Americans: Change your attitudes, not your laws

I spend a lot of time in the United States. Coincidentally when the latest school shooting (in Santa Fe, Texas — I should be specific because by the time you read this there might have already been another) had just made the news.

I stepped off a plane in Minneapolis and the airport terminal TVs were showing CNN as they often do. Word of the shooting had just made the national news 10 minutes earlier. In fact, there were 17,000 people watching a local news channel’s live stream on Twitter at the same time.

As I got on my connecting flight to continue my journey to the southern U.S., people on the plane were watching TV as the story unfolded. It’s not uncommon for people to have the TV on and watching different programs but this time almost every person with their headphones connected was entranced by the coverage.

The whole situation again prompted the gun-control debate. You’ve heard it by now. I don’t have to recite it.

Americans love their guns. They’re entitled to them. You’ll never take them away. The government doesn’t care. The politicians just want money from the gun groups. I got it. I’ve heard it many times on the endless TV panel discussions where everybody argues about what’s wrong with their country.

Is it too soon to talk about mental illness? Is it too soon to talk about gun legislation? Is it too soon to talk about… well, really anything that will bring about change?

Lately statistics from other countries are thrown into the heated debates. Australia, Canada — well, most developed countries in the world — don’t have the same chronic gun violence that the United States does. Those facts are quickly shot down (no pun intended) to say the gun laws won’t prevent another shooting.

That might be so, but how about a different mentality? How about believing that people are all equal? How about being mature and talking through a problem instead of attacking someone who disagrees with you? How about being civil and keeping your mouth shut?

I’m not saying people shouldn’t speak their mind or give their opinion, but when you dial it back and keep a level head, things might get better.

I have lived in Canada for 35 years — and was even the victim of an attempted break-in while I was in my house last year — but still never thought I needed a gun. In fact, I know people living in most major Canadian cities and none has a firearm.

It’s one thing to say laws must change but then not expect people to also change. A law is only as effective as the people who follow it or break it. You choose to abide by a law or you choose to spit on it and say it doesn’t pertain to you. These are choices.

If I choose to live an aggressive and defensive lifestyle filled with rage and intolerance, then it will greatly impact what happens to me and others around me. I will have negative relationships and interactions with people. I will have no trust in others. I will feel I am the most important person and if anybody disagrees with me or see things my way, they are wrong.

It’s tough to say that’s the American way because it certainly is a generalization, but that’s kind of how the world sees the country. Worse yet, that’s how Americans see the country.

While us Canadians are quick to groan or shake our heads and say, “Another one” when news helicopters circle overhead and broadcast the latest crime scene, we are also reminded that we don’t live in such a hate-filled society.

Sure, people have guns in Canada. Yes, sometimes they use them for bad things. But the overall tone in Canada — and I really don’t believe we are morphed by the attitudes of our politicians — is that we’re peaceful and caring.

Think about how the Canadian military is described. They are called peacekeepers. Our troops “serve” our country.

Think about how the American military is described. They “fight” for their country. True, we constantly hear, “Thank you for your service” but when U.S. troops are mentioned, it’s followed by words like “battle” or “at war” and as I said, “fight.”

It’s a culture thing. When you constantly hear how people shouldn’t be provided healthcare or the same rights as everyone else, it’s a survival of the fittest thing. And my question is: So, how’s that working for you?

As Canadians we don’t understand why people wouldn’t want others in our country to have the same healthcare and opportunities as others. We don’t want to live in a society where we’re told if we can’t afford to visit a doctor then it’s our own tough luck.

Will laws change what’s happening in the Divided States… er, United States? No. Well, they might if people’s attitudes do, too. Aside from that, I don’t have anything else to tell you that you haven’t already let go in one ear and out the other.

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