Saturday, December 15, 2012

In Response to the 16th Mass Shooting of 2012

As someone who lived 50 of my 54 yrs in the states, who fell in love with a Canadian and has lived in Ontario the past four years, I can't tell you how refreshing it is to be surrounded by non-gun-toting people. Canadians are not afraid of each other. I can walk or ride my bike anywhere without wondering whether this or that person might mug me, or go off on me or my loved ones. (Yes it happens--more often in the largest cities, but compared to the U.S., VERY rarely.) I'm grateful for Canada's gun control laws. I had absolutely no idea how pervasive the underlying daily paranoia was until I moved out of that soup.

I've thought about this a lot, actually. How is it that these two neighbouring countries are so very different? One answer may be the way that the countries were established. America became the U.S. through war. Canada continues to be part of the British Commonwealth. The Constitutions and Bills of Rights are fundamentally different, and in many ways, almost opposite. The U.S.'s emphasizes independence and individual rights. Canada's focuses on being interdependent, and acts as a guide for the world's peacekeepers. It is no surprise then, that the cultures are so diverse.

Many people in the states are saying that it's time to write gun control laws. There are even ugly accusations that those who lobby for free access to guns are complicit in the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I do not believe the U.S. will ever allow gun control. From the time American kids are children we are taught that owning guns is a fundamental right. "And nobody better take my rights away, dammit...." In addition, there are now billions of dollars involved (the National Rifle Association lobby, to name just one piece of that pie) that has -- and would again -- turn this into a battle unlikely to be won.

IF the laws were ever changed, with the sheer number of guns already owned and continually sold in the states, the black market would be gigantic overnight. I can't count the number of times I've heard the chant "If guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns." You probably know it well enough to have chanted along, don't you?

From my viewpoint, the answer to this problem is less about attempting to win a fight to control the weapons, and more about creating a less violent culture. I believe that what you resist, persists. Rather than fighting yet again, perhaps it is time to evolve.

Peace, kindness, and respect must be practiced and taught. Those who see violence as an answer to their frustrations are NOT mentally healthy. Am I the only one who sees cutting funding to education and mental health programs as counterintuitive and counterproductive to helping terrified and angry people with inappropriate coping skills become healthier?

There is no quick and easy answer to our problems. However, if we want to live in a safer world, taking steps toward building a more peaceful existence rather than escalating mistrust and separation seems the wiser -- in fact, the only direction in which to move.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Christmas Spirit - Some Random Thoughts

Ahh, the gift of life, and what we do with it.... It's the "Holiday Season." (How odd, our political wording, and yet I choose to respect all paths).  

Most people I know are either Christian or Agnostic, so the circles I run in sing a similar tune: Merry Christmas! Be Jolly! It's the Season of Peace. Joy to the world. Happy, happy, happy.... And yet so often those sentiments seem to ring hollow when the real people in my life share their thoughts and feelings about late November to early January. There's So Much Stress

I happen to love Thanksgiving and Christmas. Always have.... I was blessed with a family who love each other dearly and have made a big deal of being together (or missing each other), cooking and eating too much, partying, and gifting each other. (Although, since none of us really need anything, we have moved to non-gift-giving.) Even with my lucky history around the holidays, I look around and see people in pain, and I feel it with them.

Especially during this season, we are advertised to death. Sold everything from what our house decorations are supposed to look like to the obligation of giving just the right gift. It's another chapter in the "Keeping Up With the Joneses" book, as opposed to an outpouring of gratitude and sharing of our abundance.

Granted, I'm not saying this is everyone... there are some I know who love this season as I do. They revel in the traditions, want to put up the lights and decorate the tree -- at least the women and kids seem to ;) -- and for the most part, enjoy finding and wrapping gifts for the people they love. 

Is it just that the holidays intensify already tightly wound springs? Adding another externally applied pressure to our busy lives?

I wonder how we can embody the peaceful, loving, and generous spirit that holy days are truly about, and how we can spread that love to everyone -- those who are like us, and those who are not.