Guns, an American Way of Life
My husband and I went to see Black Panther last weekend. Although my husband has had enough Marvel movies for one lifetime, I was quite stoked to see this one in particular. It wasn’t just the all-black (and beautiful!) cast, but I was also excited to see a unique marvel world crafted out of African culture.
The movie was great—until a group of young teenagers a few seats behind us began to provide loud and offensive commentary on the film. I won’t repeat what was said, but let’s just say they said the ‘n’ word twice, among other things. From start to finish this group of teenagers just kept at it—and no one said anything.
I thought about standing up and telling them to shut up, but I must be honest.
I was afraid.
In America, it is very possible that a group of young, aggressive teenagers could turn hostile.
…. And since we’re in Texas, the likelihood they have a gun is very real. I was afraid to risk it.
Although I was seething in my seat, I was also surprised that no one else spoke up. These teenagers were so loud I’m sure people from across the theater could hear their offensive remarks in stereo. What about the people sitting right next to them? How could they keep quiet?
“I liked the movie, but didn’t appreciate the commentary,” my husband told me when we were driving back from the movie. “I was going to say something, but since we’re in Texas, I held back—I mean, what if he had a gun?”
“Oh my god!” I cried. “I THOUGHT THE SAME THING!”
“I don’t think I can live in Texas,” my husband said, shaking his head. “Maybe I was spoiled in California.”
I nodded in agreement.
And believe it or not, that’s not the most alarming part of this story.
When the lights came on at the end of the film, the group of teenagers in the back of the theater weren’t the racist rednecks I imagined.
They were black.
But that’s a different post entirely.
A few years back I wrote about how America sometimes isn’t the paradise we think it is—especially when it comes to physical safety. The biggest culture shock I had when moving abroad was how many East Asian countries—even those third-world ones we look down on so much—are much safer than almost all urban megacities in the USA. It’s much safer to walk around Hanoi at 2AM than it is to wander the streets of downtown San Francisco. Trust me on this one.
There is a wealth of arguments as to why this is. It could be socioeconomic circumstances. Culture. Religion. Hegemony.
Me? Well, I blame the availability, and proliferation, of guns. Especially those used by the Las Vegas and Florida shooter—the type of weapons used for mass killings in war zones.
Basically, because it is so damn hard to get a gun in Asia, the worst thing that could happen to anyone is getting stabbed. And yes, getting stabbed would really suck, but we can all admit it’s definitely harder to enact a mass stabbing than a mass shooting. Stabbings, while lethal, keep the kill count down to a minimum.
Even then, stabbings rarely happen in Asia. Pickpocketing is probably the worst thing that will happen to any tourist in Asia.
When people in Asia told me to watch out for pickpockets, I laughed. I don’t care if they take my purse, I told my friends, at least I can walk the streets and not fear for my life.
At least I can walk around and know no one will shoot me.
In the USA, the fear of guns—and mass shootings—is very real.
At my previous job, we had to undergo specific training about how to hide from an active shooter in the building. Those training videos were traumatizing. How to attack an active shooter (yes, they told us not to run from him/her!). Where to hide. What numbers to call. How to help students/co-workers/victims. How to tend a gunshot wound.
Lo and behold, a few weeks later, there was a school shooting only five miles away from the University I worked at.
One survivor of the most recent Florida mass-shooting told reporters that he had undergone survival drills to prepare for mass-shootings since elementary school.
In other words, if I someday have a child in the USA, they will have to undergo mandatory drills on how to run away from a maniac with a gun running rampant in their school.
As my husband so poignantly stated after the Las Vegas incident:
“If a mass shooting at an elementary school (Sandy Hook) won’t put a halt to gun proliferation, then nothing will.”
When I told new friends in China and Japan that I was from the USA, they often followed up with a question.
“Do you have a gun?”
And if they didn’t ask me about a gun, then they often assumed I had one. When I told them that my family never possessed a firearm, many of them were shocked.
“You’re American and you don’t have a gun? I thought everyone in America had a gun. Don’t you guys always shoot stuff up?”
I even had some friends from Asia come to my home and ask me where I keep my gun.
I’m sad, because my friends from Asia assume I’m a trigger-happy, gun-toting aggressor just because I’m American.
I’m sad, because I can’t walk around late at night in fear of either being shot or held up at gun point.
I’m sad, because when people flip me off or curse at me on the highway, I don’t do anything in response because there have been incidents where retaliation has led to gun violence and death.
I’m sad, because I can’t go to the movies and tell someone to be quiet—in fear of guns.
I’m sad because guns negatively influence the American image.
I’m sad, because even subconsciously, guns dictate even the most simple and menial actions in my everyday life in the USA.
Is there good news?
After way too many mass shootings, a group of very brave students (the survivors of the latest Florida shooting) decided to step up and fight for change. Their courage and determination to stand up to the NRA and Congress reminds me of movements only found in history books.
In other words: I think the new generation—a generation sick of seeing their peers die from senseless violence—is not only willing to fight for change, but might make it happen.
I know America will never fully rid itself of guns or the assumed power of the second amendment.
But here’s to hoping that America can, at the very least, pass some simple reforms to ensure tighter gun control (like Australia or Switzerland). I personally hope someday the US can better control guns in our lives, instead of guns controlling how we live.
19 thoughts on “Guns, an American Way of Life”
LOL, I figured the kids were probably Black Americans. They tend to do a lot more yelling at the screen — movies in D.C. were a lot more interactive than in the suburbs. Also a lot more comfortable tossing around their reclaimed “N-word.” Someone on Twitter was saying that if you didn’t see Black Panther with a whole crowd of Black Americans dressed up as Wakandians, you didn’t REALLY see Black Panther.
But I hear you on the fear the fear of guns thing. I only yell at other drivers with the windows rolled up because I’m terrified they’ll have a gun. Driving in the UK was much less terrifying — I could yell with impunity.
Haha surprisingly enough, I told another friend (who had lived in the South for a while) about this story, and he also said that it was normal for Black Americans to be more ‘interactive’ during the movies. I grew up in whitelandia (Utah), so it was culture shock for me in a sense. Chinese people are also really loud in movie theaters, but they’re just rude–not interactive. The guy in our theater, though, was quite offensive. I was annoyed with this particular group of young people, because one guy in particular had pretty negative comments about the movie, such as “how can someone look so black? Did they rub charcoal all over his face? Why don’t these nggers learn to fight? What is this soundtrack, the lion king? etc etc…” Compare that to Japanese people who don’t even laugh in the theater, and stay until the credits finish rolling! Even in a movie theater, cultures can be so different, haha.
Yeah the gun thing sucks. If guns weren’t a thing in LA, oh, I would have cussed out at least 100 people on the freeway.
You know, there are So. Many. Young. Males. who are not as funny as they think they are. Of all races.
Very true. I wish I could unleash my wrath on them all… with impunity! haha
In countries with gun control, you can?
I saw on FB that a friend from h.s. theatre posted a question about guns. Something to do with the fact that could we keep guns for hunting and defense, but why did we need those automatic machine guns and wanting to have an honest conversation and the last I looked, no one took the bait.
I was surprised because most if not all my theatre friends are left leaning liberals and to hear her even wanting to defend the right to own certain guns, but not semi-autos, etc, was – interesting. And the reason why I bring this up is because: 1) she seems to be for some middle ground, but 2) no one is interested in that discussion, really, it’s 3) all or nothing.
That’s the crux for me, no one wants to listen. Everyone wants to be right and have it their way. And I think until folks are willing to talk, compromise, listen, etc, we’re going to continue to have these tragedies emerge.
And yes, I agree. Asians think America is dangerous. Wait. You live in Texas?
Yeah 🙁 Sadly we’ve become so polarized we can’t even approach each other to talk about the issue. I’m worried about American society (and the democratic western order in general) because we’re making enemies out of each other.
Asians should think America is dangerous–because it is! I know a lot of Europeans also feel uncomfortable here. Makes sense.
And yes, I live in Texas, lol. I moved here for a job and I already regret it… but I’m going to hang in here for a year at the very least. I hope I can last.
Well, it will at least be a new experience and even the tough ones (speaking from recent experience here!) can be beneficial in ways unimaginable.
Being from where I am, and living where I live, I have never understood the obsession with guns in the US. My dad has hunting guns in Spain because he hunts (my hometown is in the poorest and most underdeveloped region of Spain, so lots of nature and game), but no one has any other type of guns (except security forces). Hunters in Spain need to pass a regular medical check which I guess also looks for mental problems, they need to have a license which has to be regularly renovated, and they need to have a special safety box at home to put the guns (cannot have them under the bed, haha).
I am totally on board with what Spain does! I think it’s just common sense…. I don’t think completely outlawing guns is the smart thing to do, but at least make it harder for the mentally unstable or troubled youth to get their hands on semi-automatic weapons (why do we even need semi-automatic weapons to begin with?).
A lot of people in Utah/Wyoming/Idaho also hunt a lot and it’s a way of life for them. I think having hunting rifles is fine (with strict b/g checks, of course!)… my problem is with semi-automatic weapons… ugh.
One of many reasons I miss Asia…. hah
Would you consider some regions/states/cities more, uhm, safe in terms of gun-danger? While I was aware that there is some problem with guns in the states (quite common problem with shootings, which gets coverage in media in other countries) I would never imagined that it could cause such fright to the point you are scared to shush people in cinema or walk the streets by night…
I don’t think any state is truly safe from gun danger in the USA, sadly.
To be honest, I was probably being over-cautious and paranoid with the theater incident–but I’m sure it’s happened before. I read about many incidents in LA where people were shot over road rage (ex. you flip someone off, then the guy you flipped off has a gun and shoots you). That’s why even when I got pissed I held back on honking or swearing or whatever….
Anyway, better safe than sorry? Guns are so easily accessible here anyone could have one.
I wholeheartedly wish USA would solve the gun problem once and for all. I get all this “personal liberty” et al. but… your personal liberty ends where mine starts, and firearm greatly extends your (opponent) space 🙁
Couldn’t agree with you more.
The Florida shooting is near where i live now. I also live in Broward County. It is not the first shooting that hit home for me. The other time was at the Fort Lauderdale airport I would travel to and from regularly. What made it worse was that it would’ve been my flight if I decided to visit family. There was a Maine family talked about how she saw the person got shot right next to her. It is scary to think about.
There was also another shootout right out my window. I remember saying to my husband, “I heard a gun shot.” He didn’t believe me but I grew up in Maine. I know how it sounds. When my husband went to work, he saw all this yellow tape and many cop cars. It was chaos. Three shootings around me in not even two years. It will be two years coming back to South Florida in July. How crazy is that?
OMG!!!! That is so scary!!!! Please be careful there!!!
Americans talk about “but Switzerland..!!” Yes, many citizens do bring their guns home.
But here’s the catch. They are trained. Well. Very well.
Not so much in the States. It is easier for me to get a gun than to pass a test to get my driver’s license. Let that sink in.
My husband said something right – how many people can be in their right state of mind when they get a robber in their house? Or is it a robber in their house? So many inexperienced, with low EQ (not IQ) with a gun who accidentally kill their son thinking it is an intruder or have a son accidentally kill his younger sister.
This is beyond crazy. And lack common sense. I grew up in a place where people hunt, but last time I checked you don’t need am assault rifle unless you’re not planning to eat the deer. You need a hunting license, etc.
I just don’t understand. At all.
I am with you. I don’t get it. Americans allow assault rifles for supposed self defense, which is just stupid. Plus, most gun deaths/injuries are the result of someone mishandling a gun or some minor finding a gun in a home. I think it’s ironic that America is the wealthiest country on Earth, but we’re also the most paranoid. We are deathly afraid of home invasion and assault–to the point where we always have to carry a firearm? It’s ridiculous.
I much prefer Asian countries that completely outlaw guns. Homocide rates are low–as they should be.