The numbing sensation washes over me like a baptism of American shame. The situation repeated so many times that like a Pavlovian dog, the mere vibration of a news alert triggers an automatic response within me. In the mere milliseconds it takes for me to reach and read my phone, my brain has already simulated a million scenarios;
“Where are my kids? My wife? Do I hear any nearby sirens? Might this be weather related? Any immediate sense of community panic? Do I know of any mass events that my siblings, parents, nieces or nephews may be attending?”
My body stiffens and by the time I nervously scan the headline, shock is no longer possible. My mind practically impervious to the details. The actual news article reads as a horrific mad lib of a preventable catastrophe anyways. “A (public place) shooting resulted in (number) casualties, with at least (number) of the victims being children. (City, State) authorities say the gunmen used a (type of gun) and fired (number greater than 250) of rounds in (number less than 60) seconds. Our thoughts and prayers to all victims of this senseless tragedy.”
My eyes close, often wet with tears. My immediate reaction a sickening relief that the innocent victims are likely strangers to me. The ensuing overwhelming mixture of shame and sadness. The modern day expression of American exceptionalism.
This is our American heritage. What “we, the people” have chosen to accept. The dreams of our ancestors transformed into our children’s worst nightmare. The words of our founding fathers distorted by the echoes of rapid fire semiautomatic blasts. The experiment in individual freedom and self-governance snuffed out by tribal interests and corporate lobbyists.