The TV screen today looks like the vision of a demented performance artist. You can click from images of wildly cheering crowds in a Manhattan canyon celebrating what 25 young man did on a baseball field to talking heads and replays of a massacre of other young people in Texas and then suddenly to an Orlando, Florida office building for the familiar confusion in the first moments after another shooting spree.
This is a portrait of 21st century America, light and dark, torn by high emotions in a new Age of Anxiety, worlds away from the black-and-white vision of "High Noon" on Turner Classic Movies last night ending with a simple facedown between good and evil.
After the news of Ft. Hood yesterday, the President came forward with prayers for the victims and their families, promising to find out what happened and why but, for all his eloquence, Barack Obama is at a loss to make sense of the senseless. In the mad mosaic of our era, he is even accused of "frightening insensitivity" for that failure.
For a moment, real life has pushed political rhetoric to the background but when the confetti has been swept up and the bodies buried, America will still be torn by the fears and hatreds raging through its bloodstream as unemployment reaches double digits.
This weekend, many will be looking to the Mourner-in-Chief for a "teachable" moment in Texas, even as the atmosphere resembles that in which John F. Kennedy went there on another November day 46 years ago.
We have learned so much since then but, even with all the heightened security, can a voice of faith and reason do anything to bring us together? Less than ten months after he took office, Barack Obama keeps facing one "High Noon" moment after another.