My parents taught me as a child to be far less concerned about what my peers thought about me than sticking to my own goals and values.
I’m sure your parents did that as well when they asked you if your best friend jumped off a cliff would you jump off as well?
I think that as Americans we have built into us a feeling that we go our own way and everyone else can either follow or be damned.
Perhaps many Americans wouldn’t find fascinating how the world is looking at us, but I do. As I’ve noted in this column before, my wife is an immigrant and she has many relatives living in her country of origin. Several have told me they believe the United States is a violent country based on what they have read and heard.
It is more and more difficult to counter that argument.
Der Spiegel, the venerable German news magazine’s headline for the Oregon shooter story was “Massacre at a U.S. College in Oregon: Once again America learns nothing.”
In the article it reads, “This routine, almost a ritual, begins at the moment that ‘Breaking News’ flickers across the screen. ‘Active shooter,’ that’s what they call it here – a term that has become common, and for which there’s no translation from the American. The ritual has its own vocabulary.”
Michael Pascoe wrote an editorial for the Sydney Morning Herald and said the following: “The US is too immature a society to be allowed to play with guns. It has never shed its Wild West mythology. Americans still use their courts to kill people, which sends a message in its own way. Read The New Yorker's account of the Rodricus Crawford case and see a state that thinks taking a life is a no big deal. It's a country that values property more than life.
“Unlike the US, we collectively decided to have a decent social safety net, the concept of a living wage and make good education freely available. Most of us are wary of those with extreme views of any kind. Inherent skepticism about church and state turns out to be not such a bad thing.
“Unlike Australia, the US is at war with itself, strongly divided on racial, religious, political and social lines. We have our problems, significantly worse in some places than others, but overall our gaps are bridgeable. The US seems to prefer to use its societal chasms as moats and defend their borders.”
In a story in Pakistan Today, an English language newspaper, the following was part of its coverage of the shooting: “school shootings are a disturbing reality of American life and many facilities have reinforced security in recent years, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.”
That’s from Pakistan where Al Qaeda and a branch of the Taliban operate. Our school violence is disturbing to them.
Here at home rather than focus on the larger issues the latest tragedy presents, my Facebook account has had plenty of memes and stories posted by people who are saying that gun control doesn’t work; that Americans need more guns; that a good guy with a gun stops a bad buy with a gun; that the shooter wasn’t Christian; and the racial makeup of the gunman has been obscured by the press.
What I didn’t see from my conservative friends was any examination of the wisdom that a legal gun owner – in this case the shooter’s mother – having a small arsenal in her house when a member of her family is suffering a mental health issue, which she has mentioned in press accounts. That was the situation in the Sandy Hook shootings, remember? A young man suffering from mental illness who had access to legally owned weapons.
So can we as a nation stop reducing this discussion to talking points and try to address some core issues? Whether you care or not, the whole world is watching.
Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.