I received an auspicious text from my son last week. He’s spending part of the summer abroad in a language immersion program, and he receives most of his news about the US from the internet.
His message was simple: “Stay safe.”
I am touched by my teenaged son’s open expression of concern for me. But I am also saddened.
Shortly after he left for Argentina last month, the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando occurred. Last week there were two killings of black men, one in Baton Rouge, one in St. Paul, both men shot at point blank range by police officers. And then five policemen were shot and killed at a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas.
We live in a violent society. There are those among us who would like us all to believe that everything would be fine but for “the terrorists,” but we’re doing an efficient job of killing each other without the help of outside extremists.
My son is experiencing the perception of the US as a violent place more acutely as a representative American in a foreign land. People in Argentina are shocked and horrified at the level of gun violence we tolerate in the US, and my son is seeing that reaction against the relative acceptance—bordering on apathy—that we seem to display here.
This is ironic given that Argentina is a place that suffered the “Dirty War” from 1974 to 1983 in which as many as 30,000 people were killed or “disappeared” at the hands of government death squads. Until, that is, you realize that the US averages well over 30,000 gun deaths per year!
I hope that it doesn’t require each of us to experience America’s carnage from abroad to shake us out of our resignation and actually do something to change the narrative. And, short of that, I hope moving to a safer country isn’t the only way to “stay safe” from both mass shooters and the police.
But, sadly, I’m not betting on it.