I know that this blog isn’t read by many people, and that is by design, since I have gone out of my way to keep it as under the radar as possible. As such, it’s a spot where I can comfortably post poetry and art without worrying about ‘putting myself out there’ and having my words or works shared and exposed to the eyes of strangers, for whom I have an inherent distrust.
I try, I really try hard, to stay out of the political fray, which seems to have become even larger than politics and embedded itself in our very society, our culture, even our psyche. On every issue, we are exhorted –perhaps even obligated – to cleave to one side or the other.
I awoke this morning to the news of the shooting in Las Vegas. If that in and of itself was not bad enough, I watched on social media as friends jumped into the fray, predictably, with the appropriate factionalized responses and catchphrases. Most of them were railing against the NRA, demanding how many more massacres it will take to put an end to the gun problem, just as they have been demanding for years now, after Sandy Hook, after Umpqua, after Charleston, etc, etc, etc. On the other side, the NRA apologists were just as vociferous, standing firm and unwavering behind the rights granted by the Second Amendment, and arguing speciously that the only way to stop bad guys with guns is having good guys with guns. Saying that drunk driving kills more people than guns do. And so on.
I don’t know if Americans realize how alien a concept it is, this proliferation of gun ownership among the general public. Are they also ignorant of the statistics of death by guns in the U.S.A. versus most other nations in the world? Can they not see the correlation?
As a Canadian, I can’t really speak to the peculiarly American mentality regarding guns. What I can say is that when I travel to the States, I experience a visceral sense of unease as soon as I cross the border. I feel unsafe. I sense that I’ve left a safe haven behind. Conversely, when I return to Canada, I am invariably surprised by the sense of relief that floods in, because my unconscious no longer has to worry about guns.
It’s the little things, but they are everywhere. Not just the sight of the ubiquitous gun and ammunition shops. It’s about going to a gas station in Anytown and having to negotiate payment via a bulletproof glass window and a tray that is passed through a gap at its base. It’s about visiting landmarks and museums, such as the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, and seeing decals on the entry doors stating (requesting optimistically?) ‘’firearm-free zone’’. It’s about worrying that accidentally cutting off a driver on the highway or offending someone in a restaurant could end with a bullet. It’s about being aware that in all likelihood 50 percent of the people that you cross paths with may have a gun on their person.
America was born of violence; the gun has always had a role, historically, be it the Revolutionary War or the taming of the West. America has come by its cowboy reputation honestly and overtly, and it has become a world power whose strength and courage cannot be doubted. Manifest Destiny and all that. But a hell of a lot of blood was spilled to get there. And the character thusly forged is one that cannot be disentangled from the gun. They are one and the same. The milk cannot be un-spilled.
This morning, something changed in me. I lost the sympathy that erstwhile I had. America has made its bed. And now it may lie down in it.