Half mast

Our flags are at half mast. Again. This time for the slaughter in Orlando. Fifteen times since he’s been in office President Obama has had to express the nation’s grief for a mass killing. Fifteen times in eight years.

I shy away from writing about politics because I don’t think I have much new to offer to the discussion. But here I make a rare exception. When the news broke about the shooting in Florida, I turned away from the television thinking to myself, “Oh, not another one.” That, I realized, was the first step in becoming inured. I can’t have that happen. Not to me, not to my country. Repetition is the thief of insult. Experience something often enough and it loses its vigor.

These massacres are so frequent, the very terminology surrounding them is losing its punch. Massacre. Slaughter. Assault weapons. Terrorism. They are on everyone’s tongues, so often they approach cliche. In today’s world, what American schoolchild can’t spell those words?

I can echo the thoughts of countless, powerless millions in this country and around the world — why are assault rifles and semi-automatic guns sold for sport?  When the ‘sport’ they were designed for is assassination. Why do we let the NRA bully us with the Second Amendment? The right to bear arms when conceived by our founding fathers was meant, not for the execution of our neighbors, but to be armed when a militia was needed for the defense of home and country. And to protect property — the odd marauding bear or rabid dog. But I am no more effectual than anyone else, however outraged or grief-stricken or terrified. I am rendered silent, no matter how loud we scream.

Once before in this country, the Silent Majority got its point across. But now why are each and every one of us held at metaphorical gunpoint by spineless politicians who have traded whatever integrity and love of country was behind their initial run for office for whatever it takes to get the votes to stay there? How is it the voices of so many ‘concerned,’ ‘educated,’ and ‘politically active’ Americans demanding gun control are not heard? This new, toothless version of the Silent Majority is profoundly worrying.

So much of what I see in this country today terrifies me:

• The NRA’s ridiculous political clout; its mastery of intimidation.

• The polarized climate in Congress; the human values gone missing in those esteemed halls, of integrity, of honor and of a universal embrace of justice for all people — exactly what the Declaration of Independence dictated; to say nothing of the racism there that has stonewalled a president for two terms.

•The proliferation of hate, as if the work for inclusion has backfired but good. Whatever happened to liberty and justice for all?

•Add to that the success to date of the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States — the candidate of hate and of intimidation, of grudges and walls. It’s impossible not to ask: what is our country coming to if half our citizenry supports a fascist for president?

Yes, those flags are at half mast for Orlando and the half hundred murdered there. But, to my mind, they also are at half mast for America itself. My heart is breaking for our broken country.

— Belle Songer, Flag Day, 2016



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