I’m Grateful to be Living Outside America–And That Breaks My Heart

I’m an American.

I root for Team USA during the Olympics. I get a little misty-eyed when the flag is raised or I hear the first strains of The Star Spangled Banner. I sigh in delight over rockets red glare on the Fourth of July. I wax poetic about the joy of a cheeseburger and a Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee. I marvel at the expanse of sea to shining sea.

I’m an American.

But I don’t live in America any more.

I live in Europe now. Europe is not free of violence or discrimination, it’s not a perfect utopia where everyone is sitting cross-legged in a circle strumming Kumbayah. It’s not without problems or worries. It’s not even free of guns.

But it is a place without everyday gun violence, without mall rampages and movie theatre massacres. And without school shootings. And while we’re here, let’s stop mincing words, without the frighteningly regular slaughter of innocents.

My teenager gets on his bike every morning and cycles to school. I worry that some distracted driver will clip him. I worry he’ll be distracted and do something stupid. Sometimes I worry that he’ll ride without a helmet, despite my insistence.

I don’t worry about identifying his bullet-ridden body in a cold morgue because someone shot up his school.

I worry my fourth-grader will feel lonely on the playground. I worry he’ll get anxious about a test. I worry that he will come home with head lice because head lice is a pain in the ass.

I don’t worry about him hiding in a corner of his classroom while someone with an assault rifle is roaming the hallway looking for unlocked doors.

I go to parent teacher conferences. I worry that my kids will fall through the cracks because, truth be told, they’re easy kids to teach and sometimes teachers spend a disproportionate amount of their time with kids who have more challenging needs. I worry that they’re not drilling them in their times tables enough, because man, I knew those things backward and forward.

I do not worry about looking those teachers in the eye and trying to figure out if they would take a bullet for my kids.

I worry now that my teen has more independence he’ll make the right choices.

I never worry about those choices including walking into a store and buying a gun.

I worry my sons spend too much time on their computers, their iPads, their phones.

I do not worry when they scamper off to see the latest Marvel movie on the big screen that someone is going to come in and shoot up the theatre.

I worry they might give in to peer pressure.

I don’t worry about them going to other people’s homes where there may be unsecured, loaded weapons.

I worry about drugs. I worry about unprotected sex. I worry my soon to be high schooler isn’t working to his full potential and it might hurt his chances when he applies to college.

I never worry he’s going to get hold of an AR-15 and shoot up his school.

We all live in uncertain times. I sometimes worry about planes being blown out of the sky and trucks plowing into pedestrians.

I don’t worry about my kids living in a state of perpetual lock-down preparation. I don’t worry about whether or not their teacher is getting through to them how to be quiet in an active shooter situation. I don’t worry about their teachers carrying guns.

I’m an American who is sitting somewhere else, wondering if she can ever go home, because though I may bleed red, white, and blue, I am not sure I can stomach the idea of worrying about my children bleeding out on a classroom floor for someone else’s interpretation of a two hundred year old sentence.

I know I’m not the only one in this situation. I talk to dozens of other Americans, mostly mothers, some fathers, who find themselves navigating these same complex feelings. I’m both grateful that I can send my children to school free of these worries, and pounded by guilt that so many people I love have to someone manage them everyday.

I know there are others. So, so many others. I know I’m not the only American abroad who feels this way:

I’m an American who is grateful that right now I do not live in America.

And that breaks my heart into a million tiny pieces.


This original version of this article first appeared on Medium, a new platform for me. If you like it, head on over to the original (linked right above ↑) and ‘clap’ for it. Thx.


America is a Gun

No one needs an assault rifle. Or a semi-automatic rifle. Or whatever the semantic difference is that people think is important and is really not because that’s not the point.

No one needs an AR-15 to defend themselves.

No one needs to open carry a semi-automatic weapon.

No one needs one to protect themselves from whatever Boogeyman the government is shilling that day.

No one needs one to protect their land from gophers.

No one needs one to protect themselves against government tyranny because if the government’s got you surrounded at that point, sweetie, you are up the proverbial creek and all your AR-15 is going to be good for is paddling.

No one needs one for shooting deer. Or rabbits. Or grouse. Or clay pigeons.

No one needs to keep one in their back seat in case there’s an alien invasion on I-95.

No one needs an AR-15.

People want them. That’s the difference.

People want them because they’re “fun”, because it’s enjoyable to use them for target practice, or as I saw one person write, blowing charcoal briquettes to bits on a long, dusty road.

People want them because the NRA tells them that they might not be able to get one soon.

People want them because goddamn it, no one can tell them what they can or cannot have. (As the argument goes, if we start calling guns ‘uterus’, then we’ll be able to successfully regulate the shit out of them).

People want them because they fear over-reaching government.

People want them because they believe that because they are responsible, others will be too.

People want them because they believe in the absolute of a sentence written 250 years ago.

Here is my question: At what point in the evolution of society do individuals look at on the daily carnage (18 school shootings in the first 45 days of 2018. 28 mass shootings in the first 45 days of 2018) and say: I am going to rethink my enjoyment of target shooting with (fill in the correct semantic) weapon because it’s important for me to contribute to the well-being of society as a whole?

At what point does the individual say: Hey, I can protect myself and my family, I can hunt and target shoot, defend myself with the myriad of other weapons out there, and as much as I may WANT a semi-automatic, I can see that they are responsible for a lot of that daily carnage. In fact, between the years of 1994 and 2004 when there was a ban on assault weapons, I managed to do just that. And so, for the greater good, I’m going to push for a ban on those weapons of carnage. Even though it means I personally might lose out on my enjoyment, or my want.

At what point does the individual say: I can see that the other factors always listed in these instances–mental health, criminal activity, intent to do harm, that those things do not exist in a vacuum. Other countries experience violent crime, but nowhere close to the gun violence ripping through the United States, on a weekly, daily, hourly basis.

At what point does the individual say: Enough, my tenuous and questionable right to own a weapon meant for quick and efficient killing of other human beings (and let’s not fool ourselves, it wasn’t created to shoot clay pigeons or those human shaped targets with concentric circles they like to show on CSI–it was created to efficiently kill human beings) is stripping away the fundamental right to life of other human beings. Other human beings with whom I must share the planet, the country, the city, the school with.

At what point does the individual say: Why should my questionable right (and indeed, it depends on which way the Supreme Court wind is blowing that decision) to own, collect, or use an assault weapon come above the rights of 365 million other Americans–the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I guess I’m asking, in my typically long-winded way, is at what point do we rise, as a whole and agree that there must be, in any evolved society, a hierarchy of rights. And where are we, as a whole, as a nation, if we cannot agree that the rights of children to grow into adults, for spouses to grow into retirement, for colleagues and others to live to their full potential–the right of all of us as citizens to walk, as protected as we can possibly be, through a life unmarked by violence– comes above someone else’s ‘because I can’?

I know there are going to be folks that read this and immediately defend 2nd Amendment rights. I’m not advocating for the confiscation of all guns. I am absolutely advocating for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. I am arguing and advocating for clear and sensible gun regulations, safety and responsibility. We can and should wrap into this conversation issues surrounding access to health care, including mental health. But please, if you are going to advocate for mental health changes, give me a detailed plan. What, when, how, who’s going to pay for it? Because while a ban on assault rifles, like the one in the decade between 1994 and 2004 will help, a lot, it won’t solve the problem of why so many American boys and men (statistically speaking, almost ALL) feel entitled to take out their rage on others. Let’s figure out why. But in the meantime, let’s not give them an easier way to do it.

America, Where Are You?

America is supposed to be better than this.

Where is the country, young, scrappy, and hungry, that stood up to a mad king and against all odds, won its independence? The country which has a statue at one of its busiest ports challenging the world to give us its tired and poor, its huddled masses yearning to be free? Where is the country of my great-grandparents, which took those immigrant lives and pushed them through a sieve of red white and blue until they bled apple pie? Where is the country which hails itself as a beacon of democracy and freedom, as bright as Liberty’s torch shining over New York harbor?

We are supposed to be better than this.

Where is the hunger to fix the problems pulling the country apart at the seams? Where is the drive to do better, to take care of our own whether they’re in Puerto Rico or Houston or Las Vegas? Or Iowa, Mississippi or Maine. Where is the innovative thinking we need to overcome problems like gun violence and systemic racism? Where is the scrappiness to face those challenges, the conviction to overcome them?

At what point will this great American experiment be deemed a failure? At what point will the absolute right of the individual citizen be responsible for the downfall of a nation?

I say this as an American who loves my country: I think we are very close to that point. I think we have championed the right of the individual over the rights of the whole for too long, and we are paying the price. Or rather the people in Las Vegas are paying the price, and the citizens of Puerto Rico, the families who bury their black sons and daughters are paying the price. Children who shoot themselves with unsecured guns, women who are killed by abusive partners, transgender citizens who are murdered by fellow citizens. People without healthcare. Citizens in the wealthiest nation in the world going hungry, going without.

We are all paying the price because we are all worse off.

Maybe some of us take nicer vacations or have more square footage. Maybe some have a nice chunk of retirement change. But this idea that our rights as individuals, to speech or guns or bigotry in the name of religious freedom comes before our unity as a whole, as a nation?

That idea is going to kill us as sure as a stake through the country’s heart.

We now accept mass shootings as a way of  life, especially those carried out by white male terrorists. We find neat little ways of compartmentalizing the actions of those men by giving them titles like ‘lone wolf’. By humanizing them in the narrative with occupations and family stories. And so it’s easier to think it’s yet again a one-off thing. There was nothing to stop it, it won’t happen again.

Until it does.

And does.

And does.

And does.

Mass shootings are now as American as baseball and McDonald’s. We expect them. We’re unsurprised by them. We pray and we send thoughts and push aside the fact that it is not going to go away right out of our minds.

Where is the problem solving? Where’s the courage to fix this? Where are the goddamn bootstraps I hear so much about? Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, but give me young, scrappy and hungry too.

In the aftermath which will follow Las Vegas, the same tired, old arguments will be trotted out. But the real tragedy, beyond the lives of the fifty-eight people lost is this:

Too many Americans have become immune. Inoculated against the bloodshed. Caring too much about the imagined individual restrictions than about the life of a nation. We’ve finally managed the neat, little trick of turning so far inward that we’ve ceased to see outward.


We have our own mad king now, who likes gold thrones just as much as George III. But Las Vegas did not happen because of the Trump administration. NFL protests are not happening because of it. I am not laying blame for any of this at the feet of the Trump administration.

Nor do I think the administration is capable of doing a damn thing about staunching the blood either.

So we will continue our descent. Our empathy will continue to atrophy. Our belief in the individual over all else, even the life of our neighbor, our lover, our child. Until there is nothing left but an island full of individuals who come up with ever new Hunger Games style ways of killing one another because ….somehow, someone somewhere will convince those remaining Americans it’s within their rights to do so.

Or we can channel those early founding fathers and stand up.

America, don’t throw away your shot.


It’s Only a Matter of Time

stars-stripes-flag-represent_7e945d6ec7b70513 From Business Day, October 28, 2015:

A big name greeting card company today announced a launch date for its highly anticipated new range of greeting cards. The “Second to None” line was designed in response to the increase of gun-related casualties, and specifically targets consumers looking for a way to reach out to friends or relatives affected by gun-violence.

The range differentiates itself from normal sympathy cards, the company says, by addressing the tragic un-avoidability of gun-violence rather than focusing on grief or loss.

“We noticed the words ‘tragic’ and ‘unavoidable’ had reached a saturation point in the media, particularly among politicians and media outlets,” says the company’s spokesperson S. Wesson. “Our thinking was there was enough of a gap in the market to warrant some research into how such a range would go over.”

“Our research showed that a large percentage of Americans view gun violence as an unavoidable fact of life in the United States. We wanted to give the public a way to express their feelings about gun-violence in a non-confrontational, non-denominational, non-threatening way,” Wesson continues.

A limited test run, featuring a tasteful black and white copy of 2nd Amendment text with the message Our thoughts and prayers go out to you proved to be successful enough that the company expanded the line to include a number of other designs.

“It’s a uniquely American problem which deserves a uniquely American line of greeting cards,” Wesson says.


The company is quick to point out its goal was not to make a statement about gun-violence, but merely to offer an alternative.

“We don’t hesitate to send a birthday card as a way to acknowledge an important day. This is no different really. With victims of gun violence on the rise,” Wesson adds, “it’s important for our customers to feel like they have a way of reaching out.”

Wesson is most proud of the company’s More Guns is the Answer line. The creators worked closely with designers to develop a range of high quality cards, each featuring red, white and blue drawings of eagles and American flags. The cards open to reveal messages such as May you find peace in knowing that had your loved one been armed, he would surely have saved lives.

Other sentiments, rendered in Comic Sans font, include Guns don’t kill people, Planned Parenthood does and This wouldn’t have happened in a concealed carry zone. And a personal favorite of Wesson’s, I hope your loved one’s death isn’t politicized. It’s too soon.

The company is exploring plans for a lighter range of cards such as the Right To Bear Arms, which features a heavily armed grizzly defending his front porch against a government militia and Stuff Happens, featuring cartoon drawings.

20122112113218“Those cards,” Wesson says, “are obviously aimed at those who have had a more light-hearted experience or accident with guns. Think destruction of property rather than death or disfigurement.”

The most controversial of the company’s planned range includes what Wesson refers to as Victim Blaming cards. “The market research we’ve done has shown us there is a significant portion of our customer base who find it difficult to blame guns under any circumstance. For many, death by shooting has become an acceptable consequence for actions we used to take for granted. Talking or texting too loudly. Driving. Going to the movies. We’re simply giving our customers a way to express those feelings.”

The company has answered its critics who raise concerns that the card range is capitalizing on the misfortune of others.

“America is a capitalist country. For over two hundred years we have rewarded those who have profited on the backs of others. This is no different. We are proud to be an American owned corporation.”

Wesson adds, “A greeting card has always been a safe and acceptable way to express your feelings to another human being. Right now posting or delivering a greeting card doesn’t often result in getting shot. Though as recent events show, we can’t rule that eventuality out. If and when that time comes, we’ll revisit the line.”

The company is partnering with big-box retailers who have open carry policies in place. Cards will range from .99 to 3.95 and will be available as of December 1 in time for the holidays.