If you reacted to the latest spasm of violence in America the same way we did, then you’ve already tamped down the initial shock and awe (as survival instincts condition us to do) after the gut-wrenching killing of at least 58 people, and the injury of hundreds more, at an outdoor concert on the Las Vegas Strip.
You said a quiet prayer of thanks that the apparent gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, was not an immigrant from a country on any of the president’s travel ban lists. Then you quietly scolded yourself for finding a modicum of relief in the “lone wolf” nature of a national tragedy, the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Perhaps by now you’ve shifted focus to what an increasingly small world we live in. You’ve seen that what can happen in Orlando, Charleston or Columbine can just as easily happen on the West Coast, a mere 1,100 miles from Tacoma and a short 2.5-hour flight from Sea-Tac Airport.
Jason Aldean, the country music star on stage Sunday night when the gunfire erupted, headlined a concert at the Washington State Fair grandstand exactly one week earlier. Aldean helped close the end-of-summer festival in Puyallup — one last chance to whoop, dance and forget the scary outside world before the fairgrounds went dark for the year.
What happened last week now seems so far away. Its red-hot arguments, such as the NFL protests over police tactics and race relations in America, are momentarily relegated to a bench on the sidelines. For now, what people need to know about cops is that they absorbed some of Sunday’s bullets and still ran duty-bound into danger.
Days earlier, the Vegas police chief and his department made headlines of a different sort. They faced pointed questions about their use of force against Seattle Seahawks lineman Michael Bennett as he and others sought refuge from gunfire sounds (mercifully a false alarm that time) outside a different casino on Aug. 26.
Those questions will wait. For now, the flag for which every American has the right to salute, sit or kneel flies somberly at half staff — but there’s no question that it does yet wave.
Like us, you also might have listened closely to President Trump’s first official remarks Monday morning. They were well chosen, communal in spirit and uncluttered with the politics of blame, other than to affix it on an “act of pure evil.”
“In moments of tragedy and horror America comes together as one — and it always has,” Trump said. “We call upon the bonds that unite us, our faith, our family and our shared values. We call upon the bonds of citizenship, the ties of community and the comfort of our common humanity.”
As humans and Americans, we’re expected to process the horror and move on — to march to the beat of another busy week of work, school and countless distractions.
Some will still find time to remember the victims, families and first responders, perhaps by retreating to houses of prayer, or by donating blood or giving money.
Some will find renewed motivation to lobby Congress and the White House for tougher security measures or sensible gun control laws, so that nobody — regardless of skin color or religious background — can bring at least 10 rifles, including an unknown number of automatic weapons, to the window of a high-rise hotel in a major American city.
We all started in the same dark place in the wake of this unprecedented shooting, unbalanced by shock and awe. The diversity of ways we now find our footing — and the empathy with which we do it — is what will define us.