Culver City Observer -

America! How Ya' Looking, Baby?


I'm talking with M., a friend in England, about the hideous violence in Orlando.

"Well, you know, it's America." he said.

That bothered me.

I launched into various rational reactions, but inside, I felt hurt. My country right or wrong, and all that? No, I wouldn't. Yet it's undeniable: people in other countries look at us as if we're aliens.

OK, in the UK, no one is allowed to own a gun. The police don't carry guns. The news is not filled with gun violence.

But we're the United States. There's a reason the 2nd Amendment was put into the Constitution. And it has a lot to do with England denying the right to have a gun.

Yet, where are we here? What happened in Orlando is unquestionably hideous. The killer bought his guns plus ammo in a couple of days. Here in the land of opportunity, where the streets (were) (aren't any longer?) paved with gold, the availability of weapons coupled with ease of purchase marks us. The rest of the world thinks we're nuts.

Donald Trump. Two words the rest of the world is laughing over. They think we're crazy. How could such a person become the leader of the world's most powerful nation? He rants against Muslims, fitting all Muslims in one hate-category. By 2010, Christianity was the world's largest religion, with 2.2 billion people, nearly one third (31%) of all 6.9 billion people on Earth (estimate, the Pew Report). Islam came second, with 1.6 billion people, or 23% of the world's population.

The world's Muslims will surpass Christians in this century, according to NPR.

How could the U.S. have even a candidate for President who threatens to take odious actions against all Muslims?

How could the U.S. have anyone actually in the running for President who ridicules women, Mexicans, and other groups to the extent we hear from Trump, who also thinks breast-feeding a child is "disgusting"?

The other presumed candidate for President is up to be indicted for a crime, under active investigation by the FBI, and is the sole beneficiary of repeated election irregularities in multiple U.S. States. She's married to a President who was impeached. People in the UK and Ireland laughed considerably when she said she'd been attacked in Ireland; she later said she had "misspoke", a new word which appears to have entered American vernacular to replace the words "I lied."

Around the world, it's not exaggerating to say that people are scratching their heads, puzzled that in a country of 318 million people, these two are who we'll wind up with.

Then there's TV news. It's just not possible to watch the news without seeing stories about killing, guns, violence, police car chases; killing, guns, violence, car chases. Other countries show viewers news from around the world; here there's no time for that, we're all about the violence.

Is it surprising most Americans can't find major world capitols on a map? Where would people see information about other countries? Certainly not on most American newscasts, unless, well, something truly major happened.

I call my friend C., and she can't bring herself to go to the movies, to lunch, to the beach, to a friend's house. She's so mortified by what happened in Orlando, she can barely talk.

"This is the most important thing that happened in America since 9/11," she says. "I am so angry at this."

Angry at what, I ask.

"I'm angry at the NRA, at people voting for people who support their guns, at politicians who support guns because they want the money."

I heard a news reporter allude to the possibility that since it's Ramadan, the Muslim observance requiring fasting from dawn till sunset, perhaps this was called for by people who wished to hurt the U.S.

I rankled at the suggestion. By studying Arabic, the language, I've had a chance to come into contact with a few people who've answered my questions about Ramadan. My teacher gave me a beautiful image of how Ramadan's celebrated in Egypt, with festivity and street parties, party lights, a festival atmosphere (well, you get to eat after a long day of fasting). Hearing the reporter represent it as a dark vaguely ominous occasion made me realize how little chance most Americans ever get to hear or see other points of view on the news. It's too filled with killing, guns, violence, and car chases.

It's true, I told my British friend, we have a lot of mean people, and a lot of mentally ill people in the U.S. Yet we also have a lot more people who are kind people, and generous. Not every American seeks to hurt other people.

He remained unconvinced. "It's America!" he repeated.

Does it matter to you how people around the world look at us? We're a young nation, with only our 200+ years compared to places that have been inhabited since the middle ages. We have so many people, not all of them can be any one particular way or have only one set of beliefs. I try to tell myself we are good, we're kindhearted, we're thoughtful. Then I see a Donald Trump rally on TV and watch people with such hate in their eyes.

America, how ya' doing?

I believe we can do better. I wish we weren't being judged on this horrible violence.

I love my country. I believe we can do so much better. We're better than this.


©Carole Bell 2016 Carole Bell is a writer interested in everything.

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