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Carlton Fletcher

“Yeah, this is America, Guns in my area. I got the strap, I gotta carry ‘em.”

— Childish Gambino

People throw up their hands in despair and say, “What’s wrong with America?”

That’s a complex question, but I can give you a pretty short answer that encapsulates succinctly what ails U.S.: Thirty-one people died in horrendous mass shootings in two American cities last week. And what Americans are worried about is who should be blamed.

One group throws its protective arms around the president and says he has nothing to do with it as political opponents and just plain weirdos — more on that later — point their fingers at the man in the White House. Another group defends the policies of Democratic leaders who’ve elevated “Kumbaya” — let’s let everyone do as they please — to a new and sickening level against opponents who say their coddling is what has led to the mind-numbing number of mass shootings in this land of the free and home of the brave this year.

(Quick quiz: Do you know how many mass shootings have taken place in America this year alone? Sure, the political buzz that is generated when dozens die keeps those horrors on the news cycle for days — until the president tweets something ridiculous or the person they call OAC says something outlandish — but the two shootings last week brought that total to 250! That’s right, 250. Hooray, hooray, NRA!)

And yet, little is being said while this dialog of dunces rages about the fact that 31 people died in these two most recent shootings. Thirty-one people who did nothing wrong, only went out to the wrong place at the wrong time. But we can’t find sympathy in our hearts for these victims or their grieving families because we’re too worried about our favorite politicians being blamed or our favorite assault weapon coming under attack.

The back-and-forth has included everything from the ridiculous — Democratic political opponents trying to use the deaths of 31 fellow Americans to improve their election chances — to the outrageous — the NRA, and the politicians they’ve bought and paid for, insisting all over again that the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to carry assault weapons — to the idiotic — some clown being given air time to go over his theory of how the president is sending subliminal messages to white supremacists.

The whole grotesque exchange is America at its worst.

There was a time in this country that such a tragedy brought out our collective best. We grieved as one, and we did whatever we could — collect contributions, send messages of support, pray — to help the families know that they had an entire nation behind them.

Now, we’re worried that the politician we blindly follow might be accused of sparking these tragedies, so we go on the defensive, making sure everyone within our separate spheres of influence knows that our man is on the side of right; it’s his opponents who are to blame. And the back-and-forth continues, taking on a perverted life of its own.

Meanwhile, 31 American families are burying 31 of their loved ones, their pain compounded every time they turn on a TV or radio, read a newspaper or go online and see their dead being used as pawns in a sick chess game by people who have sold their souls to their political parties/ideologies of choice.

Who’s to blame for all these 250 and counting mass shootings in a country that was founded as a place where people could express their own thoughts and live their own lives without fear of reprisal ... because our Constitution guarantees us that? We all are. God help us, by our own neglect and unconcern for those lost among us, we’re all to blame.

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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