5 July 2018
5 July 2018

This is usually the quiet time of year in Washington, save for the tourists who flood the city’s monuments and museums.

Congress is out of session for the 4th of July, and many locals are taking some time off around the Independence Day holiday.

But this year, things are different. There is an unease in the sweltering summer air as late June morphs into July, and our days are marked by vigils and demonstrations.

We mourn the victims of yet another mass shooting — this one about an hour away from D.C. down Route 50 in Annapolis, the home of the U.S. Naval Academy and the capital of the state of Maryland.

A gunman attacked the newsroom of the local newspaper – The Capital Gazette — spraying the place with bullets and killing five people who were doing the jobs they loved. The Maryland deaths make the United States the second most deadly country in the world this year for journalists, right behind Afghanistan.

This one hurts on so many levels. These were my brothers and sisters in journalism. And the shooting took place in a building just across the street from the noodle shop that we used to visit with our youngest after her soccer and field hockey games — a place for families and fond memories. Until now.

In chilling tweets as they hid for cover under their desks during the siege, the surviving reporters at the Capital Gazette did what came naturally: they relayed the news to their community via tweets and texts. The next morning, the paper was published with an editorial page that was blank, except for the names of the victims.

Americans did what Americans always do in times like these. A make-shift memorial of flowers and remembrances took shape around the newsroom, and there was a vigil in the streets of Annapolis for the dead.

Gradually, we learned about the shooter, who was captured but refused to cooperate with police. He is a local guy who apparently had both a grudge against the newspaper and legally owned a shotgun.

Threats against journalists in these days of Trump are nothing new. Ask just about any reporter who covers politics these days and they can show you slews of mean-spirited anonymous emails and social media posts laced with profanities and anger.

And while the president put out a tweet decrying the killings at the Capital Gazette — one of the oldest newspapers in the country — he never said much in public, as if saying something might dilute his argument to his followers that the media is “the enemy.”

He sets the tone in many ways… A tone that in Trump World is nasty and anything but civil.

Just ask Selene San Felice, a reporter at the Capital Gazette who saw it all.

She was interviewed on CNN after the attack along with Phil Davis, the crime reporter who tweeted out the story as it happened as he crouched under his workspace.

When asked about the response from official Washington, she cursed in anger and pain and said “I’m going to need more than a couple days of news coverage and some thoughts and prayers because our whole lives have been shattered.”

She got a lot of support for those words. She also got angry messages suggesting she should have died in the attack.

Her response was this in a quote shared by the Capital Gazette:  “We shouldn’t have to die for a level of decency to be upheld.”

We shouldn’t have to die.

We need to be decent to each other.

While the funerals and memorials to the five dead in Annapolis were unfolding, there was another reminder of how far we need to go to be decent to each another.

In more than 700 cities and towns across America, marches were held to protest the Trump administration’s tough stand on undocumented immigrants — specifically, to call for the reunification of 2000 children separated from the parents when they were arrested along the border with Mexico.

Some of those demonstrations were in places with big immigrant populations, like New York City. Others were in rural and remote towns with few migrants at all.

The largest gathering was the one held in D.C where roughly 30,000 marchers rallied at a park across from the White House.

They marched behind a banner that read “Families Belong Together” and as if to underscore their point, moms and dads brought their own children — braving the extreme heat with little ones in strollers and older kids holding signs.

And it was the children who gave voice to their cause.

A 12-year-old girl from Florida, whose mother is undocumented, tearfully told the crowd that she worries each day that the government will come and take her mom away.

“I don’t understand why they are being so mean to us as children,” she said, adding, “Don’t they love their families too?”

It is the same message: “We need to be decent to each other.”

Let’s give the last word to the men and women of the Capital Gazette who ask us to remember that we are better than all this — that this should be a country based on decency and mutual respect.

In an open letter printed in the newspaper the Monday after all those vigils and marches that marked that weekend when June turned into July, they wrote:

“We believe in speaking for those who don’t have the power to speak for themselves. We believe in questioning authority.

We believe in reporting the news.

Our community has rallied around us to show they understand who we are and that we are not an enemy of the people.

We are your neighbors, your friends.

We are you.”


Paula Wolfson

Paula Wolfson is a veteran Washington correspondent who has covered three presidents and six presidential campaigns. She was the White House bureau chief for the Voice of America before switching to commercial radio, where she reported on science and health care policy, Recently she returned to her first love and is writing once again on American politics and foreign policy for halimiz.com

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