AS A NATION, we are good at many things, but perhaps the best thing we do is console each other following a tragedy.
Our president has become our consoler-in-chief. Eleven times since taking office, President Obama has traveled to a city stunned by violence to comfort its citizens, and today he is in Dallas doing it all over again.
Following the death of five Dallas police officers at the hands of a deranged man last week, one of the most popular videos was one showing ordinary citizens hugging Dallas police officers.
That’s what we have become: a nation of huggers.
We are a nation of erectors of ad hoc memorials – flowers, balloons, cards, placards and stuffed animals – and others symbols of grief and support.
We are a people who kneel down, with heads bowed in public prayer in front of these memorials. (We could say our prayers at home or at church, but there are no cameras there to record us.)
We are a country of somber memorial services, attended by the president and other dignitaries, at which we are told that violence and terrorism will not win because we are strong and won’t let it. We won’t be defeated.
“Boston strong!” we proclaim, until that slogan is replaced with “Orlando strong,” and that one is replaced with “Dallas strong!”
Which city will be the next to be declared strong? Wait a few days and we’ll find out. It could be your city, or mine.
We have perfected the mourning, grieving game, and we have become very, very good at resolving to keep on going about our business, undaunted and unbowed.
AND THAT, MY friends, is our problem.
We do all these things that help us feel better emotionally in the wake of brutal, violent acts, but that’s all we do. We do absolutely nothing to try to stop this violence that would not exist without our gun culture, and without the messengers of hate in our political system who believe that the only way they can succeed is by pitting us against each other.
We do not even pretend to try. Even more tragic, we do not pretend to want to try.
Yes, a few political leaders and a few other brave anti-gun activists continue their crusade for legislation to make it difficult for deranged people to get their hands on weapons such as the one used by the Dallas shooter, which serve no useful hunting or law-enforcement purpose.
And yes, a few civic and religious leaders talk to us about peace and brotherly love and try to get us to reach over the barriers we’ve erected around ourselves.
But their cries in the wilderness remain just that – cries in the wilderness – and their attempts to incite positive actions have as much effect as a single raindrop in the desert.
And that is because the rest of us – defeated, cowardly or both – do not want to be bothered. We would rather return to our routines in our safe (for now) havens, perhaps to conserve our energy and emotional reservoir – so that we can properly grieve for the next victims of our craven inaction.