Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

HalfMastFlagHow long must we sing this song?

This is getting to be a far too routine occurrence in America — a  gunman on the loose, bodies on the floor and in the street, tactical police teams that disturbingly resemble a Marine assault squad and frenzied, inaccurate, retracted and, finally, corrected reporting, all against a droning white noise of politics and speculation.

And today, it hit close to home. I don’t work in the Navy Yard, but I used to. And I still have colleagues and former clients, friends and acquaintances, who do (they’re all accounted for). And as I write this, the chaos is only just now dwindling with the last of the day’s light.

This is what truly matter matters about what happened in the Navy Yard — and in Newtown and Boston and Columbine and every other killing field in this country — today, somebody lost a loved one today for no better reason than that person went to work. Right now, gun control, gun laws, politics, psychology and demographics don’t mean a damn thing. Someone lost a loved one today because of a selfish act by a pathologically selfish person. Again.

The inevitable hand-wringing and finger-pointing will start soon after this “lone gunman” is bagged and tagged and sent to the morgue. Passionate pleas for stricter gun laws will erupt, pleas based on dubious reasoning and emotional outbursts. The opposing pleas will bounce back, based on equally dubious reasoning with an equal amount of emotion. And in the days ahead, while this argument rages yet again, someone will bury a loved one and ask, “Why?”

Why, indeed. Or perhaps more uncomfortably, how? How did we become a society of selfish, entitled, angry (oh yes, angry) individuals who, now with a banal regularity, see mass murder as an appropriate response to perceived (or even real) injustices perpetrated against them?

What has happened to America? To Americans?

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