Half-Mast Nation

Karen Coney Coplin

by Karen Coney Coplin

Print media deadlines typically run about a month ahead of publication date, so this article was being formatted in early July. I was on a mission to round up “good news” to share.

With the onset of the war in Ukraine earlier this year, and all of its devastating images, 2022 got off to a somber start. Then, the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, this right on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting, left many of us hurting, grasping at straws.

As I was finishing my article, our country was celebrating its 246th birthday. And yet, at the most American of events, a Fourth of July parade, seven innocent lives were gunned down in Highland Park, Illinois.

After the 3-day holiday weekend was over this year 220 Americans were dead from gun violence. (How many more by the time this essay is in print?) This tragic occurrence has been repeated so many times, especially in the last two decades, that it has been the backdrop of my daughters’ entire existence.

At some point during their childhood education, they and their classmates stopped learning cursive handwriting and instead were taught emergency procedures, lockdown and code red drills in the event of an active shooter.

I still have a recorded robo dialer message on my phone from the principal of Naples High School, where a lockdown mistakenly occurred in September 2019. Unlike prior drills which were announced, this was set off in error. My daughter said at least one student jumped out of a second-floor window, thinking the false alarm was real. She herself was terrified and without her phone, afraid that she was going to die.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shootings in Parkland had occurred the year before, on Valentine’s Day, turning a holiday devoted to love into a nightmare instead. This horrific massacre was fairly fresh in the minds of everyone in school in Florida.

Our country has been revered as the leader of the free world, yet we have allowed this terror to go on unabated as if we were a nation at war. It’s not an exaggeration. We are now living our lives- individually and in society, amid mass shootings which take place everywhere: in places of worship, at schools, at shops, at concerts, at parades, and in hospitals. This is an incomplete list.

So, my initial focus on good news has turned instead to hope. Hope that we will DO SOMETHING. Hope that we will create a future world in which the 2-year-old Highland Park orphan can grow up without other traumas in his life. And that others do not have to follow in his footsteps.

Somehow, Anne Frank was able to keep hope in her heart even while in hiding from Nazi persecution:”… I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

It is up to all of us, personally and politically, to be the people that Anne Frank believed in, and to keep hope and humanity alive.

If you do have good news to share, Karen would like to hear from you.

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