Watching TV and reading the news on the internet from afar I have developed a warped view of the US leaving me feeling out of touch and somewhat scared to go back and resettle there. Media plays a large role and hearing about the American dream shattered with sniper killers, rampage shooting rampages, and doomsday preppers that don’t bode well for my confidence in American culture.
Of course the US is a huge country so the news isn’t a reflection of everyday life in every corner, but does warp ones view, especially someone like me who questions both the future of America and more importantly, the safety of the population. My view is just that and is biased because maybe it helps rationalize my decision to live overseas, makes me feel better and not miss life in the US.
Since first writing this article events have really taken a dive for the worse with mass shootings at an elementary school in Connecticut and uncountable random acts of violence in the news with homicides, kidnappings, shooting rampages and bombings. Does this mean that American society is deteriorating as a whole or is this just single point of view?
Pointing the finger at the NRA and gun laws that allow semi-automatic weapons is a good start, but it’s not as easy as that because guns are just as much a part of the “American Way” as are Baseball, Apple Pie and Cars. You change the equation and you’d have equal amount of uproar. Tomorrow I declare we ban eating apple pie and there’s a restriction for how many apples you can buy in case you’re planning on making your own.
Owning a gun is not just a constitutional right, but it’s an emotional attachment for many with reasons such as generations of families have had guns for livelihood, sport and protection. Who’s to argue with a person in the middle of Alaska with a population of 100 in a hundred mile square radius if he or she wants to go shoot an elk for a living?
Where it gets complicated is the direct correlation of gun laws to deaths of children, another emotional argument since nobody would say a gun is more important than a child’s life. If we change the factor to cars or sugar, people are less emotional because they don’t see these issues as violent or outrageous, but let’s pretend the government said you can only drive 15 mph to avoid major collision accidents or that you can only add a teaspoon of sugar to food served to children where such dietary restrictions have already been proposed in some states.
It would take a polarizing shift for all Americans to change their view on doing without driving cars fast or eating low a sugar diet even though it’s possible. Similarly, guns and violence are ingrained in the American culture from the beginning of our country’s history and glorified in famous movies like Bonnie and Clyde, Dirty Harry, Rambo, The Godfather and Pulp Fiction.
The subject that people are paying less attention to is mental health. While violence has been around since the beginning of time the spur of mass rampages is as much a result of gun ownership as it is about individual’s inability to cope with depression or stress. I would go as far as far as to say that this is a result of isolation since people often say that, “he was a nice kid who was shy and often kept to himself.” While parents might think they know what their children are doing, they are not in touch with how are they feeling. Society has become so consumed in being connected and plugged in whether it’s updating one’s status on Facebook, uploading a selfie on Instagram or playing video games yet less in touch with one another in our daily lives.
Americans have historically developed an attitude that we can overcame hardship at home or overseas and we’re not the passive one’s, but the one’s who stood up to something and didn’t take any shit. Tragedies like 9/11, shooting massacres, and bombings undoubtedly unite Americans who are unwavering in their patriotism, but then spring new fears like doubting homeland security and overlooking the warning signs of mental instability.
Recently I heard a parent of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings talk about the large number certainty theorem (aka Law of Large Numbers) on NPR saying that “If the base is big enough,” she explains, “even though the probability is small, things will happen with certainty.” Statistics show that if you have a population like the US with something like 47% are gun owners, plus such a large base, x percent of killers, then the probability of something like a mass shooting rampage is likely. Since the shootings there have been more random acts of violence on the news with a mentally ill woman pushing a defenseless man onto the train tracks in NY, plus more shootings in Aurora, Colorado. While the causes are unpredictable, the likelihood is sadly certain.