We need unprecedented action. Now.

We are a nation wedded to violence, and we always have been. What are we going to do about it?

SAXTONS RIVER — When news of another school slaughter broke, this time again in Texas, the bile that rose in my throat was as bitter as the memory of Columbine, Newtown, Parkland and the other grievous incidents of gun violence in schools - all 554 of them since 1999, as NPR has reported.

From the Carolinas to California, 27 school shootings are among the 214 mass shootings this year alone in the United States, and it's only May.

But this is not a time for numbers.

It is a time for unprecedented action born of rage about what is happening in our country.

It is also time to answer burning questions: Why is it happening, and what are we going to do about it?

It is a time to shout our disgust and dismay, to demand gun legislation now, and to take action to end the slaughter of innocent children.

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Here is what I believe must happen now.

• All living presidents (with the exception of Donald Trump) should stand together before Congress and declare: We are done with thoughts and prayers. We are done with the platitudes that surround grief and loss. We are done with inaction and with turning the other way because political power is more important than loving our babies (especially among those who champion fetuses but ignore the needs of living children).

• We must go on strike, because that is what it will take - teachers, clergy, workers, moms, women and men alike. Call for and participate in a national strike against violence and the insanity of mass murder. Bring down the economy as well as the evil that prevails on Capitol Hill if that's what it takes to stop the killing.

• We must call it what it is: a public health epidemic, not a gun violence issue or mental health issue. We can and must learn the lessons of pioneering health communication campaigns, including - against all odds - the successful fight against the tobacco industry, which saved the lives of hundreds of thousands and demonstrated that people are capable of change.

• It is vital for Americans to vote, this year and in 2024, with all the energy a soul can muster. We must stand in line for days if that's what it takes to be counted among the family of humankind, even the families who must now endure unimaginable and unending sadness.

• Most importantly, Americans who want the massacres of innocents to stop must demand an end to the filibuster and lobby for killing the Second Amendment - the only way to halt the madness we've grown used to.

Forget appeasing the irresponsible, vicious right wing with calls for limited legislation. We must go for the one thing that can stop gun violence faster and more conclusively than anything else - an end to an irrelevant and antiquated amendment written before the invention of bullets and rifles that tear bodies apart in seconds.

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I believe that what lies at the heart of the tragic problem that is ours alone among developed countries is this: We are a nation wedded to violence, and we always have been.

From the time white men first set foot on American soil, guns have been used in genocides to eliminate non-white Native American peoples.

During slavery, guns were a way (along with physical punishment) to ensure forced labor and to instill terror among human beings who were bought and sold.

Throughout our entire history, guns have been part of our increasingly lethal war arsenals, and today the sale of weapons in the U.S. is higher than it has ever been, while the people least likely to be killed by a bullet are made exceedingly rich.

Killing, it appears, is in our DNA. Mass murder has come to define us, whether through war, incarceration, racist law enforcement, the consequences of ignoring poverty while clamoring for personal and financial power, or random gun violence.

All of it results in deep-seated human pain in a nation that is “exceptional” in all the wrong ways. We must end our killing fields if we are ever to have pride in a country that asks us to pledge our allegiance.

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We have become a country in which the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, appeared via pre-recorded video at the NRA's convention, held in his state, three days after 19 children were brutally shot to death there.

Appearing in person at that convention were a former president who tried to overthrow an election and a senator from Texas who thinks we need more guns.

We have become a country that exposes the personification of evil and reminds us how often scum rises to the top.

So I say this to Gov. Abbott: Have you, at long last, no decency?

And to Ted Cruz, I say: You are not sorry. You are guilty. You have colluded with mass murderers. May the words spoken to me by a 4-year-old child ring in your adult ears for all eternity: “Sometimes sorry is not good enough.”

As for Donald Trump, there are no words.

To all the others akin to these monsters, I say only this: We condemn your evil. We will inscribe your names and your deeds and your selfishness in the world's history books.

And we will celebrate the end of your cruelty for all our days.

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