The divided ‘land of the free’
The Arabian Nights is a story about two royal brothers. The younger of the two royal brothers, Shahzaman a Sultan of Samarkand, is shocked when he discovers his wife committing adultery with a kitchen boy under his own roof. Not only is he shocked, but also honestly believes that he is the only one in the world that has had such a misfortune happen to him. He kills both of them and immediately leaves for his brother, King Shahrayar’s, kingdom.
While he is in his brother’s home, Shahzaman grows sickly and pale because of his internal demons. His brother invites him on a hunt, but he declines, staying in the palace with his grief.
One day, while King Shahrayar is out hunting, Shahzaman stays in the palace feeling very depressed about his dead wife. He looks out at the garden and sees his brother’s wife enter the garden with twenty slave girls, ten white and ten black. They undress and turn out to be ten black men slaves and ten white women (the King’s concubines). They then start to thoroughly consume each other.
Shahzaman also witnesses Mas’ud, a black slave as broad as a bench jump down from a tree when the Queen calls to him. He watches Mas’ud mercilessly pumping and consuming the Queen, and the Queen screeming with the greatest of joy and deeply adoring his black cobra.
The entourage then re-garb as slave girls, except for Mas’ud who jumps back over the wall and disappears.
Shahzaman then realises that he is not the only one with a cheating wife and becomes joyful again. He concludes that his brother’s situation was even worse than his own. ‘Even though my brother is king and master of the whole world, he cannot protect what is his, his wife and his concubines, and suffers misfortune in his very home. What happened to me is little by comparison. I used to think that I was the only one who has suffered, but from what I have seen, everyone suffers. By God, my misfortune is lighter than that of my brother I am no longer alone in my misery; I am well.’
The divide that has hit the headlines in the so called land of the free, the United States of America (USA), has made me feel no different from Shahzaman, after he witnessed Mas’ud enjoy the Queen.
Let us digest just two of the divides, firearms and fiscal cliff.
Firearms are generally classified into three broad types:
- rifles, and
Rifles and shotguns are both considered ‘long guns’. A semi-automatic firearm fires one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, ejects the shell of the fired bullet, and automatically loads another bullet for the next pull of the trigger. A fully automatic firearm (sometimes called a machine gun) fires multiple bullets with the single pull of the trigger.
No one knows exactly how many firearms are owned by US civilians, but the statistical estimates are staggering. But these are mere (probably conservative) estimates based on sales from the National Rifle Association (NRA). The true scale of ownership could be worse, because firearms are also obtained from other unregulated sources.
|US Population (2010)||307 million||% of population|
|Firearms owned by US civilians (2010)||300 million||98%|
|Firearms owned by US civilians that are Handguns (2010)||100 million||33%|
Source: NRA website
Table 1 illustrates that if the firearms were evenly distributed, each American aged above 2 years would get one firearm, and one out of every three Americans would have a handgun.
Although it is difficult to generalise, it is reasonable to conclude that firearms ownership mostly appeals to white Republican party leaning males who claim to use them for protection against crime and for target shooting (see Table 2).
The most disturbing fact is that at least 60% (6 out of every 10 Americans) of the adult population owns a firearm!
|Use||Firearms for Protection Against Crime||67%|
|Firearms for Target Shooting||66%|
|Firearms for Hunting||41%|
|Gender||Males owning a Firearm||47%|
|Females owning a Firearm||13%|
|Ethnicity||Whites owning a Firearm||33%|
|Non-whites owning a Firearm||18%|
|Party||Republicans owning a Firearm||41%|
|Independents owning a Firearm||27%|
|Democrats owning a Firearm||23%|
Source: NRA website
Each time there is a massacre (see chronology of massacres here, here and here) rhetoric talks start on the possibility of firearms’ legislation. However, the Republican party inclined NRA appears not to have any of that – even machine guns!
For NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre and many other pro-gun Americans, the best way to protect children, for example, from becoming victims of a slaughter is to make sure every school in America has ‘qualified armed security’. For President Barack Obama, many Democratic leaders and a slight majority of the American public, the solution starts with tougher legislation on assault weapons, universal background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines, the first steps needed to begin to make it harder to get at the kinds of firearms that kill thousands of Americans each year.
With strong sentiments on both sides, and solutions like this one, it is reasonable to conclude that the firearms problem in the USA has reached a point of no return. American civilians are looking to buying more firearms, which will only make matters worse.
Do American civilians really need machine guns or rocket propelled grenade launchers to protect themselves? Is the USA moving towards a new Wild West, where almost everyone will openly move with a firearm? Is the USA turning into a ‘CARBOY’ state where one jumps out of the CAR and shoots the other?
Chris, who asked that his last name not be used, hasn’t fired a third of his collection of 115 guns.
US Fiscal cliff
As I write, the USA has potentially postponed its fiscal cliff to a future date. In Obama’s words, all the other Americans can get together and agree to get things done, except the politicians in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
The ongoing stand-off would suggest that many Republicans politicians in the Senate and in the House of Representatives would rather see the USA economy plunge into a recession with potentially devastating consequences than increase tax on the millionaires whose tax rates are in any case much lower than those of the Americans living on hand to mouth basis.
The Democrats politicians on the other hand would like the millionaires to make a proportionate contribution to the tax base, while protecting the middle class and those living on hand to mouth basis (Mitt Romney’s 47% ?).
Is it strictly about the party, or are selfish interests at stake? Surely, can’t American legislatures see even simple sense? How about the American civilians – will they punish those politicians during the next mid-term elections, or will it be party politics as usual?