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EDITORIAL: The man in the corner

As political forums go, the one sponsored by the League of Women Voters last week was tame.

Local citizens packed a community meeting room at the Rust Library in Leesburg to hear and ask questions of three candidates for the Virginia House of Delegates.

The faces of those in attendance were familiar: citizens representing both political parties, neighbors, families, young couples, supporters and a few children in their mother’s arms.

They munched on brownies and chocolate-chip cookies, submitted expected questions about local issues, listened and applauded politely as the candidates breezed through their answers, never seeming to offend anyone.

Few noticed the man in the corner.

The law enforcement officer was dressed in black. Holstered weapons hung from his midriff. Non-threatening, he stood quietly, alone in the corner, surveying the scene.

Perhaps it is a small matter when an armed officer is required at a community political forum. Such a precaution comes as no surprise in these times. Still, it alarms us, causing us to hold tight to our children and look to the corners of daily life.

From Las Vegas the echoes of carnage come from the largest shooting massacre in the nation’s history. So, too, come stories of heroism and courage at a country music festival targeted unimaginably by a killer with an arsenal of legally acquired weapons.

We are numb. Words fail. It just doesn’t make sense that this has happened again in our nation.

The nightmares stream back: Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Roanoke and Orlando. We see the faces of victims: school children, college students, young journalists conducting an interview and vibrant young adults celebrating life at a music festival.

Given the extent to which we accept guns and -- truth be respected -- gun violence, the presence of the man in the corner at a community event may seem insignificant. We’ve come to expect him at public events and in public places. Such is the absurdity of our freedom and security.

Yes, we have the right to bring guns, even the most devastating ones, into public life. That is also our problem.

We are armed and dangerous. We are fearful. We are angry. We are sad. We are afraid. We are suspicious. We view our fellow citizens as enemies in a culture war.

Now, we come to the corners and shadows our our communities. Look closer. The man in the corner is you and me.

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