The trauma of being an American

OPINION: Between the more than a million deaths from COVID and the epidemic of mass shootings, the country is awash in needless death and sadness. And they happened because of American ineffectiveness and American ego.

U.S. flags, across New York Bay from the Statue of Liberty, fly at half-mast at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, on May 25, 2022, as a mark of respect for the victims of the May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP) (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

To be an American now is to be in pain. We have been in a near-constant state of mourning for years. The tragedy at Texas was preceded by the horror of Buffalo, which was preceded by years of watching over one million Americans die of COVID. In this country, we are awash in blood and needless death. The COVID deaths, so many, so fast, happened in a climate where we couldn’t convene to mourn in public, so we couldn’t give each other the rituals we needed to get through. We just swallowed the pain of family and friends dying. Now the terrorism of mass shootings gives us more sadness that we have nowhere to put. 

One thing that marks these two epic failures—the COVID crisis and the mass shooting epidemic—is that they happened because of American ineffectiveness and American ego. A misguided sense of liberty for all has been weaponized to protect those who would shoot a dozen children at school or refuse to protect others from COVID. I’m sad about America now. And I’m angry. How can this be acceptable? How can we say this is the greatest country in the world when we’re the only country that suffers through mass shootings all the time? Great countries solve problems, yet we don’t even try. We just make excuses—no law would’ve prevented that shooting. Oh well. Americans are never less optimistic or ingenious or creative than after a white man shoots a bunch of people. Nothing we could’ve done. Really?

We have a political system that’s beholden to the wealthy and the powerful. The call for us to do something, anything, to help us be safe from guns will go out. But so will a call from the NRA: Oh look, Dems are coming to take your guns. That leads to a spike in buying guns. That leads to more money for the gun industry, which pays Republican senators and representatives to make certain that nothing stops their gravy train. Even the deaths of children aren’t enough for them to stand up to the money and say, hey, we’ve gotta do something. 

I’m sick. I’m sad. I’m angry. I’m crying out for America to do something. Not just to save us from this endless string of mass shootings. I’m crying out for the American soul. It’s traumatizing to be an American right now. We are traumatized by America itself, and no amount of consumerism and fun pop culture can make me forget that. We are drowning in violent and unnecessary deaths in a world where the desires of the wealthy few are ahead of the needs of the masses. The deaths of the poor are acceptable if you pay the price. We cannot go on this way.


Touré hosts the podcast “Touré Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books.

TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku, and Android TV. Please download theGrio mobile apps today!