I grew up listening to conversations about America the beautiful, America the free, the bold, the land of promise. Long before my father entered politics, he spoke reverentially about the country that allowed a boy born to an alcoholic father who routinely drank up the money needed for food, a boy forced to move often during his childhood, to fulfill his dreams of success. He was speaking about himself, but he believed that America afforded that opportunity to anyone willing to dream and strive. I grew up in a school where we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning as the flag was raised, a school where we wept and lowered the flag on the day President Kennedy was shot.  I grew up never imagining mass shootings in schools, theaters, concerts, supermarkets.   

 When Sandy Hook happened and 20 young children were slaughtered I thought, like many, that now – surely – Congress would act and make guns less accessible. When Parkland happened and high school kids were mowed down, David Hogg – one of the surviving victims who has become a prominent voice in this country – beseeched those in power to act like adults. Still nothing has been done.   And there is a strong probability that nothing will be done this time, after 19 children and two teachers were gunned down.  Just 10 days earlier, 14 people were shot in a racially-motivated massacre in Tops Market in Buffalo; 10 of them died. 

 How are we supposed to love this country when we have descended into a land where this kind of slaughter has, in effect, been normalized? Where children are given drills in school about what to do if a shooter bursts in? When I was young we had fire drills, which is logical. We had nuclear drills – duck and cover – because we had a sworn enemy overseas. Also logical. There is no logic to what we have accepted now. How can we still stand proud and say that America is the best country in the world when no other country has mass shootings like this? 

 Many people I know are at least entertaining the idea of leaving America. One couple is already out the door – they’re moving to Portugal. Another friend has put everything in place so that he can move his family to Australia if they decide to flee the United States. This trend began years ago, when neo-Nazis paraded through Charleston chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” When George Floyd had the breath choked out of him and Ahmaud Arbery was chased down and killed just because he was black. When America began moving backward on women’s rights and set the stage for back-alley abortions and women ending unwanted pregnancies with coat hangers. And as a backdrop to all of this, the shootings continue.

 We are about to celebrate Memorial Day, honoring the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the dream of America, for the land of the free, the land of hope and promise and equality. How can we claim any of that is true when elected officials like Ted Cruz attack Democrats and the media for “politicizing” another mass shooting just hours after it happened, while many parents still didn’t know if their children were alive. Ted Cruz is certainly one of the most shameful figures in Congress, but he has a lot of company.

How can we still love America when the dream of America is darkening into nightmarish scenarios? When we can’t find the dream, the promise through the wails of grief and tears and the massacre of children? I don’t have an answer to that, but I think it’s a question that needs to be asked.


  1. kara says:

    the sensitivity of your words conveys with depth the horror of what is going in our United States of America now. can the NRA claim the right to arms as a means of protecting the rights of individuals while watching children killing children with the guns they are allowed to have…what am I missing?????

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