05 in line polling placeLast week brought complicated, and in some ways horrifying news. First there was the Boulder shooting that left 10 people dead and yet another American community in shocked mourning. The most concerning aspect of such shootings is that they have become our new and accepted normal. Unless they happen in our own community or to people we know, perhaps even love, they garner brief national attention. Most Americans then move on until the
next one.

Many people, this writer included, believed that the 2012 murders of 6 and 7-year-olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School would motivate us to look at why we allow so few restrictions on gun ownership, even allowing private ownership of military style automatic weapons.

Instead, we seemingly decided even gunning down children was something we could live with in order to keep our firearms. It also remains true that while mass shootings get our attention for at least a brief period, far more of us die from shootings under other, less spectacular circumstances.

Americans who yearn for less carnage and are willing to accept more restrictions, including this writer, are coming to understand that nothing is going to happen until there is a mass public outcry as has happened with the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements. Perhaps this graphic from The New York Times can help us see how extreme an outlier our nation is when it comes to gun violence.

Pay attention, and be very afraid.

In addition to death by firearms, our democracy continues to be under threat. In the wake of the 2020 elections, state legislatures all across the country are debating and passing laws restricting Americans’ right to vote. Georgia’s governor signed into law last week perhaps the most regressive voting provisions since the Jim Crow era, already being dubbed “Jim Crow 2.0.” The jaw-dropping measure severely limits absentee voting and actually criminalizes giving people in line to vote either water or food.

If it were only Georgia, that would be one thing, but 40-some-odd states either restrict voting or are overwhelmingly gerrymandered or both. Several highly restrictive voting measures in North Carolina have been struck down in court, but ours remains one of if not the most gerrymandered state in the nation.

The U.S. House has just passed the For the People Act making registering and voting more accessible, but the bill faces fierce Senate opposition.

The question facing all Americans of both parties is “do we want a democratic country enough to fight for the rights of all Americans, not just those traditionally in power?” Germany and Italy lost their democracies in the first part of the 20th century as did several South American nations in the latter part of the century. There is no reason whatsoever to believe “American exceptionalism” immunizes us from the grasp of an authoritarian government.

Finally, and on a more positive note, it feels like the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Vaccinations are ahead of schedule in North Carolina, and Governor Cooper continues to loosen COVID restrictions. Already, there have been some excesses. A nightclub area in Raleigh was overrun by unmasked revelers, with one quoted in the News and Observer saying, “We’re like puppies out of the pound.”

Others are reacting more slowly, as if they cannot quite remember how to be out and about with other people. Either way, we should understand how easily a resurgence could occur and that masks and distancing are still in force, vaccinations notwithstanding.

That said, it does feel good to be even a little less confined.

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