Chai Digest: Stuff Happens Editorial and More

Dateline: Maputo, Mozambique (aside: a country where you can go from wheels down to hotel room in under 30 minutes and be greeted with smiles and no hassle along the way wins a place in my travel heart, all the more remarkable for the hard modern journey Mozambique has made.)

Mini-editorial: ‘Stuff happens,” indeed. America’s 3 original sins: (1) treatment and near annihilation of Native Americans, (2) slavery, and (3) gun culture. The last should be solvable, after all, we even (temporarily) made alcohol unconstitutional. I refer to UK commentator Dan Hodges’ remark in June:

We are collectively resigned to a perceived impossibility to no way out, when so many countries live without anywhere approaching this level of civilian violence. We are not quite at the every man an AK-47 of Afghanistan, and boy did that make restaurant meals unnerving when each new diner entered, but then we don’t limit to just one per person.

I have just been in Angola, now in Mozambique, countries recently clawing to stability after decades of civil war that left the lands covered in land mines. Those mines silently wait, unexpectedly destroying innocent lives. I am glad the Founding Fathers didn’t know to include those, or walking a dog in a US neighborhood would be quite risky when they pop on a lawn to do their business. The analogy is as deliberately absurd as the situation would be if not so tragic. We do everything to arm every possible mine and then blame them when there is an explosion. We hold the Framers ensconced in amber on an alter of frozen text to cover our own failing to strive in their spirit, not giving them the credit that people of such wisdom would have evolved with a changing world.

For those who routinely pop up to tell me this is a travel blog and I should stick to that, I am also a citizen and take that responsibility seriously, however imperfect I am as one. I don’t have The Answer. There is no perfect answer to this tangled issue embedded deep in our culture, manifesting in ways worthy and ways despicable. What I won’t do is give up and say we are living a fait accompli. America has every advantage and no excuse to abandon our founding purpose:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

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  • John

    Looking forward to a thorough trip report on your Africa meanderings. Understand your writing time is limited but please prioritise the trip report over your posts on random links (which I also enjoy!)

  • TWoK

    The thing about guns and I agree, we have to do something, but there are already so many guns out there that they are never going away. What needs to be done is for guns to be at least as hard to posses as a automobile. More people certainly die of not having medical care available to them at an affordable price than they do of guns. Not to mention all of these people with mental health issues could perhaps be stopped before hand if we had a better social services system.

  • Yes, I would characterize our attitude towards these mass shootings as “resignation.” Everything should be on the table and up for discussion–especially the travesty that passes for our mental health system. These discussions should be national priority. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • dave

    It’s not surprising someone who profits from engaging in and encouraging gratuitous travel, and thereby its associated energy usage, would omit climate change from a list of USA original sins. It appears to be mostly due to self-righteousness, perhaps mixed with a little denial. I won’t bother rehashing statistics regarding how selfish Americans are when it comes to energy consumption and how much that behavior contributes to climate change. Educated liberal people already know these things and when confronted with the probable destruction of a livable planet will furrow their brow and wring their hands and say “yes, its wrong and I need to do better.” But low and behold, before you know it, those promises are gone and they’re on yet another selfish and unnecessary flight, because, yes you guessed it – stuff happens!

  • john

    Angola and Mozambique? Please write about these. I just cancelled a potential trip to Mozambique because it seemed too difficult, unnecessarily expensive, and painful to get around.

  • The second amendment has outlived its usefulness, it’s an artifact of another age.

  • DaveS

    I am a regular Republican voter (and perhaps something of a unicorn), who applauds your stand on gun violence. I know the topic is controversial, but it’s very true that a lot of people are afraid to travel abroad, but think nothing of everyday life in a country where just about anyone could be armed. It’s ironic of course, but I am in the education field and have spoken with Mexican parents who are afraid to send their kids to study in the U.S. because of our gun culture. Surely they have many safety concerns at home too, but to most of the world it’s unfathomable that the U.S. has one mass shooting after another and seemingly does nothing about it except make guns easier to get and more widespread.