CSotD: July 4 in the Free-Fire Zone

Bill Bramhall depicts the Fourth of July in the New Normal, in which we can’t always distinguish the traditional fireworks from the new tradition of killing each other. My favorite part of the cartoon is that she’s only moderately concerned; it’s not like she’s leaping from the couch or he’s poised at the window.

Maybe it’s fireworks. Maybe it’s murder. We have to expect both, of course, though I suppose if it’s gunfire, we might want to go watch the TV in the basement rec room, like we do when the tornado sirens wail. Just in case.


We’ll let Dr. MacLeod represent the various cartoons expressing more chagrin than horror at yesterday’s shootings in Highland Park. Which might also be yesterday’s shootings in Chattanooga or Phoenix or Summerton, SC, or Boston or Sacramento or Richmond or Kansas City or Kenosha.


Best headline honors go to coverage of this shooting on July 3 in Surprise, Arizona, because, of course, there’s no possibility of misinterpreting it. Shootings aren’t a surprise anymore.


The NRA emphasized the importance of firearms with this holiday reminder, and followed it up with this:

The posts came, admittedly, before the Highland Park shootings but, well, come on, folks.

At least they didn’t insult our intelligence by posting a load of “thoughts and prayers” after all the mayhem by their armed citizens.


Mrs. Betty Bowers offers this collection of thoughts and prayers from Mike Pence, which I note are several years old, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it? Thoughts and prayers never go out of date, and are just as good today as they were then.

And, on a related note:

Keith Knight posted this K Chronicles before the slaughter of Jayland Walker, but the specific timing hardly matters.

I’m uncomfortable with the term “copaganda,” because it makes it sound like something being imposed upon us rather than something we’re wallowing in of our own free will.

A half-century ago, we made heroes of real-life Frank Serpico as well as fictional Frank Bullitt and John Shaft, honest cops pushing back against the corruption of the Thin Blue Line, but those aspirational depictions were quickly out-earned at the box office by Dirty Harry, a cop who had no respect for restrictive civil rights, and Death Wish, about a vigilante gunning down suspects, and both vengeance-festivals sparked numerous sequels.

It’s not so much a plot as a system, in which profit and power follow the public’s taste for blood, suspense, fear and excitement.

It doesn’t always follow a law-and-order “copaganda” menu, either: We’ve not only made heroes of mafia murderers and violent-though-endearing bank robbers, but people flock to see goalie-masked psychopaths carve up their victims and escape into the fog.

And here’s the timeless part: A decade ago, Keef noted a disturbing element and outcome:

It’s that last panel that relates back to all the real-life murder we’re seeing today.

There have been a number of paranoid observations on social media this morning about how the (suspected) Highland Park mass murderer was taken alive because he’s white. None of them list all the Black mass murderers who were or were not taken alive, because they’d find the statistical sample just a wee bit small.

Which seems odd, given that you’d think, as Knight’s second entry here suggests, that young white men would feel empowered rather than embittered, but, as he notes, there has also been a concerted effort to ramp up their sense of oppression, as well as their distrust of the government which, bizarrely enough, is dominated by folks who look like them.

But somehow the flood of unhinged mass murderers shares that racial identity.

There are no simple answers to all this, and it’s equally hard to pin it all on one element or to dismiss the other possibilities. It’s been a real group effort!

For instance, there was, a few decades ago, a concerted effort made to pander to Satanic Panic and Stranger Danger, not only on television with “America’s Most Wanted,” but with local police fingerprinting toddlers to keep them safe from fictional villains instead of from the for-real sexual predators in their personal lives.

As I wrote in 1993:

People lined up at the mall for a balloon, a lollipop and to have their children’s fingerprints sent off to the IngSoc central repository.

Then a junior high in our area put on a presentation to explain the sexual harassment and issues their children were actually facing in real life.

They ran notices in the paper and sent letters to all parents.

On the night of the program, the entire audience consisted of the principal, the district’s Title IX officer, two faculty members from the high school, a school board member from a neighboring district and me, the local family issues columnist.

No parents, no members of their own school board.

As I wrote then:

I guess real threats aren’t as much fun as drummed-up hype, which is how we end up here:


Juxtaposition of the Day

(Michael de Adder)

(Clay Jones)

We have managed, somehow, to create a world in which a political party can insist against all decency and logic that it values life while not only enabling mass shootings to occur time after time after time, but convincing its followers that mass murders are the price of freedom.

And that women — even 10 year old rape victims — are required to carry their pregnancies to term, but that, as Jones points out, the same government that values children is not obligated to support them.

Conservative governments in various states are concerned that American Exceptionalism is not being taught in classrooms.

I think it should be, but, looking around the world, I don’t think the Exceptionalism I have in mind is the same as the Exceptionalism those rightwing America-Firsters have in mind.

The fact is, whether we decide to adopt normalcy or insist on dwelling in our own exception-to-the-norm, the whole world is watching, aghast.

As we clean up this morning in the wake of our National Holiday,  Turkish cartoonist Halit Kurtulmus Aytoslu shows the image we project:


And here’s the hard part: The more routine a habit becomes, the harder it becomes to break.

Well, they do say you have to hit rock bottom. Are we there yet?


4 thoughts on “CSotD: July 4 in the Free-Fire Zone

  1. I guess there aren’t enough thoughts and prayers left for the families of the shooters.

  2. On Facebook this weekend I saw a few of those NRA memes implying that the Revolutionary War was won by a bunch of farmers with guns. I pointed out that in reality Washington thought little of the militias as they had little discipline, were untrained and unreliable, and often melted away when faced with a professional Army. It was only when Washington was able to recruit, train and retain a real Army that we began to win some crucial battles.

    I never got any responses to my comments…

  3. Bill H.: and don’t forget the militias’ generally pathetic performance in the War of 1812. “Let’s use citizen soldiers in state militias to prevent the executive from controlling a large standing military” made sense in the abstract. In real life, eh., not so much.

    Before someone points out that National Guard units did OK in the World Wars let me note that this was after training requirements for National Guard units were strengthened, and even then, in WWI, some of them were found to be pitifully trained and armed.

Comments are closed.