On the Fourth of July, a day that normally calls for celebration, my social media feeds were full of people refusing to join in.
One meme that kept popping up: "Frankly, I don't think America deserves a birthday party this year."
Why was I on social media instead of swimming in the ocean, going for a hike or playing catch with my dog?
Because I was tired. Physically and emotionally exhausted. COVID-19 had recently knocked me down. The current state of this country is keeping me there.
The Supreme Court has yanked away the right to bodily autonomy that Americans have enjoyed for nearly half a century, making it possible for states to force 10-year-old girls who have been raped to carry pregnancies to term. The court has made it plain that it is hostile to any limits on gun ownership. It has knocked the wind out of the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate polluters. And if past is prologue, it will almost certainly further defang the Voting Rights Act, outlaw using race as a factor in college admissions and blinker the Clean Water Act.
The president who brought democracy to its knees is making more noise about running again, even as the revelations from the Jan. 6 congressional committee make clear he should never be allowed near the Oval Office again.
I don't even have enough energy to hate on all the people I know who are roaming around Tuscany and Provence right now, viciously posting their ridiculously beautiful snapshots on Instagram and Facebook.
I want to sleep for 10 hours, take long naps and lose myself in TV shows and movies that help me stop obsessing over how our world is spinning backward.
But it's impossible to avoid the enervating stream of bad news.
On Sunday, I read that yet another young Black man, Jayland Walker, had been gunned down by police in Akron, Ohio, after they stopped him for a traffic or vehicle equipment violation. Eight officers reportedly fired 90 rounds at him as he fled on foot, unarmed. Walker, 25, was hit by as many as 60 bullets, according to his family's lawyer.
How can this keep happening?
I was shaken by a news photograph of a 13-year-old Javon Williams weeping in the arms of a minister at a march to protest the killing of Walker. The pain in the boy's face left me bereft, much like I was when I saw a photograph of two 14-year-old boys who had perished in an airless trailer in Texas along with more than 50 other migrant souls in search of a better life.
The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, salted the wound by blaming President Joe Biden and declaring that Biden's "open border" policy was responsible for the deaths. But tell me, Governor, why would anyone need to hide in a trailer if we have open borders?
On Monday, when I saw reports of the horror that rained down on Americans lining the sidewalks of Highland Park, Illinois, to watch their hometown Independence Day parade, I felt a kind of spiritual numbness that I have rarely known.
Yet another young man, armed with a weapon of war, has senselessly killed strangers. Our new normal.
The Chicago Sun-Times' Washington bureau chief, Lynn Sweet, attended the parade with her family — and posted a photo of a bloody sidewalk after the massacre. The photograph was hard to decipher, though.
As she explained in an essay published Tuesday, "There was so much blood, that the blood puddle was lumpy because so much already coagulated. The shape of the blood — was this a twisted Rorschach test? — looked like a handgun to me. I'm going into this gruesome detail because this is what gun violence from a rapid-fire weapon with an apparent high capacity magazine looks like."
Sweet's image is probably the closest we will ever come to bearing witness to the carnage that results from Americans' love affair with guns. I don't think much will change until we see the photos of what happens when a bullet fired from an assault weapon strikes a human being. DNA often has to be used to identify the bodies.
Peter Sagal, host of the NPR quiz show "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!," tweeted that he had run through the parade route 45 minutes before the mass shooting, passing many armed police officers in body armor. "Good guys with guns every six feet," he wrote, putting the lie to the National Rifle Association's disingenuous slogan.
In the aftermath of the Highland Park massacre, which followed the Uvalde, Texas, massacre, and the Buffalo, New York, massacre, an Associated Press photographer captured a striking scene.
It shows a Lake County police officer walking down a Highland Park sidewalk littered with empty baby strollers and abandoned camp chairs.
Both hands cover his face, as if he cannot bear what he is seeing.
Who among us can?