There was a time, before America became divided, when mass shootings were rare. A period of cultural unity and quiet occupied the space between successes of the civil rights movement, and before the erosion of the standard of living and the stress of terrorism. Perhaps the period between1972 and 9/11 will be recognized as our golden age.
With our division, there has come a change in the meaning of patriotism, which has multiple meanings to different people. The linkage between gun purchases and which party is in power suggests that a new idea of freedom has taken hold. Confidence in government to uphold civil liberty has been replaced by the freedom to kill.
The most obvious kind of patriotism is devotion to national unity, symbolized by a national flag. But there was a time when the other form of patriotism, devotion to our fellow citizens, was the higher calling. Then, respect for the flag was transcended by the civil right to desecrate it. People were more important than symbols.
There is a spiritual war in America right now. It’s about who owns the ideal, with the right to define it. The flag-wavers are now in ascendance. If they win, they get to define America in terms of a piece of dyed fabric.
Anyone who has read a little history, and understands that people change slowly over centuries, knows where that leads.