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How Things Work

This Is What a Return to Normal Looks Like

The return of high-profile gun massacres is, on some level, what it means for America to be America again.

Picture showing law enforcement responding to the mass shooting in Boulder, CO
CBS News

We have been looking for signs of what America getting “back to normal” would look like, and now, it seems, we have found it: mass shootings are in the news again.

On Monday night, a gunman killed ten people at a Boulder, CO, grocery store. This follows the horrendous massacre of eight people at a string of Atlanta-area spas last week. We are now deep into the all-too-familiar cycles that accompany such things: the thoughts and prayers, the vows to change, and, mostly, the ever-deepening apathy that we seem to have about the nature of violence in this country.

As many have pointed out, mass gun violence did not disappear during the heights of the COVID pandemic. By some counts, it went up. We just didn’t see it in public in the same way. Now, just as the country begins to reopen in what seems like a permanent way, the public massacres that we have all grown accustomed to are back.

America is a deeply violent place. Violence is what we do, and we are particularly, uniquely, dreadfully good at gun violence. The fact that the kinds of public mass shootings we have grown so used to appeared to melt away in 2020 is something people will surely study for a long time. But you can’t keep the massacres at bay forever in this country. This, on some level, is what it means for America to be America again, at least until the forces that got us here are destroyed.