Flag-waving and fireworks. Bocce ball and beer. Marching bands — and murder. This has become the American Independence Day routine.
It’s the quotidian things that hurt the most. Every good reporter knows this, and on July Fourth, the journalists for the Chicago Sun-Times gave us some real doozies: Abandoned baby strollers. A klezmer band that played on, oblivious. A man who hid his young son in a dumpster while he searched for his partner. Woman-on-the-street interview: “I think we are falling apart.”
The July Fourth mass shooting in suburban Highland Park, Illinois, was this nation’s 308th of the year. Three-hundred-and-eighth. As most of us were celebrating what it means to be American, people were, once again, dying. They were old people and children, disaffected teenagers and perky ones, businesswomen, immigrants, fifth-generation Americans, and a guy in a wheelchair who only went to the parade to please his grandchildren.
Then, the inevitable, tediously predictable aftermath:
First, images of the “gunman,” (a name that used to be reserved for sheriffs during the Gold Rush):
The sallow-faced young white man.
The vacant-eyed young white man.
The thin (or heavy-set, or tall or short, or rich or poor) young white man.
The American man, who wanted his 15 minutes of fame.
Next, the images of the unlucky crowd.
The people who thought the pop, pop, pop was a truck back-firing.
The wrong time, wrong place fatalists.
The stunned, numb faces.
The exhausted cops.
The hand that lost its grasp.
Finally, the words of the politicians.
Thoughts and prayers.
No one saw it coming.
The search for the motive.
Guns don’t kill people.
And, always, the thundering silence of “responsible gun owners” everywhere.
By now, some of us refuse to say their names. Don’t give him the attention he craved, we tell one another. What kind of a parent raises such a monster, we ask one another. It won’t happen here, we comfort one another. But it was his right to bear arms, we remind one another.
But here’s what we should be telling one another in 2022: read the Gun Violence Archive. Tell one another to set aside that hot dog, douse the charcoal, respectfully fold the flag, and extinguish the fuse to the Roman candle, and read today’s report from this evidence-based research group that compiles daily statistics on gun deaths in the United States.
Please, be an American who reads about your fellow Americans, who, so far in 2022, have died in the following numbers, and from the following causes:
22,322: All gun deaths combined
10,112: Homicide and murder
324: Mass shootings
We have a year until the next Fourth of July celebrations. Recently, Congress passed an important bipartisan gun safety bill. Connecticut’s newly enacted “Red Flag” law has already thwarted a potential mass shooting at a college. A good, if halting, start.
Next July Fourth, what independence will we be celebrating?
Independence from “government interference”?
Perspective on the week’s biggest stories from the Courant’s Opinion page
Freedom from personal responsibility?
Liberty to cling to a outdated, erroneous interpretation of the Second Amendment?
Or will we, instead, celebrate independence from fear?
Our children’s freedom to go to school in safety?
Our liberty to vote for candidates who stand up to the NRA?
Hoping all had a happy, heartbreaking, soul-searching Fourth of July holiday week.
Christine Palm is state representative for the towns of Chester, Deep River, Essex and Haddam.