America is not OK

While many of us are just trying to navigate and maybe even fix these troubling and inescapable realities, a whole cottage industry of right-wing grifters and users is telling us it’s all in our heads.

A young girl moves a sign at a memorial at the Texas Capitol for victims in the Uvalde, Texas mass shooting at Robb Elementary.

A young girl moves a sign at a memorial at the Texas Capitol for victims in the Uvalde, Texas mass shooting at Robb Elementary.

Bob Daemmrich/ZUMA Press Wire/TNS

Over the past two weeks, we have all mourned and grieved, reeling from a double-whammy of horrific mass shootings — one in Buffalo and another in Uvalde, Texas. The first targeted a Black community and was, according to the murderer, motivated explicitly by racism. The second, inexplicably, targeted elementary school children. There is no explanation for why 19 beautiful boys and girls are dead today.

It’s impossible, thankfully, for most of us to imagine the absolute devastation that the families of every victim of both shootings — or the countless that have preceded them — are now experiencing. No one should have to.

The collateral damage from these awful incidents is significant. Entire communities are shaken, changed forever.

We are changed, too. Every grandfather, mother, brother, friend, employee and child that was taken could have been ours. We experience these tragedies as a collective.

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Unsurprisingly, these dual events have sent some of us spiraling.

The inundation of constant images, videos, stories and commentary on the news and on social media is suffocating. It feels impossible to catch a breath.

And so I know I’m not alone when I admit that I’m drowning in a deep pit of despair and anxiety. Again.

Last summer, I shared here that I had suddenly hit a dangerous and scary place with my mental health, overwhelmed with anxiety, unable to see clearly through the fog of bad news, constant worry, inescapable triggers, and the feeling that this was all just the new normal.

Since then, I embarked on a mental health treatment journey that’s included psychotherapy, medication and a dogged attention to my limitations.

I’ve had to change the way I work, talk to friends and family and engage with social media, and I’ve decided to be transparent about my struggles, in case anyone can benefit from my experiences.

I’ve done a lot of work, and it’s paid off.

But none of the tools I’ve learned built up a big enough levee to hold off the wave of anxiety and sadness that crashed down with these two horrors.

I’ve heard from so many others that they are struggling too. How could we not be?

Whether it’s an ongoing war in Ukraine, a frightening rise in extremism and hate crimes, the anxiety of living with constant COVID uncertainty, daunting economic stresses, a bitterly divided and seemingly broken political system that appears unable to solve crucial problems — from a baby formula shortage to a gun-violence epidemic — or the everyday challenges of parenting, work and life, we are not doing OK.

To make matters worse, so much of this feels out of our control and impossible to solve. And when there are potential solutions to a problem — like some common sense ways to keep 18-year-old racists and would-be child murderers from getting their hands on mass killing devices — there are too few willing partners to even try to start.

We are talking about broad daylight massacres. Even though we might have different perspectives on the utility of different reforms, we should all at least be united in genuine outrage and in a commitment to try to take sensible steps to prevent them from happening.

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Instead, we get gaslighting, like people and pundits and politicians who tell us mass shootings can’t ever be prevented (other countries tell us otherwise). Or that we should just arm our teachers, the ultimate capitulation. Or hand out more guns. We’ve even seen people blame ‘wokeism’ for the worst crimes imaginable.

Or the ones who say extremism and right-wing hate aren’t real, don’t exist. We’re all just imagining it.

Or the ones who say COVID’s just a cold and live with it, over one million American deaths later.

While many of us are just trying to navigate and maybe even fix these troubling and inescapable realities, a whole cottage industry of right-wing grifters and users is telling us it’s all in our heads.

So we wait. We wait for the next punch in the gut, the next awful tragedy, praying it’s not too close to home, white-knuckling it from one hour to the next.

How could anyone function under these kinds of pressures?

It turns out that some of us can’t. I’m envious of those who can. But I’m struggling just to get my footing from one crisis to the next, while managing the challenges every parent faces — sending my kiddo to school, keeping him safe, teaching him about the world around him without terrifying him.

It is overwhelming and debilitating, but I’ll keep working at it. And I know I will recover, once again. But as much as I feel the weight, I know the victims of these tragedies — the surviving families and community — never fully will. My heart is broken for them. And I worry — how much more of this can we take?

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.

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