Saturday, 15 December 2012

Tragedy. Outrage. Annoyance. Shame.

I was in work last night when a friend came up to me and asked me this question: "You know when you lived in America... Did you have a gun?"

My response was: "Um... Do you mean did my family have a gun or did I have a gun?"


Well, you all know that I have never owned a gun. Ever. I wouldn't because I'm a crap shot and any weapon you're not an expert with becomes a weapon someone else can use against you. I've played enough CoD to know that getting shot with your own gun sucks. It's a practical decsion on my part, not moral.

But my family?

That's a different story.

When I was a child, my parents had a gun cabinet - which was never locked - loaded with all kinds of guns. (Not to mention some bullets that were, without a doubt, illegal to own.) But my dad hunted so I never really thought about it.

In addition to rifles, my dad kept a hand gun by the bed, my mom used to carry one (illegally) in her purse. I remember there being one in a kitchen cupboard at one point.

Gun-totting Republicans just about covers it.

Now... My mom will tell you that "We had loaded guns around the children all the time but we taught them to respect them," blah blah blah.


They never taught us anything of the sort. Luckily, we never shot ourselves our or friends - BUT WE COULD HAVE. Anytime.

Think about that one.

I know because one day, after an argument with my baby brother, he picked up a loaded gun and pointed it directly at my head. I was about 15. He was about 12. I could have died that day, at my brother's hands because my parents believed in the right to bear arms. 

That's the kind of house I was raised in: one that believed that every person on the face of the planet has a right to a gun and - GODDAMMIT we're gonna exercise that right! Even if it means a twelve-year-old boy shooting his sister in the face over a silly little argument.

Still think that everyone should have a gun?

Well, now. I didn't hear about the shooting in Connecticut until much later that night but I know that they must have been talking about it at work because why else would that kind of question come up? And then I realised, to them, I represent every stereotype they have about Americans. And I was ashamed.

I AM ashamed.

I'm ashamed because I know that, among a collage of photos on my desk, there is a photo of my husband posed in front of an American flag with an assault rifle. It's not there because I believe in "AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!" it's there because it reminds me of a great time we had together, shooting at pumpkins with my brother (yeah, the one who could have killed me) a few years ago.

But it won't be there on Monday.

Because I'm ashamed that I'm playing to that stereotypical image of American ignorance that every person I work with has garnered from the media. And that makes me sad because it kind of kills that memory for me. Don't get me wrong... It's nowhere near the level of grief that I know is sweeping the country right now in the aftermath of the shooting, but it's personal.

Somewhere, four thousand miles away, a family is trying to figure out how to go on. My biggest worry today? I don't know how I'm going to get my new fridge through the kitchen door. Makes me feel pretty lousy....

But someone once told me that you can't measure your pain against anyone else's because pain is personal, it belongs to you. Yours will always feel worse to you, no matter how small it is, and that's okay.

So it's okay for me to feel a little bit sad when I pull that photo down on Monday. A little sad and a little angry too - because some dickhead who never should have had access to a gun anyway took away one of my happiest memories from my marriage. It isn't as bad as having someone take away your own flesh and blood but it still fucking hurts.

The shame?

That's something else altogether.

I am ashamed, not of myself, but of my country. That THIS is the image of ourselves that we are spreading around the world. I'm just one little American girl, alone in a foreign country, but when people look at me, and talk to me, they see all the worst of American society. Even though I have never (and will never) own a gun myself, the people around me can only see the reason that shootings like yesterday's take place.

Thanks a fucking lot. As if being an American abroad wasn't hard enough.

A little angry? I take that back - I am fucking OUTRAGED. How could we, as a nation, continue to allow things like this to happen? Is our pride so great that we will continue to allow children to die - wether it be at the hands of a crazed adult or at the hands of their angry little brothers - because GODDAMMIT THEY'RE OUR GUNS AND YOU'RE NOT TAKING THEM AWAY!

America. Fuck yeah.

I ashamed on behalf of my country. Personally? I believe in gun control, in getting guns out of the hands of Joe Blow, in teaching gun awareness - and I refuse to be ashamed of that belief.

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