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We have turned on each other

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So my family spent Sunday at a softball tournament, where little girls played their hearts out, people ate grilled hamburgers and among the biggest problems were bad throws to first or failing to reapply sunscreen.

It was a good place to be, especially on this particular Sunday. It was laughing and cheering and dugout chants, instead of another cable news crawl of terror and sorrow below hours of speculation and precious few minutes of reportable fact. I was glad to be far away.

But, of course, we had our phones. An unraveling world in our pocket. Alerts buzzed, each one more sickening. The despicable poison of yet another mass shooting, another act of terrorism, more heart-wrenching horror, seeping into every corner of our nation, even this sunny patch of dirt and grass.

We looked down at our phones, and quietly relayed details to those sitting next to us. Fifty dead in Orlando. Fifty (later revised to 49), cut down in a gay nightclub by a man pledging allegiance to the Islamic State. A hate crime. An act of terror. A slaughter aided by a firearm chosen for its horrid efficiency in mowing down humans.

We’d look up, and there were our kids, swinging, running, sliding. Look back down, and we see parents in Orlando in anguish over unanswered calls and texts.

I guess that’s how it is now. We’re all left to sit in concerts, malls, theaters and even softball tournaments wondering about the possibility that music, dancing and joy might be destroyed in an instant by gunfire. All it takes is anger or sickness, or both, and a firearm.

It’s less like a sharp pang of fear, and more like a numbing feeling of constant, vague apprehension that’s now a permanent part of our reality. Are we targets? No. But maybe.

And we’re, apparently, powerless to do anything about it.

Sorry kids, with your ketchup mustaches, we adults and all the important people leading our country are no longer remotely capable of coming together, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy. We’re so deeply divided, so dug into our tribal trenches, the first thing we do when shots ring out and sirens wail is strategize over how our side can take political advantage.

While shattered bodies still lay in a nightclub, hot, clever takes on social media overwhelmed any hope for even a moment of silent, stunned reflection. Blood spilled and soap boxes sprang up. It’s an election year. Somebody’s got to win the news cycle.

Trump, Clinton, Obama, Muslims and guns, wrapped in all shades of smug vitriol. I felt the anger as much as anyone. I’m not above it. Listening to the deep concerns of politicians who’ve spent their entire careers working to make many of the people in that club objects of derision and second-class citizens was too much to take. Ditto Trump’s triumphant tweets.

But beyond catharsis, what’s it worth? Because if we now firmly believe that our political adversaries are so reckless, traitorous and heartless they want Americans to die by the dozens, there is no hope. If we believe the only alternative to our side’s agenda is danger, death and mayhem, there’s nothing left to talk about. Only blame and blood.

We’ve turned on each other, and there may be no turning back. Sorry kids.

l Comments: (319) 398-8452; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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