I’m not American. There’s a lot of things I don’t really get about American culture- and, if I’m entirely honest, I’m not always interested in finding them out. Not because I’ve anything specifically against Americans as people. It’s simply that I get tired of the USian hegemony over my part of the world, culturally as well as economically, and I want to move my attention to someone else. I know more about some aspects of the US than I do about my own country. That bothers me.
One of the things that I don’t really understand- don’t really grok, I guess- is USian gun culture. Your attachment to guns. I’d very much appreciate if you could help me to get it.
A gun is not just a gun
Things are very different where I come from. I know some people who like to shoot as a hobby, sure. I don’t know the details of how they get the guns they shoot with. I’ve been told a few times, but the details kind of glaze over and all I’m left with is “Well. That sounds complicated”, and then I’m glad that I’ve ended up with more loosely-regulated hobbies. But I haven’t heard a single one of them bragging about their guns.
I guess that guns have a different cultural meaning here. We’re not long out of a decades-long civil war that we refused to name as such. I grew up hearing news reports about shootings and bombings all the time. It felt far away to me then. It’s only a half-day’s drive up the road. But guns and bombs: these are things that paramilitaries have. What you’d call terrorists, and I’d say… oh, it’s complicated, and then try to explain hundreds of years of history and by the end of it you’d wonder if there’s such a thing as a good guy.
Guns, for me? Paramilitaries have them. Gangs of drug dealers do, as well. Farmers have them. And people who like to go to rifle ranges. The army has them, of course. And a small fraction of our police do.
I don’t know anyone else here who has a gun. I’m sure, of course, that someone’ll pop up in the comments to tell me all about theirs, ’cause that’s what happens when you say anything online.
Ireland isn’t perfect. We have violence in spades. We have guns, too. But we don’t really have a gun culture. Nobody feels they have a right to gun ownership. Some people own them, yeah. But.. I don’t know anyone who feels entitled to do so, without a really specific reason.
A constitution is just a constitution, isn’t it?
Here’s another thing I don’t really understand about Americans: how you feel about your constitution.
We have a constitution here as well. It dates from 1937- our country is newly independent from Britain, remember. In the 79 years since then, we’ve voted on amending it 35 times. Twenty-nine of those amendments passed. That’s, on average, an amendment every second year (although it’s not quite like that- we tend to vote on several at a time. Last year we passed one proposed amendment on marriage equality and rejected another on the age of eligibility to run for President). There is currently a countrywide conversation and campaign to repeal one of those amendments- the Eighth, which equates the life of a fetus to the pregnant person carrying it.
We’re not precious about our Constitution. If we’re precious about anything, it’s the Proclamation of the Republic, which has the distinct advantage of having been proclaimed in a failed uprising by a bunch of revolutionaries who then got executed before they could gain any real power and upset anyone by enacting policies they disagreed with.
Our Constitution, though? It’s a document. A pain-in-the-ass document made by someone with frankly awful views on women and religion. We like some bits, ignore others, and change it around on the regular.
Even if someone here agrees with a particular part of the constitution, I’ve never heard someone argue that it’s a fundamental right because it’s in there. If we’re lucky, we fight to get fundamental rights put in there. But that document? It’s useful and important, because it’s difficult to change. It’s also annoying as all hell ’cause it’s flawed and difficult to change. What’re ya gonna do, though?
But when I hear Americans talk about the constitution, it’s with the reverence of a sacred text. Something isn’t a fundamental right and also in the Constitution- it’s a fundamental right because it’s in there. I don’t understand that.
Two questions for you.
Here’s my first question for Americans. One about guns and the other about your constitution.
For those of you who support the right to own guns: what would it take for you to change your mind? I don’t ask this, by the way, because I don’t think that you have reasons for your perspectives- and I’m interested in hearing those too, but I’d like it if you could answer my question also. I ask because in almost any area where I hold a strong belief, I have an idea of what it would take for me to change that. I can think of circumstances that, if they were to be true, would cause me to change my beliefs.
Similarly: what is the justification for viewing the Constitution as a quasi-sacred text? I don’t understand that, and I’d really like to.