agenda. The intended purpose of the vigil was for the community to grieve the loss of an eighteen-year-old who was killed during the school shooting. Instead, it became a televised stump speech for gun control politicians.
Our nation’s politicians consider victims of national tragedies to be props for their personal agendas, using their faces to give their platforms an ethos driven narrative. With each mass shooting, the narrative quickly shifts from the victims to the ongoing national debate around gun control.
Instead of honoring the life of the victims, the attention is on the gun control debate, politicians are using the tragedy to promote a political cause.
Politics has no place in national tragedies
After a mass shooting, there is a predictable pattern. During the weeks and months following the tragedy, political hopefuls speak at community gatherings using the tragedy as a national platform for their political views.
Their stump speeches politicize the tragedy, imploring the audience to vote for them: the sensible gun control candidate. The use of a tragedy to promote a political agenda is not only shameful, but also disrespectful towards the victims and survivors. By bringing politics into school shootings, politicians show how Machiavellian they truly are.
Without fail, the national debate over gun control is reignited after a mass shooting. The use of a tragedy to promote a political agenda is an unfortunately common tactic. Politicians from both parties predictably clamor over each other in order to spread their respective agendas at community gatherings as well as on social media. For the Democrats, the push for gun restrictions and background checks dominate their speeches and tweets, while pro-gun politicians argue for arming educators and improving school security. In the process of spreading their respective agendas, and the voices of survivors and the families of the victims are drowned out by the speeches and campaign events of politicians hoping for another term in office.
Instead of bringing politics into the matter, politicians and activists should instead honor the memory of the victims and be a passive participant in the vigils that they attend. The use of a tragedy to further personal gain or to gather support for a cause, without permission is unethical and disrespectful to the community. Politicians often fail to realize that survivors and the families of victims are trying to grieve and process the tragedy that they have endured, and that their pain is not for government representatives and activist groups to capitalize upon. The victims and survivor of mass shootings are not a statement or political prop, they are human beings who are grieving an unimaginable tragedy.
Time and place
The time and place for discussing such a divisive issue like gun control is not at a candlelight vigil meant to honor victims. Using a community gathering, held only days after a school shooting leaving an eighteen-year-old dead, is not the time. The discussion over gun control is important, but if activists and politicians are serious about the change they can certainly wait a few weeks before preaching their manifestos for or against gun control. Their passionate speeches belong in city council meetings, town halls, and on the floor of Congress. The speeches do not belong at a memorial or funeral. Blind politicians are using a space intended for survivors to mourn and honor the dead, unware of the emotional trauma they are causing to the community. chance to heal emotionally.
A vigil or community gathering is a place to heal emotionally and for the community to honor the memory of those who have died. It is not a place for someone to talk about legislation; using the victims’ death as a poster face for their own political gain. Both the right and the left understand that emotion leads to jumps in the polls as well as a heightened political stance for or against guns. Despite this political advantage, politics and tragedies do not go well together, and to use an emotional point in time is in poor taste. To truly show support for the survivors and honor the victims – show up, offer silent support of the victims, their families and the community; no speeches, no banners, no photo ops.