In the last 14 days, America has been shattered again and again and again by the horror of gun violence.
At least 40 people across the U.S. have been shot dead since May 11, when a man walked into a Dallas hair salon and shot three women.
The lethal tally, compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, has only deepened a gnawing sense that shootings are now just a deplorably consistent fact of American life in the 21st century.
In the absence of any meaningful legislative action, many see bullets and bloodshed as grim inevitabilities. In a country that prides itself on being a beacon of liberty and freedom, a growing number of Americans feel that no place — church, school, the grocery story — is safe anymore.
Seventeen people were wounded in downtown Milwaukee on May 13 as fans were leaving an NBA playoff game.
The next day, 10 people were gunned down and three were wounded at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
Five people were hurt and one person was killed a day later during church services at a senior community in Laguna Woods, California.
In the days that followed, gunshots rang out from coast to coast, across the South and the Midwest, in big cities and small towns.
The motives in each case varied — racist venom, in some — but the end result was the same: shock, heartbreak and bottomless grief, families and friends scrambling to make sense of the senseless.
The latest massacre at a grade school in Uvalde, Texas, roughly 83 miles west of San Antonio, shreds at the soul of a country that once believed kids could sit at their classroom desks without fear.
The shooting Tuesday at Robb Elementary School killed two teachers and at least 19 children — innocent, bright-eyed kids just two days from summer break and looking ahead to middle school.
America has been here before far too many times. Columbine. Sandy Hook. Parkland. We refer to these massacres in shorthand, like signposts on a road to oblivion. The collective trauma of those tragedies lives in all of us.
The political reaction to mass shootings in America has also followed a dismaying formula.
Politicians tweet “thoughts and prayers.” Democratic lawmakers demand gun control measures. Republicans dig in their heels. Congress flails and momentum stalls, leaving the country to move on to the next political crisis or self-inflicted wound.
Young people who bear the scars of mass shootings push for a better future. The survivors of the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, for example, want us to imagine a brighter, safer world.
But in the meantime, America waits.
We wait for the next burst of bullets, because we sense with dreadful resignation that this cycle of monstrous violence may never end.