Beautiful, grotesque America

Beautiful, grotesque America-4

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I have been thinking about America all morning here in Hong Kong. I have thought about the amazing things that have happened in America since I moved abroad eleven years ago: we’ve twice elected thoughtful and ever-inspirational Barak Obama to be our President; same-sex couples won the right to marry; and, smart and tough-as-nails Hillary Clinton became the presumptive Democratic nominee for President. I would not have predicted any of this in 2005.

In these eleven years as an American living abroad, I’ve also woken up on the other side of the world to learn of horrifying gun violence. In 2012 I couldn’t stop looking at photos of the 20 smiling children who were shot dead while at school, children the same age as my own daughter. In the time since those children were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School there have been 1,001 more mass shootings in America.

When I talk my my children about America, I talk about democracy, freedom of the press, slavery, Native Americans, pioneers, Muhammad Ali, freedom of speech, the National Park System, Hollywood and multiculturalism.

When I visit America with my children I also talk about what they should do if they see a gun at someone’s house. I warn them that the guns they see while in America may be real. Even if they are pink.

I think about what I will do if I encounter someone with a gun.

I worry.

I also I hope.

I look back on the past eleven years and see how quickly things can unpredictably change for the better. I know there will be more seemly impossible changes to be proud of. I hope for common sense gun control.

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15 responses to “Beautiful, grotesque America

  1. Beautifully written Jen. Do we get more paranoid the longer we’re away? I worry more, especially right before a return trip (like now). But I also worry about my brother and nephews in France. I wish America would admit that lots of people – fanatics, mentally ill, abusers, drunks, toddlers (!) – should have zero access to guns. If only.

    • I think it does look more scary from the outside than it feels from the inside. I am always more nervous before a visit home than I actually am during the visit home. Once I arrive, I remember that so many people I love are living there and that statistically speaking risks are low. That said, I am still happy that my children attend school in Hong Kong where they don’t have to practice active-shooter drills along with fire drills.

      • I think it helps the adults prepare. The older kids are unphased. They see it as just another drill they need to take seriously. Little ones, depending on their teacher, have mixed feelings. Mine 9 year old doesn’t seem bothered, but I have heard that this is not the case for all.

      • Interesting to think about. Something I’m curious to ask friends (and their older kids) about this summer. It does seem like something the adults should think through and prepare for. At least in places with easy access to guns. Sadly.

  2. Living inside the country, I think we learn to tune it out to some extent. When our friend from New Zealand said she worried about bringing up her daughter in the US because of the violence, I remember thinking, Oh, for Pete’s sake, it’s not that bad. But now, looking in from Britain? It does shock me. In the end our friend returned to NZ, although for many reasons in addition to the violence.

    • I worried far less about such things when I lived in the US. But then again that was also before I had kids of my own. Amazing how our perspectives change.

  3. If more Americans had the opportunity to live outside the US, they would realize that regulations do not make countries less free. Our founding fathers did not fight a revolution to give people access to assault rifles. Geesh!

  4. I’m so sad about what is going on. The world has gone crazy. I’ve been in a complete haze since the November attacks here in France – an overriding weariness of people just not “getting it”, whether they are politicians or brainwashed, weapon-toting loons. Even with strict laws limiting gun sale here, they still get their hands on them. Unfortunately, someone who wants to go through with this kind of atrocity will always find a way. I woke up this morning to news that a couple – both police officers- were killed with a knife in front of their three-year-old… How the hell can these people dare to try to justify these acts by ‘faith’?

    • And now the stabbing of an MP in the UK. It seems like there are too many extremists views at the moment. I, like you, am also sad and feeling at a loss about how to tackle these issues.

  5. As an American still living in the U.S., I feel helpless and betrayed by a government that is supposed to protect me. I always thought I was safe because I live in California, a state with more rigid gun laws than other states and far fewer people who own guns. But then it happened in San Bernardino. I grew up about 20 minutes away from San Bernardino and although I live in San Diego now, I had friends who worked as close as two blocks away from where that tragedy went down. I sit here watching the news where there are so many mass shootings that they have all started to blur together. We’ve all become desensitized to it to a degree, and yet there is now always a nagging feeling I get in crowded places. If I go to a concert, will I get shot? If I go to a convention, will I get shot? Most likely not, but the thoughts are there. They talk about terrorism like it’s our biggest threat, but honestly, I believe our biggest threat is guns that were purchased legally in this country. When a tragedy happens, we all scream about how gun laws should change and we should regulate more, but then others scream the opposite. They don’t make any sense. They are irrational and their arguments of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” make no sense. And yet…nothing changes. It happens again and again and again. No end.

    • Well said. And interesting to hear that Americans living in America are also feeling increasingly nervous about public spaces. I am unfathomably sad that we as a country don’t seem to accomplish anything regarding sane gun control.

      • It’s sad to me as well. I love my home and the people here and it pains me to see this happening. Most people I know are anti-gun of at the very least in favor of tighter restrictions, but there are of course unreasonable people and the biggest problem of all which is powerful groups like the NRA with their stranglehold over politicians. That’s why it will never change.

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