Even though I have lived in the USA for nearly 11 years, there is still a great deal that I do not understand about the American psyche. I love this country and its wonderful people. They have welcomed me here warmly. I want to understand better.
So, I’ve tried to dream up an imaginary parallel experience to help me feel how many of my American friends might be feeling right now. This is it:
Australians are a beach loving people. All the major cities of Australia are on the coast. 85% of Australia’s population live within one hour’s drive of a great beach. And our beaches are amazing! Some of the worlds best. Most Australians love going to the beach and swimming in the surf as often as possible. It’s a great place to be and it’s great fun. Although the right to swim in the ocean is not (to my knowledge) written into the Australian Constitution, it might as well be. We consider it a pastime that’s more Aussie than just about anything else.
So, I’ve imagined that there has been a terrible tragedy. Twenty-seven people died – including twenty young children – in a freak surf accident. This sort of thing has happened before, but never this bad. Between the shark attacks, the unpredictable tides, sudden storms and the like, the Australian population is sick and tired of these tragedies. Something must be done!
Supported by a swell of strong emotion amongst the general public, the government has decided to take affirmative action so that this never happens again. There will now be a ban on entering the ocean past the depth of your knees. The government has outlawed the ownership of surf board, wind surfers, boogie boards, and several other ocean-going devises now deemed too dangerous for members of the general public to own. Funded by a tax hike, the government is buying all these items from the public at market value and having them destroyed.
How do I feel? I think I feel a little bit more like some of my American friends who have enjoyed – as a constitutional right since very near the birth of their great nation – the right to bear arms. I feel violated! I can think of plenty of other steps that could be taken to stop these deaths, but it must not take away my right to swim in the ocean! It is not the fact that we love to swim in the sea that’s the problem here!
Okay, I think I understand a little more. To my US friends, sorry for not understanding better before now. I can still only imagine how this is for you. The analogy does not bear close scrutiny, but it has helped me. Sorry, also, if this analogy is too trite.
I now think I have felt a little of what you must be feeling and thinking.
I don’t imagine that the opinion of one foreigner is really going to matter much, but here it is anyway. Even after considering my analogy – and trying to feel what opponents of gun law reform in the US feel as best I can – I still think the assault rifles have got to go. Not all the guns. Just the really big, fast shooting, big-number-of-bullets ones that are needed for mass slaughter. I cannot see how Americans need all these military-styled assault rifles in their homes ready and available for the next person who snaps.
Dear American friends – before nailing your flag too firmly to the mast of either side of the gun issue, please do your best to empathize with those on the other side of the hill. I hope we can all try to feel how the families of the people who died at Sandy Hook School on December 15th must be feeling as a Christmas passes without their loved ones.
Just my opinion. You’re welcome to disagree. But if you want to express your disagreement in writing here, please keep it impersonal, respectful and discerning. Thanks.