We have lived in Singapore for just more than two months now, and I can confirm what we had been told before we moved: it’s a wonderful place to live. (Assuming you ignore the obvious flaws it has from an American and humanist perspective. More on that some other time.)
Every Singaporean I’ve met has been outgoing and friendly. I acknowledge that this country’s economy is largely built on being friendly to expats, but Singaporeans do seem to like Americans and the United States. Several have visited before. (One told me it was too cold there.) One cabbie, who was likely in his 70s and would have been a young man when Singapore was relatively poor and vulnerable, sung America’s praises, indicating it was like a big brother. All well and good.
Except for one topic: American gun culture.
One Singaporean said her son didn’t want to visit the U.S. for fear of guns. One cabbie asked me about it, explaining that he had been held up while visiting New York. Another Singaporean couldn’t understand how easy it was to get a gun.
Every time I felt like I was expected to explain the American obsession with and freewheeling attitude toward firearms. I did try once. Being sufficiently (but not stupidly) proud of my country, I went on for a while about our history as a frontier nation, the Minutemen, and the Bill of Rights and the Second Amendment. I also explained how our political system actually works and the inordinate power of the NRA, which he had never heard of. I certainly did try to explain U.S. gun culture. But clearly he wasn’t buying it. Let me point out that Singapore has mandatory military or security service. Every male has handled a firearm. And this is a country that is far more vulnerable to a physical invasion than the U.S. Even so, I could tell my explanation of American gun culture just sounded like a long-winded excuse.
And I can’t blame him. Look, I don’t own a gun – never have. And I don’t hunt. But I do know people who do both, and I don’t really care. They are responsible gun owners. But it is an an enormous leap from that level of responsible gun ownership to kind of gun nuttery that we routinely show the world: unmatched gun violence statistics among developed countries; a gun-toting “Christian” who comes off looking like a jihadi; a guy patrolling his local Kroger with a rifle and a baby for body armor; the tragic case of a nine-year-old being put in a ridiculous situation by her parents who will now have to live with those memories all her life (prompting this perfect tweet); and, worst of all, a political culture that can’t even get expanded background checks passed after six- and seven-year-old children are shot to pieces. (By the way, on the very same day of the Sandy Hook shooting, there was a mass attack at a school in China – but with a knife. There were injuries, but no deaths.)
I see all of this as just plain crazy, and I can try to change it. But sadly, I really doubt anything I would do would have much impact. I’m just yet another whacked-out liberal, right? But listen to me, if you own a gun and find the kind of gun insanity that’s been on display in recent years in any way unsettling, then you owe it to your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your country to speak out. You – the moderate, reasonable gun owner – have to be the one to step up. You have to look for solutions rather than looking the other way (even though I know it’s sometimes unclear what to do). It will be uncomfortable at first, I’m sure. You’ll catch a lot of crap from your friends. But don’t give up. You have to keep trying. It’s a matter of life and death. And the future is in your hands.