Just as a child is the manifestation of the family and cultural environment in which they are raised, and until they know otherwise, so are a people the manifestation of the country and culture in which they are raised, until they know otherwise. It’s a loose argument with many variables coming into play, but generally speaking it is basically true. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this view point. Firstly, the great immigration multi-cultural movements of the 1970s and 1980s produced large culturally homogenized immigrant communities within Western countries and their cities, rather than fully assimilated, multi-cultural societies living together in happiness, harmony and peaceful contentment.
While multi-cultural polices were intended to engage people in cultural dialogue and celebrate a kind of unity through diversity, for the most part they produced cultural isolation. For example, individuals who migrated to the West from countries like China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Lebanon, and the sub-Saharan African countries brought with them their own religious and cultural values and seldom assimilated into their new homelands, preferring to live in splendid isolation from their new found compatriots to live and raise their children firstly, as indigenous to the culture of their parents and secondly, as citizens and Nationals of their newly adopted country. This practice led several heads of State, including David Cameron of the United Kingdom, Angela Merkel of Germany and former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard to question the efficacy, success and suitability of multi-culturalism in the 21st century.
Secondly, children are shaped psychologically, emotionally, and physically through the kind of family environment and experiences they undergo in their early years and throughout their childhood and adolescence. There are many proverbs which confirm this assertion as well as evidence from psychology and psychiatry. “He’s a chip off the old block” and “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” are two popular maxims. And the ominous “The father eats sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge” has been serialized in movies, television and novels like ‘The Prince of Tides’, ‘Brothers and Sisters” and ‘Angela’s Ashes’. Freud, Jung, Reich and their subsequent protégés wrote extensively and argued that children will reflect the values, attitudes and opinions of their parents, and if you spend a few hours counseling and supporting children you get a very clear picture of what their parents are like and the kinds of events that are unfolding within the private rooms of the family home.
But can the same be said of citizens of a country? To what extent are nationals of Nation States products of their specific cultural environment and experiences? History and Religion provide quite a definitive answer here. Early Christendom under the Papal States, Germany under the National Socialists, and Japan under the Militarists produced a citizenry who showed deference if not a blind obedience to the State. Contemporary China and Vietnam under the Communists, 21st century Iran ruled by a hardline Islamic Theocracy, the Nanny State of Singapore and most Western Nations including the United States of America produce for the most part a fairly compliant and subservient citizenry. Those who rebel or are insubordinate or act in defiance of the State are sought out and punished.
It is only within this social, cultural and political context that one can begin to make any sense of the killings emerging out of the State sanctioned and supported gun ownership laws in the United States of America. The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America states “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed”. This amendment, part of the Bill of Rights was adopted in 1791, 8 years after the American War of Independence and seventy years before the American Civil War. The use of guns in this context was predicated on a belief that one will be safer with a gun rather than without one. Moreover, it was fabricated through deplorable propaganda which suggested that gun ownership fostered and encouraged personal and societal virtue. Thomas Jefferson advised his nephew thus:
“as to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body, and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun, therefore, be the constant companion of your walks.” (Foley, 1967)
It seems to me, and a great number of people throughout the world, and even perhaps in the USA that arms bearing combined with civic virtue is an erroneous and very precarious argument upon which to build a case for private gun ownership in the 21st century. More recently, the unabated carnage of adults and children going around shooting and killing supports such an opinion. The cold-blooded murder of Australian Chris Lane, by three bored teenagers as he jogged peacefully along a street in Duncan, Oklahoma, and the savage unprovoked murder of an 87 year old woman by her 8 year old grandson in Louisiana, after he’d played the violent, anti-social video game Grand Theft Auto represent a decline in the respect for life and the rise of an increasingly lawless and anarchic society held together through The Second Amendment.
Gun related deaths and massacres are much higher in the USA than in countries comparable to it in economic, social and political terms. Hand guns and high powered weaponry were used in the Virginia Tech shootings, Binghamton massacre, Fort Hood massacre, Oikos University shooting, and 2011 Tucson shooting. Assailants with multiple weapons committed the Aurora Theater shooting, and the Columbine High School and the Sandy Hook’s massacres. (Wikipedia, 2013)
Australia has almost eliminated gun related violence since it enacted tough legislation following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in the Australian State of Tasmania. 35 people were killed and many more injured by a young man armed with an assault rifle. The dark side of democracy in the United States of America seems to be its unwillingness to reflect; self examine and agree on relevant civil virtues for the 21st century. Raising citizens on civil virtues such as the right to bear arms promotes and glorifies weaponry, endorses gun violence as de rigueur and as natural way of life, and encourages lawlessness. Since the Second Amendment of 1791, the United States of America has enacted the the National Firearms Act of 1934; the Gun Control Act of 1968; the Firearm Owners Protection Act, also known as the McClure-Volkmer Act in 1986; the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993; the Violent Crime, and the Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban, the Lautenberg Amendment in 1997 (Wikipedia, 2013), yet mass killings and shooting continue to increase exponentially and go on unabated in the house divided. It is time to repeal The Second Amendment and work towards building a more harmonious, trusting and peaceful society, rather than one ruled by fear and a gun.
Foley, J. (1967). The Jefferson Cyclyopedia 318. New York: Russell & Russell.
Wikipedia. (2013, August 22). Gun Violence in the United States. Retrieved August 26, 2013, from Wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States