Guns do Not Kill People, Americans Do


It might be considered ironic that the day after the last concealed weapons law in the US was struck down, making it legal to carry concealed weapons in all 50 states, that there was another mass shooting. Ironic would be the wrong word though. After all, a person who has been to 100 Barry Manilow concerts can't really claim they are wearing a Barry Manilow t-shirt ironically.

The reality is that Americans love guns, not for self defense but for killing.  The country was founded on guns, it was saved by guns and it was expanded by guns. Guns make up their folklore and it is primarily criminals, or heroes who operate outside the rules (vigilantes) who are mythologized: From Jesse James, Billy the Kid, George Custer and Wyatt Earp to Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger and Al Capone, just to name a few examples. Even serial killers enjoy a certain cult-celebrity status in the United States.

It is the same in fiction. Violent films, with lots of shooting, car chases and big explosions starring outlaws, vigilantes and cops who 'don't play by the rules' are the bread and butter of Hollywood.

Beyond that, American patriotism and nationalism are wrapped in the country's military history. "support the troops" is a chant in every conflict when, in truth, the "troops" are rarely supported after the war is over. It is the war, not the troops that Americans support. The American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I,  World War II and, to an extent, the Indian Wars all enjoy a prominent place in the cannon of American exceptionalism.

While Americans will, if you ask them, claim to be 'peace loving', they may be the most war like state in human history. In the approximately 240 year history of the U.S., they have rarely been at peace for more than a few years at a time. The Wikipedia list I linked to shows that it is more common for the U.S. to be involved in two or more conflicts than it is for the U.S. to be at peace. That list though doesn't tell the whole story. It doesn't include most of the covert actions that the U.S. has taken, through the CIA or other agencies.

The 'peace loving' Americans currently have soldiers in more than 150 countries around the world. The U.S. accounts for nearly 41% of global military spending (more than the next 14 countries combined), and is the world's largest weapons exporter. Also, as most people are aware, the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world and a higher violent crime rate than any other developed western country.

I do not say all of this to shame the United States, or to be 'anti-American'. I say it because it is all true. It is time to stop soft-balling the issue, to stop romanticizing, pretending and being 'diplomatic'. I'm sure you do 'know some really nice Americans', so do I. However, people around the world, and especially in the United States, need to realize and admit that America is a violent country. It is not video games, movies, comic books, rap music, Marilyn Manson or even the NRA that lead to violence. Violence, from military violence to civilian crime, is more a part of American culture and the American psyche than baseball, mom, hot dogs or apple pie.

Until Americans, of every political stripe and people around the world who need to interact with Americans, admit this and allow it to factor into their thinking there is no hope of realistically changing or mitigating it.

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