July 5, 2022

Monday was the Fourth of July — a day to celebrate our country with cookouts, fireworks and parades.

Horrifically, Monday also displayed something else that is becoming all too common in the USA: a mass shooting.

A gunman on a rooftop using a high-powered rifle shot into spectators enjoying a parade in Highland Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Early reports were that at least six people were killed and more than two dozen were sent to the hospital with injuries.

Several hours after the incident, a “person of interest” had been identified, named and taken into custody. But as far as a motive, Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said in a press conference, “By all means, at this point, this appears to be completely random.”

Even in a nation familiar with these kinds of stories, Monday’s news — that a gunman apparently randomly fired into a crowd of families, including small children, at a parade — was stunningly agonizing. And it was a bleak reminder of recent shootings that cut through life’s everyday activities — going to school, going to church, going to the grocery store.

Following the shooting, communities around the Chicago area canceled festivities.

Meanwhile, many across the country had to wonder how safe they were celebrating the holiday. Appearing on CNN’s superb breaking news coverage, former Baltimore mayor and attorney Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, “You have to continue to do the things that bring us joy. We cannot let this what I believe it is a terrorist win. He’s trying to cut at the heart of who we are, our community.”

Rawlings-Blake continued, “This person … he was bold and he was evil. To go someplace — on a roof. He can’t just evaporate. He had to go back into that crowd. That’s bold. But it’s also evil, and we cannot let that win.”

Shawn Cotreau, a 47-year-old man visiting from Boston with his wife and three children — ages 11, 9 and 2 — told The New York Times’ Claire Fahy that they were sitting in chairs about 20 feet away from the gunman. Cotreau told the Times, “I can’t even get the image of the guy out of my head. He was just opening up fire. And I saw the bullets hitting the tree that was like literally in front of us.”

During one live report, CNN showed an empty street lined by lounge chairs hastily abandoned by those who fled after the shooting began. Some of the chairs were made specifically for kids. And here’s a powerful photo from Chicago Tribune photojournalist Brian Cassella.

While the CNN panel was looking at video of the scene following the shooting, former Assistant Homeland Security Secretary Juliette Kayyem noted how witnesses said they saw people putting children into dumpsters to protect them from bullets. She then said, “The dumpsters are actually there as a response to a different kind of threat.”

Kayyem then reminded how the dumpsters were used to stop and deter those driving vehicles from plowing into crowds, adding, “This is one of those horrible things where we just keep trying to minimize the violence wherever it comes from, but on July 4th where there are families, we’re still vulnerable.”

Interesting tweet

From author Bill Carter, well known for his late-night TV wars book “The Late Shift” and CNN contributor: “Juliette Kayyem on CNN properly noting the professionalism of the Highland Park officials and (contrasting) w the disaster we witnessed in Texas.”

Romney’s warning for the future

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney has written a piece for The Atlantic that was published Monday: “America Is in Denial.”

Romney writes, “President Joe Biden is a genuinely good man, but he has yet been unable to break through our national malady of denial, deceit, and distrust. A return of Donald Trump would feed the sickness, probably rendering it incurable. Congress is particularly disappointing: Our elected officials put a finger in the wind more frequently than they show backbone against it. Too often, Washington demonstrates the maxim that for evil to thrive only requires good men to do nothing.”

Romney goes on to write, “I hope for a president who can rise above the din to unite us behind the truth. Several contenders with experience and smarts stand in the wings; we intently watch to see if they also possess the requisite character and ability to bring the nation together in confronting our common reality. While we wait, leadership must come from fathers and mothers, teachers and nurses, priests and rabbis, businessmen and businesswomen, journalists and pundits.”

Some Fourth of July thoughts

Brittney Griner’s plea

WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner, right, is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow last Friday. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Women’s basketball star Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia since she was arrested on Feb. 17. Authorities at a Moscow area airport allegedly found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. Her trial is finally underway and she is facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted of drug smuggling charges.

Now she is appealing to President Joe Biden in a letter. She wrote to Biden, “I’m terrified I might be here forever. … I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home.”

Griner was arrested before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the war has only further complicated the Griner case.

No one has done a better job covering this story than ESPN’s T.J. Quinn, who writes, “Griner’s trial on charges that she tried to smuggle vape cartridges with hashish oil into Russia began Friday. Legal experts and U.S. officials have described the proceeding as a ‘show trial’ that is certain to end in a conviction and lengthy sentence. The trial has been described as a negotiating tactic by the Russian government to exchange her in a prisoner swap.”

Portions of Griner’s letter to Biden were released through Griner’s representatives. The representatives did not say how the letter got from Griner’s jail cell in Russia to the Oval Office. Quinn wrote, “Griner has been able to send and receive notes to friends and family through her Russian attorneys, although all the messages have been monitored by Russian officials.”

In the letter, Griner told Biden that she voted for the first time in 2020 and that she voted for Biden. She added, “I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”

Quinn reported that Griner’s trial continues Thursday and “there is a strong chance she pleads guilty, knowing that Russian officials would require an admission of guilt as part of a trade to send her home.”

Linking up

Notable and interesting. I was looking at The New York Times homepage on Monday, and found that there are links to several stories from The Athletic — the ad-free, subscription sports site bought by the Times earlier this year for $550 million. The Times has been doing this since last Thursday.

There were links to five stories, as well as a link to the “About Us” page on The Athletic site. There also was a little header that said, “From The Athletic: A New York Times company offering coverage of your favorite teams and leagues.”

The Times also sent a note to home delivery subscribers last week telling them their home delivery subscription also now includes The Athletic. The note said, “The Athletic, now part of The New York Times Company, is a subscription sports publication that covers your favorite teams and leagues with the rigor you expect from our reporting — and you can enjoy it as long as you remain a Home Delivery subscriber.”

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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  • As a broken-hearted, disbelieving foreign friend watching America’s unfolding, endless gun violence, I cannot help but think that well-intentioned calls to maintain normal life are part of the problem.
    Little wonder the mass murders of men, women and children in their homes, on their streets and in their schools show no sign of abating. Maybe former Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was quoted out of context when she said on CNN, “You have to continue to do the things that bring us joy. We cannot let this what I believe it is a terrorist win.”
    But surely a massacre on a national holiday has become normal, as are shootings of elementary school children, shoppers, congregations, the list is limitless.
    Maybe what America needs is for normal life to stop so this terrible problem can be addressed.
    If you were given a diagnosis of lifestyle-induced heart disease, would a doctor really advise you to “Carry on what you’ve been doing”?
    The joy Rawlings-Blake speaks of may actually prevent Americans from really waking up to how awful their society has become; tragedy only happens elsewhere … until it happens to you.
    I know it seems easy for people living in safer, more peaceful countries to offer advice, but Australia tamed our out-of-control weapons obsession in the late 1990s after a deranged gunman murdered 35 people in Port Arthur. We decided that the norms that worked when Australia was a frontier nation no longer apply. Everyone doesn’t need a weapon and there’s no God-given right to bear arms. Sporting shooters and landowners like me must prove we have a genuine reason for possessing suitable, licensed firearms that we can show the police we store safely. We own the guns; they don’t own us.
    So Americans continue to grieve and to console themselves this obsession is an aberration, that they must look on the bright side of life when they should be screaming out in horror at the carnage.
    And their friends around the world continue to grieve with them, not only for the slaughtered children but for the millions of ordinary, good-hearted Americans who continue to sleepwalk through this nightmare towards an ever-receding beacon of better times.