Two more mass shootings over the weekend, two more ideological battlegrounds created in their wake. First in El Paso, Texas, then in Dayton, Ohio, both attacks occurring in less than 24 hours.

“Dayton is still recovering from the tornadoes, the Klan rally, and now this. It’s been a very painful summer,” said Amanda Austin, 35, a Portage native who’s lived in Dayton since 2011.

Early Sunday, a 24-year-old Dayton man identified as Connor Betts opened fire with a .223-caliber high-capacity rifle at a popular entertainment district in the city. He killed nine seemingly random bystanders, including his own sister, wounding 27 others. He surely would have killed or wounded more people – Betts was equipped with 100-round drum magazines – but police responded quickly and killed him.

“It’s been a very complicated day here,” Austin told me Sunday. “A lot of us are kind of still processing everything.”

Most Americans are also still processing everything. And, unfortunately, this process typically comes with placing blame by transforming another bloody crime scene into another ideological battleground. We’ve seen this happen in dozens of cities, towns and schools across the country. We witnessed it once again Saturday after a gunman killed 22 people and wounded dozens more at a crowded Walmart store in El Paso.

[Police identified that gunman as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, who surrendered to police after being confronted on a sidewalk close to the store.

Before victims’ bodies were removed from that store, Americans began the process of pointing fingers, assigning culpability, and sorting through the carnage to justify their political or ideological stance. This seems to be our way of coping with mass shootings in our weapon-friendly country.

We turn into forensic scientists, biased of course, with our own theories on why these gunmen did what they did. Was he a racist? Was he mentally ill? Was his weapon obtained legally? Was it an assault-style weapon? Was he motivated by our president’s rhetoric?

Only after aligning ourselves with answers that appear to fit into our ideology, we then feel compelled to share our stance with the world, typically on social media. I’m no different. On Monday morning, I posted this observation on my social media sites.

“President Trump gave a speech from the White House this morning in the wake of weekend shootings. He called the shootings ‘barbaric slaughters,’ saying ‘our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy’ and the ‘evil attacks’ are crimes ‘against all humanity.’ But I’m more interested in Trump’s tweets, rallies and rhetoric, which sound nothing like that desperately needed speech, whoever wrote it.”

That post sparked more than 250 differing comments from my social media readers, including from Austin, a Portage High School graduate who spoke from a firsthand familiarity of her current city.

“It's been nothing but people who don't live here saying things like ‘It's a false flag’ or ‘But he's a Democrat.’ It's cruel, disrespectful, and separated from the reality of what happened here,” Austin said.

“If he chose Ned Peppers, he chose a microcosm of Dayton,” she told me, referring to the bar where the gunman opened fire. “Ned Peppers is an odd place with everything from college kids to locals to suburbanites.”

The killer in Dayton was a left-wing, anti-police, pro-violence individual, police said.

“In my opinion, if it was a politically motivated shooting in which a leftist wanted to shoot conservatives, he wouldn’t have come into the city, and he wouldn’t have chosen Ned Peppers,” Austin said. “He’d stay out in Greene or pick a bar with different clientele. Look at the victims, including a local African-American mom, a white man, a grad student from Pennsylvania, and his own suburbanite sister.”

Once again we’re left with a jumble of facts, clues and evidence to piece together a puzzle we’ll never complete, and never understand. So we cling to our personal biases and our political ideologies. Was the killer a liberal or a conservative? A racist or a socialist? A white supremacist or an illegal immigrant? As if our answers will give us the missing puzzle pieces we so desperately need.

In today’s America, it’s as if we can’t hold a casual conversation without political discord eventually hijacking our discussion. Remember how the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks alerted us to the dangers of international terrorism? These mass shootings are repeatedly alerting us to the dangers of domestic terrorism.

Remember when we were genuinely shocked at news of a mass shooting, and we felt compelled to know everything we could about the shooter in an attempt to understand his motives or madness? Those days are over for me. I’m tired of trying to understand insanity or evil or hate or whatever pulls all these triggers.

The killer in El Paso is a hate-filled, anti-immigrant, white supremacist, police said.

“Just another domestic terror attack without any so-called ‘good guys with guns’ arriving on their white horses to take out the bad guys,” I wrote on social media afterward.

The Dayton killer fired 41 shots in less than 30 seconds before police killed him. How could have any civilians with guns reacted quickly enough in that situation? Our country feels like a deadly game of Russian Roulette. We leave our homes each day for “soft target” places like stores or bars or parks not knowing if the proverbial gun’s chamber is empty or loaded.

“We’re going to take care of this,” President Trump promised.

Who? How? When?

Meanwhile, Americans are doing their best to deal with the carnage at every city that has now become an ideological battleground.

“Dayton is definitely in mourning right now,” Austin said. “But it's amazing to see how the community is pulling itself together. There are memorials set up, and there was a service and vigil.”

This is the all-too-familiar pattern. Mass shooting. Outrage and accusations. Funerals and burials. Memorials and vigils. Thoughts and prayers. Repeat. Which city will be next?
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