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A Summer Full of Sadness and Dark Signs

Jamie Stiehm on

You know the moments that mean nothing will ever be the same? Like the loss of a beloved friend, unbidden. Your tears fall in the night and when you wake, you realize you feel the same way about your country.

Brimming with precious memory, but gone.

This summer's dark signs, served up by the new Supreme Court, changed America as we knew it. Three mass shootings since May, along with COVID-19 on my birthday, also delivered a knell.

I was born in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, due on the Fourth of July. I didn't make the deadline, first sign of a dissenter. My mother might have named me Liberty Belle.

I was a July girl with sunny optimism even as I became a historian. I let it go that the Founding Fathers locked women and enslaved people out of their elegant parchment. I forgave the Vietnam War the grown-ups were always talking and shouting about. As a child, I was raised on antiwar protests.

Watergate, the 2000 election deadlock and the Iraq War were outrages, but somehow did not shake my faith in the American character. It went like this: flawed, but its heart is in the right place, always advancing to a more equal union.

 

Growing up in Wisconsin, the heartland, and free-spirited California colored this rosy outlook. Living in London, working at CBS News, made me value the open American "can-do" spirit.

But now? President Joe Biden is genteel yet powerless to meet critical moments with urgency.

The Fourth of July mass shooting at a neighborhood parade in Illinois, claiming seven lives, is as un-American as it gets. The freakish alleged shooter then headed up to Madison, Wisconsin, where my family's village parade was set to start. The man, 21, returned to Illinois, giving up plans for a second rampage.

A school in Uvalde, Texas, and a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, saw similar scenes of bloodshed and heartbreak. Negligence was also at fault: failures by law enforcement and a 911 operator to respond properly.

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