After a lengthy stay in Florida, Eva had many opportunities to talk to Americans about many topics. Immigration and gun ownership were two very interesting and eye-opening issues. Read what Eva had to say…
We wintered again in Florida this year, on the East Coast. During that time, we met many interesting people from all walks of life, and we had some intense discussions with several of our good friends. We touched upon such topics as the SNAP program, – which entails giving out a one-time food basket for low-income families instead of the on-going food stamps; we also touched upon abolishing the HEAD START program for children of low-income families- which prepares preschoolers for reading and writing; the on-going round-up of immigrant families in Florida; the firm roots of the NRA in society; and, of course, the leadership style of the current president. We tried to absorb all the facts, we tried to respond with more conviction than judgement and at the same time not being insensitive to the attitudes of our friends. In the end, we came away with two themes that made an enormous impact on our own way of thinking.
We have been told many times over that the immigration problem is not so much that they are illegal, because most of them do have valid documentation that keeps them in the States, but that they are very reluctant to assimilate into mainstream society. Diverse nationalities do have their own neighbourhoods, better known as cultural ghettoes, where they maintain their customs, language, heritage and identity. Much like Canada’s multiculturalism. But the comparison stops there. For the Americans, the big hurdle is that the newcomers must learn to speak English and must use the language in and outside of their neighbourhoods. In fact, I have witnessed this myself in South Beach, where a family was called out by an American for not speaking English in a restaurant. I was embarrassed!!! The Spanish community has been especially vulnerable in this area. This leaves behind a hostile residue. But then as some people will point it out, when the leader of the country is angry, diminishes cultural differences and is intolerant to race and faith, then he will be disliked by many and even the mainstream society becomes emboldened doing the same.
I have loosely interviewed 6 of our friends, who definitely confirmed this attitude. I was really taken aback by this thinking which I would not have seen otherwise, as it is a subtle undertone in society. These people are good friends of ours who are professionals with solid backgrounds, who truly believe that immigrants, legal or illegal, are not a significant part of their lives.
The second takeaway from our discussions was the gun laws and the strong influence, especially the funding, of the NRA. This gun organization is very powerful, wealthy and aggressive in its defence of guns and gun laws. Their philosophy maintains that it is NOT guns that kill people, but people kill people.
Our six friends are all gun owners, but each one of them is of the mind
that government cannot be trusted to design and enact laws that will protect their guns, but ultimately, it will take their guns away. Everyone I interviewed is a responsible gun owner, but not a Trump supporter. Each is of sound mind that he/she has a duty to be responsible with their guns in handling them it or in their use. Therefore, gun laws should be left alone, with little focus on gun restrictions.
At this juncture, each pointed to the Second Amendment legitimized in the 17th century mostly for physical protection in a wild country. But they used muskets then not assault rifles! Under this Amendment, they have the right to bear arms in order to protect themselves from big government. The protection is in the legislation, something the NRA is not willing to touch.
Immigration and gun laws are huge topics for discussions in Florida, and indeed in many other states too. As I listened to rationalizations, excuses, and to strong beliefs, I came away thinking that it will take many more mass shootings and many more violent, gun incidents before lawmakers are willing to make changes.
The NRA is a very wealthy backer of politicians who need the funds for re-election. They want to be re-elected. And they call that, democracy.
After almost three months of being immersed in American society, it was a total relief to anticipate the approach of the Canadian Border. There is something innate about Canadian thinking. We do have our share of problems, but perhaps not to that extent. We embrace new immigrants, we assist where we can, and yes, we do complain too, but we also realize that immigrants built this country, so where would we be without them.
Guns scare me! We do have restrictions; we do have more stringent gun laws, and the use of guns is not as widespread as in the states. I am grateful for small mercies.
Or maybe I am just naïve!