Sunday, January 9, 2011

America Could Improve Itself

 "Just because you have a mental illness doesn't mean you're prohibited from buying a gun," said an official at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, speaking on condition of anonymity. "You can be diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and buy a gun. A judge has to find you mentally ill before you are prohibited." Wall Street Journal, Jan 10, 2011.

Looking at the tragic shooting in Arizona over the weekend, I can just imagine how this  incident in Arizona is going to go over with people in other parts of the world.

It's easy to imagine how parents and families in other parts of the world will now look at America and try to understand why members of  a democracy would murder their own leaders. This is old ground; it's happened many times in the past. But the fact remains, many Presidents have been murdered, and Congress has been harassed with guns.

  1. In comparison to other countries Americans feel no shame or pressure to change gun laws to protect innocents. It is not jumping to a conclusion to suggest this young man would not have shot people had he not had a gun at all.
  2. It's not a weakness to judge a book by its cover, or a man by his actions.Criminals get extra specially respectful treatment with a lot of charitable attention, in the press, to give them the benefit of the doubt, even if there is no doubt of wrongdoing. Because of this criminal action, we are going to hear more about his family, his early life, etc. In contrast, we have not heard even the names of some of the victims, or much about their lives; the victims have not been accorded better, or even as much attention in the media.
  3. The mentally ill, who would have been put away twenty years ago, are now on the streets of America, according to CNN.
  4. Outcomes that Americans fear, e.g. kidnapping and acts of mental disturbance happen because of fear of retribution from officials, who threaten well-wishers with legal action for interference.
Why hasn't it figured into the national psyche to care whether the country is perceived as "kinder and gentler" than other countries. Isn't it about time? Or is justice a concept secondary to the success of a legal argument in general in this country? Is status as a superpower more important than safety at home? If being civilized requires:

  •   mental and physical health care for all
  •   respectful openness of communication without exaggeration
  •   stronger gun control laws 
  •   better admission procedures for immigrants
In what other concrete ways could America be more civilized? Please write a comment. I'm very sorry if this post offends some Americans, but it's my personal view.

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