Through the Eyes of Others – “America – A Baby Nation”

Through the Eyes of Others – “America – A Baby Nation”

I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated understanding other people and their opinions. Sometimes they coincide with my own opinions, and at other times are completely the opposite. Whatever the topic and wherever on earth, it allows me to understand the diversity of thought and the processes that go into formulating  beliefs.

Three or four months out of the year,  we travel through many different social biomes.   In one breath, we attend a traditional Lao Wedding & Lao New Year Celebration, a blessing from an Aztec Spiritual Leader, a night or two spent in the R.V at the home of a World Bank board member, the next night camped underneath an Interstate overpass in Bloods & Crips territory, underneath Southwark bridge in London with Bulgarian and Romany street buskers,  and later enjoying friendships that span a rainbow of diversity. Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Animist and Atheist, a curious mix of much of humanity.   We have many things in common,  we like each other, and we enjoy each other’s company. We often acknowledge that we come from places with limited points of view and yet we are all big enough to listen to one another.

About 15 or 20 years ago we hosted a Japanese friend and during his stay with us a massacre occurred in California at a McDonald’s restaurant. We all sat transfixed watching the television.  His area of expertise was international public relations.   I felt comfortable asking him what he thought of American and its propensity for guns and violence.   Although he was a very polite in his demeanor, he held his composure and smiled.  I reasoned his smile contained some contempt. He then said to me, “You wonder why you have gun violence?    In Japan we do not have gun violence because we do not have guns.   It has nothing to do with ‘the right to bear arms philosophy.”

His contempt was brimming, and I could see that he thought my question was exceedingly philosophic and not based in reality. I seemed to have struck a nerve: Americans try to put their guns and their gun violence into a philosophical question when they really just have more  guns than anybody on the planet. Please don’t bother me with such a question. You can debate your high handed philosophy —  all by yourself.

Though he was an invited friend in my house, he was agitated by my simple question. He was touched and anguished by the horror that he had just witnessed on American television. His comment was out of character of any Japanese person, and I could tell that he was quite indignant being asked my simple question.

Today, I sit across the table from a friend and young philosopher. She speaks to me with better English than I can speak to her in French. I respect her and her understanding of world & human behavior. She is a mere 22 years old and is well-versed in French, English and American literature.  I am impressed with her depth and breadth of knowledge at such a young age.  She has quizzed me on my understanding and thoughts on and of  American literature and philosophy. Alas, I have fallen a bit short! It is the second time in two years that I have sat across the table from her and discussed American violence.

Today, yet , another travesty — the Sandy Hook massacre, dozens of little children and teachers dead.

I muster the voice to ask her what she thinks of America and its propensity for gun violence?   She hesitates and is a bit reluctant to express her opinion — but I can tell that she has one.

I press her, and with some hesitation she  tells me that we are just a “Baby Nation.”

Tell me again?

And she states,  “You are just a BABY NATION.

“America is a Baby Nation. You have just finished fighting the Indian’s and you are still scared and frighten.

I ask, what?

She tells me: “Historically you have just arrived on a new continent and have just finished fighting the Indians, and you are still afraid. You hide your fear by saying it is a Second Amendment right and patriotic but really, you are still afraid.

“You have just finished fighting the Indians. You are not capable of being rational. In Europe we have spent hundreds of years creating freedom and understanding individual rights. You are babies in this logical progression. It will be a long time before you can understand rational/irrational behavior.”

“You are a beacon of freedom, but look at your history of crazy gun violence. You need your guns to make you feel safe. From a European perspective, you are a ‘frightened people,’ and your guns make you feel safe. In Europe, we do not have guns and very few people die from this sort of violence. It will be a long time before you can overcome your fear. You arrived on the North American shore with guns to defend and protect you from others. Why do you think that you could put them down in the course of a few generations? You have a long way to go before you are not frightened. You need your guns to make you feel safe.

“Maybe in a few more generations, you will come to understand that it is more than guns that make you feel you have power.”

Bill Keitel

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