Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Americans, You Need to Do Better

In the last few months, there have been a rash of armed street robberies and shootings in my area. Last week one of my best friends witnessed a robbery and assault a block from my house in broad daylight. A 15-year-old shot himself in the leg by accident today. A man was shot and killed in front of my workplace last month. These are just a few of the incidents. In response to this, two days ago my work very publicly joined with other businesses in our neighbourhood, and with the mayor of Seattle, to announce we are banning guns in our stores. What this means is we put a sticker on the window that states no guns are permitted on the premises, and our neighbours are doing the same.

Until this happened, and until I read the resulting news stories about this, I didn't realize people could carry guns into stores. I had no fucking clue that people could just walk into our store with concealed guns.

Concealed. Fucking. Guns.

I'm not sure where to begin. How do I articulate my rage about this? How do I speak the shock and hurt I feel when presented with such disgusting behaviour?

Am I grateful to live in one of the most liberal cities in the States and to have a job that cares about my safety and well-being? Am I grateful to have people in my life willing to take these symbolic stances in support of what is, to me, the most basic of fucking common sense? Should I be grateful, or should I be simply appalled that such situations are rendered so necessary?

The backlash over this symbolic stance has been predictably as idiotic and stereotypically American as you can imagine: threats, overblown outcry, racism, made-up statistics, and sloganeering, all thrown about with a sick sense of entitlement, privilege, and patriarchy. Is it coincidence that all but one of the nasty comments left on the store's Facebook page was from a white man? 

America, you need to do better. You are capable of so much good, but your country is sick. You are sick. 

This is not the land of the strong and brave. This is not the land of truth nor justice. This is the land of the scared. Scared to go outside without a gun. What person would possibly think it is their right to go out in the world with the means and intent to fatally harm another human -- if the "right" situation arose?

At the heart of this -- perhaps even beyond and deeper than the absolute level of uneducated idiocy and thoughtless, inaccurate propaganda -- is the very foundation of American culture.  And those of us looking from the outside-in see this. We've known this for a long while.

This country is broken. 

American culture is sick in more ways than I can explain, but every part of its sickness, every one of its ailments, can be traced back to a single source. This country has made itself sick through its lack of trust. 

When your immediate response to a threat is to kill another person, society has failed you in ways I cannot begin to grasp, and I am so sorry for its failing. 

Society failed you when it told you people do not have equal worth. When you saw that you will experience life differently because of your race, gender, socio-economic situation, sexual orientation, education, religion, and other factors -- limitless in variety -- society failed you. We failed you. And we don't do enough to make it better. 

Too few even try. 

When I look at this insular, self-important country I see this sickness in every level of your society. You don't trust each other -- you let the negative possibilities shape your realities in such a way as to kill any positive developments. 

You deny each other basic health care, from preventative check-ups to life-saving surgeries, because you're afraid someone somewhere will in some way waste "your" money. 

Instead of helping another person, you instead choose to destroy lives, families, and communities because this is the more palatable option. 

You let people die. 

This is your choice. This is the reality you shape because you don't trust a fellow person to make decisions for themselves. Because you think you know better. Because you don't care. You don't even try.

When you don't try to understand, everything and everyone outside of you is Other.

Other is not human. Other is less than you.

This entitlement, this self-absorption, this complete lack of empathy has hurt your ability to trust another person so much you would rather they die than have a chance to form a human connection with you. Such a concept denotes the extent to which this society has failed to provide compassionate inclusion, or even empathetic understanding, of other people. 

There is no reason to kill another person. Not ever. Not ever, not for any reason. Yet in every level of American society this idea is manifest in reality.

What is it you think death can do that life cannot do better?

You've created a country where your life has no worth because you've attached it to everything that isn't human, that isn't actually you, or me, or us. In the US, if you don't look after yourself, no one else is going to look after you.

What have we done? How could we do this to each other? 

I'm sorry we failed you. I want to heal this hurt. 

But I need your trust. 

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