What could be more symbolic of the US than 4 July celebrations ending in a mass shooting?

This is what the rest of the world expects now of America – this is its dreadful legacy

Biden mentions Highland Park shooting in Independence Day speech

Was anyone surprised to hear of the shooting at the Highland Park parade in Chicago for 4 July celebrations? I wasn’t – and I say that without even the slightest sense of “I told you so”, or anything but a nauseating and repetitive shudder of horror.

To me, hearing of yet another incident of gun violence in the US (and there have been 250 mass shootings this year alone, equating to one every single day) feels a little like the grief we all feel over the war in Ukraine: a dull, deeply aching sorrow, set against a pervasive sense of helplessness. For what can we do? The rest of the world can only stand by and shake our heads as we read of more guns, more violence, more deaths in more and more cities in the US, some of which we may not have previously even heard of, but will now never forget: Buffalo, Uvalde – now Highland Park.

This morning, while getting ready for work and listening to the radio, I heard a tearful father describe how he and his kids – aged seven and five – had been caught up in the latest attack, which happened in the suburbs during a parade to celebrate so-called Independence Day (and I wrote yesterday on how little the States truly has to celebrate or be proud of).

The family being interviewed spoke of hiding behind dumpsters before calling a relative to come and pick them up and take them to safety. The shooter, the father said, had been on the roof of a building right next to them.

“My daughter is too young,” the man said, “but my son was asking questions all day. The hardest part was that he told me as he was going to bed that he had thought he was going to be shot in the back while we were running away. That’s hard to live with.”

As the dad says, the fact that firearms are now the leading cause of death in America for children is an outrage; it proves, in his words, that: “Something is very wrong with America.”

In May, 19 children and two teachers were gunned down at a primary school in Uvalde; now – in this latest assault, at the time of writing – we hear of half a dozen dead and at least 30 wounded at a day that was meant be about celebration. Police said that hundreds of marchers – including parents with strollers and children on bicycles – were forced to flee in terror.

On Twitter, one wry, dark sentiment stuck with me, inspiring the headline to this piece: “Nothing says America like a mass shooting on 4th of July” – and she’s right.

Another person tweeted a poignant and shocking video taken in Philadelphia of a different incident on the same day – showing hordes of people fleeing in fear after two police officers were shot at. All the while, 4 July fireworks exploded overhead.

This is what the rest of the world expects now of America – this is its dreadful legacy.

A friend is going on holiday to Florida next weekend and I’m already worried about her safety and the safety of her kids. Would I take my family to visit America at the moment? Not on your life – it’s far too dangerous.

President Biden has spoken out, again, branding the Highland Park tragedy another example of “senseless gun violence that has yet again brought grief to an American community”. It comes just weeks after he signed into law the first major piece of federal gun safety legislation to make it through Congress in decades, promising that the bill will save lives – but acknowledging that there is “much more work to do”.

No s***. We’ve been hearing these promises for years now, yet nothing changes. In fact, it only seems to be getting worse. Less than two weeks ago, the Supreme Court struck down a New York law intended to limit the carrying of concealed handguns in public. Why are guns more protected than human lives? How many children and other innocents have to die before the US finally wakes up and changes its gun laws?

To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here

A friend of mine wrote a poem entitled “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild” that ends with these powerful lines:

Humans in the wild, gathered and feeling good, previously an exhilaration, now: a target.

A target of concert-goers.

A target of movie-goers.

A target of dancers.

A group of schoolchildren is a target.

Read and think on that, America. Think hard. I very much hope I don’t have to write this piece again tomorrow – and the day after that, and the day after that.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in