The short answer is, that you don’t.
Expat Claptrap is meant to be funny. Sometime, maybe I succeed in making it so, probably a lot of the time I don’t. But that is what I’m trying. It’s right there in the title- it’s claptrap from an expat’s perspective. My “mission statement” is to poke fun of Britain from an American perspective, and/or to poke fun of America from the perspective of someone living in Britain.
Usually each side of the pond thinks they’ve got the other figured out. British people are amazingly well-informed about American culture and politics, but they often miss important details and subtleties about America and instead traffic in lazy stereotypes. They see us as their slow-witted, unsophisticated and violent cousins. Americans don’t tend to think about Britons much at all, but when they do, they also trade in old archetypes- seeing a small, polite country of tea-drinkers that they patronisingly think they have nothing to learn from.
I like to puncture those cliches, with the “insider knowledge” of having lived in both countries. To show people that they’re perhaps not as clever or well-informed as they think they are. To demonstrate that Americans can learn from the British, and the British can learn from the Americans.
But whenever there is a mass shooting in the USA, the formula breaks. And it happens with depressing regularity. The thing is, there’s nothing Britain, or the rest of the world can learn from America about these horrific massacres. It’s America alone that needs to do some learning, and it doesn’t want to – it’s got it’s ears covered and its’ singing “LaLaLaLaLaLaLaLa,” while the rest of the world shakes its collective head with pity and disgust.
How can I blog about funny differences in our cultures, when the biggest, most topical difference being laid bare at the moment, is that Americans are seen by the rest of the world as being too stupid, violent or stubborn to do anything about their frequent gun massacres?
I can’t puncture that notion, because it’s entirely true.
Intellectually dishonest untruths we lie to ourselves about, falsely
I don’t really feel like my dumb little comedy blog is qualified to debate the merits of the second amendment:
“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.”
Maybe this means everyone in America should have a gun, a machine gun or even a bazooka. Maybe that’s America’s business and the rest of the world should keep out of it. But there is one lie associated with the pro-gun crowd that I just can’t abide, and that the rest of the world sees right through:
More guns=more safety
America’s National Rifle Association tells us that the more guns we have, the safer we will be. After a 1996 gun massacre in Australia, they passed strict gun control measures, and there hasn’t been a mass shooting in that country since. Not one. In the USA they happen around once every two months.
If the NRA would just come out and say “We accept that America has frequent gun massacres, but we see this as part of the price we must pay for our second amendment rights.”
Instead they sell falsehoods: “If there were more guns in that church, someone could have stopped that shooter. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun. Arm the teachers and you’ll stop school shootings. More guns equals fewer crimes.”
All of this is so patently obviously untrue to anyone who lives in Britain, Europe, or any wealthy western democracy where guns are rare and mass shootings virtually unheard of, that it does more damage to America’s image than the massacres themselves.
If any of this were true- America, with the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, would be the safest place on the planet, and not the only place where gun massacres have become an accepted part of life.
Why not be honest about it? “We Americans are okay with a couple of dozen children and church-goers being massacred every year, because it’s a price we’re willing to pay to keep having easy access to guns.”
It’s a horrible notion, but at least it’s an honest one. For the love of God, stop pretending that guns make society safer. It’s ridiculously easy to look up the stats that prove otherwise. If you love your second amendment that much, accept the price that comes with it.
I suppose without the lie that somehow all those firearms make Americans safer, gun-loving Americans would have to face up to some uncomfortable truths and maybe start to see themselves the way the rest of the civilised world sees them- as a place in the grip of madness.
Today children, we’ll be learning how to cower in fear under our desks!
On Facebook recently, I’ve noticed friends who live in the USA discussing their children participating in what they call “active shooter drills.” Apparently this is now a feature found in American schools- where teachers and children run through scenarios of what to do if a madman with a gun goes on a rampage through their school. Teachers practice locking their doors while children cower under their desks. The kids are told to choose between “running” and “hiding,” depending on where the shooter is. If any children manage to escape the building, they are told to be careful to put their hands on or over their heads, to make it clear to law enforcement that they themselves are unarmed.
Is that really something Americans are comfortable accepting- that they’d rather train every child in the country how to cower in fear and prepare for the possibility that they might be murdered by gunfire, rather than just regulate guns?
It’s not like this in other western democracies. No, really.
At my daughter’s school in London they have fire drills every Wednesday. The children take it all quite seriously, filing out of the building quietly and efficiently. Afterwards, the kids return to their classrooms and continue learning, completely un-traumatised. They don’t even know what an “active shooter” is, and they don’t need to.
That’s the life I want for her, and it’s one of the main reasons we choose to live in the UK and not in America.
And there’s nothing funny about it.