"Something's come dreadfully loose in the country"
by Tom Sullivan
The usually jocular Charlie Pierce appeared shaken last night on Chris Hayes' show when he spoke about the on-air shootings yesterday in Virginia. He came packing the truth. "Something's come dreadfully loose in the country right now," Pierce said, glancing at the floor. "A lot of stuff that was in the kind of foul tributaries of American life has made it into the mainstream."
Pierce wrote earlier about the shooting at Esquire:
A news crew, doing a completely ordinary happy-face morning feature at a mall get blown away on camera. If this had happened in Somalia, we'd have a lot of earnest talk about the dangers of a failed society. If it had happened in Syria, Lindsey Graham might liquefy entirely and disappear in a rush down a storm drain. But it happened here, in the exceptional home of American exceptionalism, so, once again, we will be told that Alison Parker and Adam Ward are merely more of the price we pay for the exceptional exceptionalism of a free society.
The killings of a reporter and cameraman as they covered a "happy-face" news story brought gun violence perilously close for both Hayes and Pierce. Pierce was blunt about it:
"It is worrisome to be out on the campaign trail now. It is not terrifying. It's nothing like following a rifle platoon into the Hindu Kush or something, but there's something unsettling and something that's come loose in the body politic. And, frankly, I'm worried about it."
We are a country now where more money equals more speech for the elite, and more guns equals more freedom for the rest, and murderers post their snuff films on social media. (Next time it will be streamed live.*) What's to worry about?
Somewhere in the flood of post-September 11 articles about how the attacks happened, what we would do next, and why terrorists hate us, one writer asked, Would America keep its head? Uh, no. Except the country's post-September 11 temporary insanity seems, like untreated depression, to have settled in and taken a "set." The governor on the engine has broken. No, that's not right. It has been sabotaged. Now it is racing out of control. Or at least, that's how it feels.
Futurist Sara Robinson periodically reassesses the country's drift towards the abyss. With daily mass shootings, with Donald Trump threatening to round up and deport millions, and with his "passionate" followers beating the homeless, calling for "white power," and demanding that Latino citizens "Get out of my country," it might be time to re-check the cultural doomsday clock and see how many minutes it is to midnight.
* when Howard Cosell went live to cover the assassination of "El Presidente," it was in Woody Allen's fictional banana republic.