I’m a Brit, and spent two years living in the USA, returning in 2016, and am due to live there again from this summer. Since getting back from Virginia, most people I meet here have wanted to know two things: why did they elect Trump (read Paul Theroux’s Deep South for some answers to that one) and why are Americans so obsessed with guns? In the wake of this week’s school shooting in Florida, my friends are asking me if I’m scared to live there again. Yes. I don’t feel completely powerless though, here’s what I suggest everyone outside the US can do to help end the violence.
On leaving the US, where I had enjoyed living, I wrote a prayer card for the country (see Paul Miller’s book ‘A Praying Life‘ for an explanation of prayer cards). I wanted to commit myself to praying for the US once I had gone. I asked God what I should pray for and He clearly led me to the passage in John 13 where Jesus speaks to his followers. He uses these words ‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:34-35 ESV). So I now pray that Americans would love one another, that they would give up their guns for the sake of each other, and that their country would be known for peace, not gun violence and mass shootings. Wouldn’t it be amazing if America was the most loving and caring place in the world? (This might have knock-on effects for healthcare and the environment too, the possibilities are endless and just think what could happen if they elected a loving-leader and president).
One of the dichotomies of American society is their fervent patriotism, but their near absence of solidarity. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but put simply, and in my experience while living there, Americans really don’t like each other very much. They live in fear of each other, hence all the gun purchases, and I’m not sure they know that in other countries people generally like each other. I’m reminded of this every time I listen to BBC Radio 2, Chris Evans celebrates all things British, it seems to be his trade mark, and Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs leave me feeling weirdly optimistic about British people, they’re such softies! There’s nothing like Children in Need in the US and instead many Americans make do with Fox News, that simply fuels their fears.
Americans frequently told me how much they love the British, many of them tell you they are Anglophiles and they wax lyrical about England. We like us too, it’s a pity that Americans don’t like themselves so much. If they could like each other enough to give up their individual gun rights to live in a peaceful society that would be wonderful. Americans therefore need to be shown that an alternative society, where people like living together, exists elsewhere and might be possible for them.
For any Americans reading this, if you haven’t realised yet, most people outside of the US find your gun violence disgusting, the statistics are sickening. I remember my first time shopping at Walmart in Yorktown, and discovering the gun counter right there next to Homeware and between Children’s Clothes and the Beauty aisle. I didn’t shop in Walmart again during my time living there, and feel revulsion at the thought of those guns on display there even now.
Walmart owns subsidiaries all over the world, including Asda in the UK, so my second suggestion for people who want to end gun violence, is to start boycotting Asda. A list of Walmart’s other subsidiaries around the world is here. Skye Jethani has written eloquently about the vested interests of the gun industry in the US and in particular how there is no organisation wealthy enough to take on the National Rifle Association (NRA), the pro-gun lobbying group. Walmart is the largest company in the world; if Walmart’s customers demanded gun-free shops and a commitment to ending the violence, then consumer pressure could take on the NRA. It’s a possibility at least.
Don’t Give Up
Change is possible, the BBC News channel is this week is airing a documentary presented by Katty Kay examining the deep and long-lasting changes in Compton, Los Angeles, a district made famous for gangs and gun brutality. The mayor of Compton speaks with love of the place and its people and how she has brought others together to bring about change. It took passion and action, but now Compton is a far safer place, and you certainly get the impression that people like living there.
In summary then; Pray, Show, Boycott and don’t give up. Get some others to join you as well.
I suppose that writing this means that I must love Americans, I hope my love for them is infectious when I begin my new life in Alabama in the summer.
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