Today, we Americans seem to relish political incivility, accept violence as normal, fear immigrants, consider bipartisan cooperation immoral and worship guns. Only briefly do we stay aghast at mass shootings of 6-year-olds, concert attendees and churchgoers. Our wealthy national leaders lack understanding and connections with poor people. Our president has loudly derided the handicapped, prisoners of war, Muslims and politicians of his own party who don't do as he says.
This is not what America was supposed to be, but it is who we have become. We have found our guns, but lost our way.
For a while, I've been plowing through "Hamilton," by Ron Chernow. This massive biography, upon which Lin Manuel Miranda's hit Broadway play is based, offers some comfort by illustrating how our national government has withstood political shenanigans and crises.
"Hamilton" reminds us that our country was meant to encompass a wide variety of ideas, but political intrigue and the rural versus city conflicts were present from our nation's birth. Yet, Alexander Hamilton indicated "America would be a meritocracy with a diversified marketplace absorbing people from all nations and backgrounds."
Today, America is having difficulty following the words of Emma Lazarus on our Statue of Liberty. Yet, last week New Jersey voters offered a glimmer of the real America. Fliers labeled "Don't let TERRORISM take over our town" were distributed prior to the Edison city mayoral election of Ravi Bhalla, an Indian-American who follows the Sikh religion. Other negative ads, against Asian and Indian candidates, who won their elections, included "Make Edison Great Again" and "the Chinese and Indians are taking over our town." In the last century, those in the upper echelons lamented that Catholics and Jews were gaining power and becoming part of the American mainstream.
The NRA has tried to convince Americans that everyone needs to be armed and that there is no need for restrictions on the type of weapons or background checks on gun purchasers. Arming everyone in libraries, schools, coffee shops, workplaces and elsewhere will not make us safe; it will make us the Wild West revisited.
Today, we Americans see too many gun deaths and massive shootings. In his studies, Adam Lankford at the University of Alabama, reported in The New York Times, that Americans own 42 percent of the world's guns, but have less than 5 percent of the world's population. For countries with more than 10 million residents, only Yemen, known for instability and violence, has the second highest rate of gun ownership and a higher rate of mass shootings. The study statistics found that rates of mental health disorders, use of video games and diversity among its population did not account for mass shootings.
The Tulsa World and Politifact recently reported a Texas State University study indicating that from 2000-14 there were more people injured or killed in mass shootings in our country than in the combined victims in 10 other countries, including Australia, Canada, China, England, France and Germany.
Taking the other side of the gun debate, a recent column in The Washington Post touted the importance of gun ownership, suggesting that the Holocaust could not have happened in Nazi Germany had all their citizens been permitted to have guns.
Our country is constantly evolving; we cannot go back to the past in technology, jobs, science, family structures and more. But we can find our way back to civility, acceptance of differences and cooperation. That won't kill us; more guns with no rational restrictions on type of weapon or purchasers can.
Diane W. Mufson is a retired psychologist. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.