I don’t know if this occurs to anyone else — I have not conducted a poll on the issue — but the incessant use of guns by Americans to kill Americans must be having an effect on all Americans. You’ve either become numb to the whole thing or you’ve quietly descended into a state of despondency about it. Tempting as it might be to assign a third condition, apathy, to a large segment of the population, I don’t buy it. Even people who look the other way have been affected. They avert their gaze for a reason: They can’t bear to read or watch, day after day, the news about shootings because it reminds them that the country they believed to be exceptional in so many ways — in economic power, in military prowess, in ingenuity and daring — is really a gravely wounded, bleeding giant, a far cry from the nation our parents and grandparents left for us. Many Americans cannot stand to think about that so they turn away from the reality, and the reality is this: Guns everywhere and every day Americans die needlessly because of it.

Those of us who face this debilitating reality — who watch or read the news about a mass shooting here, a drive-by shooting there — might process it quickly and quickly move on. But I’m talking about something deeper, something that’s hard to describe or measure. Every time there’s a mass shooting, we feel angry, we feel helpless. We resent the selfish culture of gun ownership exhibited by fellow Americans — people so bonded to firearms they refuse to acknowledge the problem before us. We hate that a whole political party refuses to do anything about controlling guns when it has long been clear that certain guns have no place in civilian use. We grow cynical about the whole thing — the gun industry, the gun lobbyists, the smug confidence of gun owners that nothing will ever be done, and that the deaths caused by guns are always someone else’s problem. It’s a dreary reminder that the common good, or the common welfare, has become a foreign concept to millions of Americans.

All of this has an effect on us, whether we feel it directly or not. I believe the gun problem has harmed the American soul. This epoch of gun violence reminds me of the Vietnam War, the way it went on for so long, built on lies and arrogance, with the deaths of more than 50,000 Americans before we decided it was unsustainable and unwinnable. It took an enormous amount of people power to put an end to it — angry awareness of the mounting human costs of the war, protests, demonstrations, strong and vivid reporting from the war zone by the media, politicians made to pay dearly for continuing to support the war. It took a toll on the American soul, day after day. It shattered whatever beliefs people held, whatever idealism they felt. That’s what I mean. Something like that is happening to us today, with every report from dozens of American war zones across the land.

12 thoughts on “This gravely wounded, bleeding giant

  1. Dr. James McGee Director of Psychology and Forensic Services Sheppard Pratt Hospital, retired says:

    Dan, We know where violent people come from. They come from homes; homes where there is domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, absent fathers, substance abuse etc. ACE, Adverse Childhood Events, trauma exposure both in the home, the surrounding neighborhood and the schools. The CDC -Kaiser Foundation ACE study which confirms the powerfully strong association of trauma exposure in childhood to extremely negative physical/mental health, social, academic, vocational and violent outcomes is one of the largest medical/social science research projects in history, with over 20,000 subjects. ACE is clearly associated with poverty but is independent of race or ethnicity, i.e. ACE/Trauma exposure affects all children equally regardless of race or ethnicity. For the past three years I have shared the CDC-Kaiser research with City Political, Religious and Community leaders and the response has been total silence. Until and unless this central issue of causality is addressed, I assure you, the violence will continue unabated. —–Google CDC-KAISER STUDY for complete report. Read you every day Dan, your body of work is simply outstanding. Love to discuss further, lunch is on me. Sincerely, Doc McGee

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am 85. The first letter I wrote to an elected official was to my Congressman, George Fallon, about the alarming prevalence of handguns when I was a sophomore at Hopkins (1957?). I then worked for the reelection of Senator Joseph Tydings, who shared by concern about guns; and he was clobbered by the gun lobby because of it. That was 1970. I am totally mystified by the failure of my fellow Americans to allow the proliferation of guns (and now guns of war) to continue unchecked. It’s an incredible tragedy and there does not appear to be any explanation.

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  3. Hi Dan,

    This article is even painful to read. I remember when I was working (for companies) a common phrase that both men and women in upper management would use in meetings was ‘are we ready to pull the trigger on this’ . I find this phrase abhorrent. It is just a phrase but, in today’s society, everyone seems to be pulling the trigger. As I mentioned on the phone, I look for the exits as soon as I walk into a supermarket or any other store. I look at the people around me — because it could be anyone with a gun and grudge that could cost me my life as I pick avocados or lettuce from the shelf in the produce section. I told you something of my brother but I’m not sure if I told you about his guns. He did or maybe still does go elk hunting and hunting other things but he also has hand guns — a collection. I believe my two nephews also possess these types of firearms. So, can you imagine me going there to visit — the non-gun owning non-republican member of the family. It just cannot happen because even in my own ‘genetic’ family I no longer feel safe.

    So I watch the news in disgust and dream of a solution. As for the party of NO, as my mother use to refer to them, until it is their daughter or their son or family member bleeding to death in the supermarket or anywhere else, nothing is going to change. We can vote. We can protest at risk of losing our life doing so. But, in the mean time, I look for the exit and pray to God that he will protect me from getting hit by flying bullets.

    Thank you for sending this article.

    So looking forward to your visit and some meaningful conversation.

    Linda

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  4. Thank you Dan for all your columns and your wise perspective on these horrible gun issues. I really don’t know what the answer is when children are killed and nothing is done.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very, very powerfully told. Absolutely right! I was angry about Vietnam for so long and fought it every way I could, mostly letters to the editor and to congressmen etc. And protests. It was plain WRONG! So much evil is done for political gain. I’m 79 now and I feel your pain, but I’m not so sure about that third group.

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  6. I’m one of the disgusted ones who also glances to find the exits.I I just can’t understand the rabid fascination with firearms. When it gets really bad in my head, I listen to singer song writer Cheryl Wheeler’s “If It Were Up To Me”. She wrote it in 1997 nor thereabouts. It’s my touchstone when more kids get killed. The gist of the song speculates about the causes of the epidemic of shootings in the US. But it’s the final line I cling to. Cheryl sings “if it were up to me, I’d take away the guns.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The above comments are quite thoughtful.
    Dr. McGee’s comments above should not be ignored. After JFK was assassinated, there was gun control legislation… banned mail order gun purchases, since that’s how the assassin got his weapon. After MLK, Jr. and RFK were shot, there was gun control legislation…dealt with “Saturday night specials.” There have been laws passed, for background checks, waiting periods, and so forth.
    Yet, the proliferation of gun violence continues. Why? It is because the issues identified by Dr. McGee persist without adequate attention.
    Frankly, I’d be perfectly happy with legislation banning AR-15s, confiscating those already out there, banning the sale of ammunition for such devices, and banning many other weapons. These are weapons of mass destruction, it is just 5 or 8 at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You are so right. But can the names of those in Congress who receive huge contributions from the NRA and gun manufacturers be publized by the news media, or they afraid of repercussions? Just asking.

    Kate

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  9. This so so true and so dispiriting! For us seniors— especially with our grandchildren that are so young and innocent! We as seniors feel helpless!
    The sounds of gun violence is ruining our souls all the families directly affected and all Americans who feel not only dispirited but feel helpless in this violent environment!
    The United States needs to become CIVILIZED again!
    May God bless all families who have been hurt by gun violence.
    Bring God back to children, teach them right from wrong, teach parents to be responsible for their children and help us to become a society with conscience!

    Liked by 1 person

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