I just finished reading Deer Hunting with Jesus, which I really enjoyed reading. Many of the things you write about also ring true here in Australia.
One of the things which I found interested me in your book was the importance of health care system. In Australia we have a well entrenched Medicare system, which the conservatives (here called 'the Liberals') weakened but were afraid to destroy.
Another big difference is that fortunately the fundamentalists don't have such a big hold here.
Most of the things you write about also are true here. Fortunately the Australian people just voted out a Liberal government which was trying to cut down working conditions by a thing called (ironically) 'Work Choices', which was basically a means of allowing bosses to cut down award conditions by getting workers to sign individual contracts. In the meantime corporate salaries are soaring, especially for CEOs imported from the United States!
The one thing I cannot understand is your position on guns. In Australia, which has relatively tough firearms laws, the homicide rate is about 1.3 per 100,000, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In the United States, the homicide rate is about 5.7 per 100,000, according to the FBI.
I know that there are differences between our two countries but I can't think of a difference which would explain this enormous difference in homicide rates apart from the greater availability of guns.
Very often the simplest explanation of things turns out to be true. I suspect people get mad with each other just as much here as they do in the U.S., but it is much easier to do something about it if you have a gun.
Gun control is a special interest of mine because I am a Public Defender dealing mainly with murder trials.
Finally, thanks for your thoughtful, beautifully written book.
Thanks so much for taking of your valuable time to write. To me, when a reader does so it is the greatest honor a writer can receive.
As to the gun section well, for an American, assessing gun ownership is spongy ground at best. It's a matter of trying to asses the color of the bottle from the inside. None of us do it well. Objectively speaking, I don't believe any American needs to own a gun. But as long as so many Americans believe they do, we're going to have the ongoing debate, not to mention the total bafflement of the outside world as it watches. To an American, guns represent an entirely different thing -- several of them actually -- than they do to other nationalities not steeped in gun ownership.
Somehow though, I believe the gun ownership debate detracts from the real issue of America's interior psychic violence, which manifests itself in so many escalating ways these days. Said violence is very deeply ingrained. Every day I watch a hundred little social and interpersonal brutalities and attitudinal cruelties, which seem to go unnoticed by the public at large (though not unfelt,I am sure). And they seem to be growing.
To me, even the school shootings and the attending meaningless discussions about gun ownership are a distraction from the real problem. And that problem is a complex one having to do with such things as the decay of our social support network and families, the unacknowledged fear permeating this collapsing empire, the exploitation of the citizenry by telling them there is danger at every turn -- Muslims, crime, etc., and the vast unarticulated rage and insecurity that lies just beneath the surface if everyday life here. It's hard to see it if you are a visitor, but even harder to endure if you happen to be a citizen of a country that holds a quarter of the world's prison population, yet represents only six percent of the world's population -- a system that teaches us to value punishment and revenge over keeping our common society in good repair.
Consequently, a great many people own guns out of pure fear of a worst case scenario which varies according to the person's anxieties. These include government intrusion by a hardening totalist state; crime activity generated by wealth disparity and a growing and increasingly desperate underclass; sexual violence perpetrated upon women (fear of which has been inherent in urban women for a long, long time); and plain old American distrust of authority and its abuses. And finally there is the mundane familiarity with guns on the part of so many Americans, built over generations of everyday exposure, among which I number -- people who understand that guns don' t pull their their own triggers.
In a country where high background stress and insecurity is the norm, and where greed is purposefully stimulated and misnamed "personal drive," and especially one in which gun ownership is protected by the nation's most esteemed founding document, I cannot imagine Americans asking anytime soon just what national disease is causing so many of its men and boys to pull that trigger. The answer is just too horrible to face, because we would all have to take responsibility for our failure as individuals and as a society.
So we delude ourselves that we can legislate and/or criminalize behavior as a substitute for asking that national question. Perhaps if we suffer the consequences of our national long enough, perhaps with a dozen more school shootings, we will find the balls to ask that question. But I doubt it. There are too many larger forces profiting from our national violence: the burgeoning privatized prison corporations, the rapidly growing police and security industry, and of course the gun manufacturers. There is money in fear, especially if one lives in a country where any justification for fear makes the news 24/7.
In fact, if I did not live half the year in a Central America village where no one owns a gun, and guns are seen as a rather sick thing in and of themselves -- in other words, if I had to live in America full time -- I'd probably go out and buy one myself. Conditioning is everything.
In art and labor,