Guns Made From Bitter

Tuesday, January 1, 2013 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!

All you have to do is look at the Letters to the Editor to realize the year is starting out with a multitude of worries. The dominant concern expressed in the Arizona Daily Star is how to protect our school kids. Some contributors cleverly word their arguments: “We are being lectured fast and furiously…” writes R.L. Chandler of Tucson, remarking on the hypocrisy of calling for gun control when we have just supplied Mexican cartels with weapons. Regarding the right to bear arms, George Perlmutter reminds us, “When the Constitution was written, the writers were speaking of muskets.” An indignant Linda Crouch warns, “I have just heard of a company that proposes to protect our schoolchildren from gun violence by marketing body armor for children. Body armor. For children.” Virginia Gethmann suggests that the money spent on teddy bears and flowers to leave at the sites of mass shootings would be more effective as contributions to a national mental health fund.

There is another letter that seems to me tangentially related at least: “Peace Corps alums deserve better support.” It refers to an article published on December 23, “Peace Corps workers feel abandoned.” Apparently there is poor coordination in attending to injured and traumatized volunteers once they have returned from overseas duty. In our circle of friends there are many Peace Corps veterans, most of whom went on to do extraordinary service for their communities.  I do recall one woman long ago, among the first in the Corps, who returned to Dallas, Texas with debilitating “culture shock.”

And that is my point, one of two points, actually. The first is obvious: We make heroes out of men and women we send overseas to kill people; we all but ignore those who leave comfortable homes to build understanding and friendship. The second point is more blunted and therefore needs to be driven home again and again. “Culture shock” is something we all experience for a few seconds while watching the news of Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Somalia and other places on earth where heroes are the ones who kill the “others.” Sometimes they kill themselves in the bargain.  They also kill many people sent to make peace between the opposing sides.

In the 1950s, after World War II, numerous efforts were made in the United States to build bridges. Some were official, such as the Marshall Plan to repair countries we had helped destroy. But locally, churches got involved in bringing people of different beliefs together in interdenominational meetings. This was a very big step after a bitter period when Polish Catholics and German Catholics were not speaking, and when Jews were keeping to themselves. Other civic groups made attempts to foster intercultural understanding by exchanges of students, and by holding international bazaars. Food and music did a lot of healing. We found out how much alike we were, and how much we liked each other.

Perhaps it was the crisis of race relations that cut this effort short. Ironically, considering the progress made between blacks and whites (partly through intermarriage, but significantly through education), we seem to have lost our will for working toward a community where people can be different and still be experiencing the same hopes, fears, joys, and disappointments. We have isolated those who don’t fit in with our air-brushed portraits of ourselves. We don’t share. We are afraid. We feel lonely, believe we have been cheated, and eventually become desperate. As a final act of sovereignty, we buy guns.

1 comment to Guns Made From Bitter

  • We buy guns Karen because we have a failed judical system and a police state in the making, where as was the case during overwhelming odds during Western Indian attacks, you save the last cartridge for yourself.

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