I'm 49 and feeling menopausal. Apparently it's called peri-menopause, or peripause. What this really means is that on a good day I cry at the John Lewis advert with the boy and the Christmas gift for mum and dad, and on a bad day I want to throttle the gal sat next to me on the train for tweezing her eyebrows in public. I have a child who is sweet and beautiful and smart, and nuttier than a box of rocks. I am single - as in unmarried, unattached and at times feeling just 'un'. I've got near-constant chatter clogging my head, and not in a schizophrenic kinda way. I thought an online journal might be a good place to deposit my middle-aged chatter. Here goes...

Sunday, 16 December 2012

America – it's not so beautiful

The handful of people who read my modest wee blog may have guessed that I am American – Italian-American, to be exact, in the truest sense of the word. Yup, that’s right. I was raised in the land of big cars, big buildings and big arses.

But I’ve been in wee Blighty some 18 years, so I figure I am in the unique position of understanding both nations and the cultural peculiarities of each better than most people. And I say that without any arrogance whatsoever. I say that as a mere observer.

Much as I’d like to poke fun of my night sweats and hair loss and floppy titties, and lament the tedium of online dating ad infinitum on this here blog, and maybe make one or two of you laugh, I’m not. Not today. I can’t today, coz I have an important something on my mind – the mass murder of 20 children aged six and seven in Sandy Hook primary school in Connecticut.

There will be lots of crying over this, collective sorrow the world over, but not least in the United States of America. And there will be community prayers, and candlelight vigils, and 20 mums in particular buckling in agony, vomiting, unable to breathe and possibly wishing for death themselves on learning that their child is stone-cold dead on the school floor with a bullet through the head. It's more than a parent can bear.

When my son was six, he was building camps in the living room with sheets, clothes pegs and chairs, and learning to play footie and playing with Lego and still watching Pippin the dog in Come Outside and flinging himself on furniture while pretending to expelliarmas me with a twig wand and tablecloth cape. He wasn’t cowering in a corner at school terrified and weeping, whispering my name, with eyes shut and hands clasped, hearing his teacher say ‘I love you all’.

I used to worry about him getting bullied at school, or not eating his packed lunch, not learning cursive, or perhaps wetting himself during PE. I never worried about him going to school and possibly getting his head blown off by a mass murderer. And the reason why that worry never plagued me while I was at work was because he was being educated in England, not in my own GodBlessAmericaLand, home of God, guns and televangelists.

The most devastating aspect of this recent shooting is that soon enough it will happen again, and we will, again, flood Twitter and Facebook with heartfelt comments about the tragedy, and intellectualise about it again on Newsnight and in The Guardian with centre-spreads and many column inches dedicated to understanding the American psyche – just as we are doing this very weekend.

So I’ll give you the nutshell explanation, as an American abroad. Sandy Hook will change nothing in my country because, from a cultural perspective, Americans value the right to bear the arms that can blow off a child’s head more than they value the child whose head has been blown off. It’s our God-given right: it says so in the Second Amendment. The mere suggestion of outlawing guns in the United States threatens our liberty, our deeply held belief that we are a free country. Oh the land of the free, and the home of the brave so go the lyrics. Remember Whitney’s spine-tingling rendition?

American commentators – mostly the God-bothering ones – will say, “It’s not the guns that are bad; it’s bad people who do bad things with guns.” So, make no mistake, in GodBlessAmericaLand guns are good. They’re sexy. They empower women. McDonald’s kiddie parties are soooooooo yesterday. Kiddie parties at gun ranges with real live ammo are de rigueur today. 

Guns are also very lucrative for the American economy: we’ve happily flooded Mexico with Made in America guns, and Afghanistan and Iraq, and countless other dictatorships. It doesn’t really matter that those Made in America guns have killed countless innocent people the world over and at home – peddling guns is a goldmine. Gun-running and pumping up an entire nation of prepubescents with Ritalin help keep our pitiful economy afloat. But I digress…

Charlton Heston once said something like this: “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” And the nation whooped and applauded that pithy public sentiment.

So, on this day, when the world mourns the death of 20 innocent children and six adults in an American primary school bloodbath, Americans can take comfort in the belief that it was God’s will, because God doesn't give us more than we can bear, apparently. Importantly, Americans can feel proud that we, unlike civilised nations the world over, are superior to the rest of the not-so-free world, because we have the Right to Bear Arms. We're cool like that.

I've listened to this song several times this morning - it reminds me of the many sweet moments of my childhood, and of my lovely dad who passed away recently, and of pledging allegiance to God and country by way of a flag. And so, in memory of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, I give you Ray Charles singing America The Beautiful.

Credit: The gal and gun pic came from here, much as I hate to credit the site, and the other two were found on Google Images.


  1. the issues of gun control are one thing, and well documented, but I see this also as part of the human crisis,the boy's mother was a gun hoarding survivalist, someone who is paranoid that anarchy is close, where the stockpiling of food and arms is a reasonable personality security measure ... this paranoia and anxiety, passed from society to mother to boy, is illustrative of the malevolent human turmoil at the heart of everything we have constructed ... we don't have the solution to this because we are the problem, we merely have to negotiate horror as we negotiate the minutae of our trivial lives ... this is how it is, there is no progress as there is no God, but we hang on to the two with desperation ... the political battles for peace are always mitigated by the human will to live, to have, to enforce and control ... no endgame, just more of the same ... make pockets of peace in your own life and be in tune with the world as it really is ... good article peri

  2. Thank you VB, and Merry Christmas Day to you. I've just read on the BBC's website that Piers Morgan has upset a faction of right-wing America by calling for gun control on national television. Apparently, there is a petition to have him deported. It states this:

    "We demand that Mr Morgan be deported immediately for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens."

    Words fail me...

  3. Great blog. Well written, thought provoking and (although not in this case) very amusing. I wish you a belated Merry Christmas.I can only agree and echo your comments on Sandy Hook. I work for a US company and regularly have debates with certain colleagues on the topic of gun control and the "evil" of the US government who "seek to control everything when all they should do is take care of national
    security" ( and a couple of other things which I cannot remember right now). I remember having a conversation
    about gun control while driving through Johannesburg with one of my rootin, tootin colleagues in which he said "well you have tight controls in the UK because you only want the bad guys to have guns". There really is no reasoning to be had on this topic with such individuals; it's like it is part of their DNA. In fact the aunt of one of my other work colleagues is a teacher in the affected school but luckily emerged unscathed. Maybe this will prompt a re-think from my other colleague...but I do not think so..

    I look forward to more of your missives in the New Year.