This is interesting to consider. George Bernard Shaw once called the US and Great Britain two countries divided by a common language. Despite the intense interactions between us, to this day the cultures of the two most prominent English-speaking lands are very different.
In coming days, there will be debates regarding what legal measures regarding guns, assault rifles, mental health spending, and school security may need to change in the US. But it seems to me that the biggest factor contributing to the periodic occurrences of tragedies like the one in Newtown this week is cultural.
Beyond the use of guns for sport or protection, there is a glorification of gun violence that seems endemic to US culture. It’s seen in our films and our video games. It appears to have its roots in our “Wild West” facts and myths, in which firearms played an important role in the descendants of European colonists subduing the Native Americans who previously occupied this entire continent. And of course, the mythic Western lawman who was “quick on the draw,” employing guns, the “great equalizers,” to impose order on chaos, has to have played its part in our faith in guns as our protectors.
The culture of gun violence in the United States is something that cannot be addressed by laws alone. Attitudes about life will also need to change. And that, I believe, is a profoundly spiritual matter.
But if Britain’s bobbies can go about their work unarmed, can’t we dream of a culture whose attitudes about gun violence have shifted sufficiently to allow our own officers to work without guns?[I also maintain a personal blog site here.]