Existentialists often joke that words are just hollow emotions.
One example is the oft-spoken “thank you for your service” that veterans hear. At first, it was appreciated. Now, it is just a reminder of how many years we never heard it.
Another example is “thoughts and prayers” which is uttered by every politician afraid of their base of voters, as well as the all-powerful gun lobby. Hollow, hollow, hollow!
Two and a half years ago, a disgruntled employee of Virginia Beach massacred twelve fellow employees. There were prayer vigils and kind words, as well as the trite over-used “thoughts and prayers.” What is the appropriate thing to say?
Tuesday night, in the neighboring city of Chesapeake, another disgruntled employee killed at least seven employees in a Walmart. What is the appropriate thing to say?
There is no perfect thing to say for every person. With 600 mass killings so far in 2022, what universal expression conveys your sympathy? Sadly, none.
Offering any expression that makes you feel better . . . pressures victims to recognize the expression as appreciated. They don’t need that pressure. A look-in-the-eye or pat-on-the-back conveys more than hollow emotions. If you care enough, it is more appreciated to drop a “Thinking of You” card in the mail. If you don’t care enough to do that, saying anything is just wasting time.
Of course, a small contribution to a favorite charity in always appropriate. A contribution to a Second Amendment realist is even more appropriate.