It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for me. As many of you know my son is in his senior year at school. But what does this opening sentence have to do with clinging to our motherland: US Gov and guns?
Back to School Night
Well last week we had “Back to School” night. It’s where you go to each class the kids have in their schedule and see the teachers and get a breakdown of the class and what they’ll be studying for the year.
Master H is taking AP (Advanced Placement) US Government. I thought nothing of it until one of the parents asks whether they’ll be discussing other systems of government. The answer was a categoric no. Much like the HSC in Australia the APs are taught to a curriculum guideline, the topics of which can be found in a test. That test is taken by everyone in the country taking that subject. And, a quick look at other systems isn’t covered by the syllabus–or on the test.
For those newer readers, we’re at a local private school in LA not an international one. Although, LA being LA, there are a number of expats or people who have moved to the US for one reason or another.
I got a bit peeved by the teacher’s response. I mean he chose the subject (there were no other real choices), US Gov is US Gov right?
When I studied Legal Studies at school it was essentially studying the Australian legal system. We covered other systems in the world but we focussed on ours. It makes plenty of sense to understand what other countries do in order to better understand ours.
And while the answer was a categoric no she did suggest that they would weave into their discussion other systems because of the expat nature of the group. (The small class had a Canadian family, British/German, Aussies (us) and Italian. So when I eventually calmed down about how she categorically answered the question, it isn’t going to be all bad.
Expat Facebook group
Before I had a chance to calm down I posted a comment on an Expat Facebook group I belong to. I wrote:
“Here’s my gripe: couldn’t she just say there’s no time in the curriculum to discuss the other systems it’s purely a US Govt subject? That would have sufficed.
“And am I wrong to be so sad that my son will know so much more about the US system of Government and the ins and outs of the Electoral College than the Westminster system?”
I was expecting some empathy from the Aussies amongst us and some lamenting from others about the downside of Expat life where the kids often know more about the country in which they live than their homeland–their motherland.
Instead, after the Australians supported me, I was barraged with comments accusing me of trying to change the AP courses and advising me that the AP system is very strict and must be adhered to. And this:
“With about 200 countries in the world, how could they effectively compare other systems of government while simultaneously going in-depth about the US?”
But I wasn’t asking for that … Just a bit of discussion if it fits, that’s all. (And remember I didn’t ask the question, one of my American compatriots–in the parental sense–asked).
With all that behind me I went along to the Potluck night we threw for the Senior parents. We were chatting away about stuff as you do. We were talking about what subjects our kids were doing and one of the dads said, “Are you sad that [he’s] doing US Gov and will know more about our messed up system than not your own?”
Oh my God. Hallelujah. Thank you. Yes!
Why wasn’t one of my fellow expats able to just say/ask/empathise like this all-American dad formerly of New York and more recently living in LA?
Did someone say guns?
Well one guy did. Made a huge statement didn’t he? We are literally walking around in disbelief. Vegas is so close to LA, it’s in our backyard. There’s someone you know in Vegas every week. In fact there were people I knew in Vegas at the time and thankfully they were fine and away from the trouble.
But there’s nothing more obvious than an Australian in a gun debate. Especially in America. I blogged about it early on when I was here for my first mass shooting. (Yep, like it’s an earthquake or hurricane, celebrity divorce or star meltdown)*.
My daughter was talking about it in school the day we woke to the news of the Vegas tragedy. One of her friends said she believed in the right to protect herself (I’m guessing she means her family not actually 15 year-old her). Miss H looked at her startled; it wasn’t something she was expecting to hear in LA amongst her friends.
Miss H said, “If there were proper gun laws then they wouldn’t have a gun in the first place would they?”
I’m happy to say I give my kids an Australian perspective when it really matters.
Australians actually have it all wrong
But actually us Australians have it all wrong. We do. If there’s one single thing we are polar opposites with America on it’s our attitude to guns. And never the two shall meet. Basically, we’re like guns suck, they kill people. And Americans (not all thank-you but the ones giving you a bad rap) are like guns are so good, I get to protect myself and it’s my right to have one. So there.
Every time there’s a mass shooting in America us Australians come out like Eddie Murphy in his classic standup routine “I got an ice-cream“.
Yeah, we go
“We don’t have guns,
“You got a problem,
“We can’t afford them,
“Cause they can’t sell them,
“You have to have a licence
“And it’s really hard.”
And Americans go, “Oh My God I’m so sorry, how do you cope?”
Then we pull out the Port Arthur story and go, “Take that!”
Then the conversation goes one of two ways.
- Well it’s our right to bear arms it’s in the second amendment so there. OR
- You know you’ve had other mass shootings don’t you? Yeah, but you never talk about them do you?
Then we get all funny (because we like to win too). We have to concede defeat. One or two situations have tragically happened (the Lindt Cafe hostage situation freaked me out).
(BTW there were three deaths including the hostage taker and 18 injured).
Yeah, all of a sudden because we let a couple of incidents slip through to the keeper in the last 21 years, that means our rules suck. So basically it didn’t work.
“Take that Australia. We win.”
Yep. Let’s face it, when it comes to the number of psychotic mass shootings in the last (let’s just call it 10 years) you win America.
So Australia got it wrong after all.
Nightly Talk Shows
But not all Americans believe semi-automatic and automatic guns should be out there for anyone to buy. And use. And kill people.
I recorded every late night show to see how the comedians handled the latest tragedy. I follow them all on Twitter and I’ve tweeted and retweeted anything vaguely intelligent on the subject.
But, the problem with the way the situation here is that these guys are preaching to the converted. We share their posts on Facebook, we tweet them and post photos on our Instagram like the
Pray Policy Change for America. They unite with the Australians, we look at each other and go “yeah, exactly”, we puff our chests out and wear a grin from ear to ear.
The same thing happened before Trump got elected. They think common sense should prevail.
But change won’t happen unless we stop preaching to the converted. And not by preaching to the non-converts either. I don’t know how to talk to these people but somehow there’s a way. And once we work out that way, then we’ll start to see a difference.
But to start there are two ways. First is through education: get into the classrooms. It’s going to be a generational change that’s needed because it will never be a mindset change. Second, stop the bloody NRA from being allowed to donate money to bribe the politicians. Actually, just disband them. If politicians aren’t being paid to keep guns legal I will guarantee you their perspective will change. And if it doesn’t, see step one.
And, because I’m one of those “converteds” here is a story including a video with some powerful statements from said Late Night hosts. Powerful statements that will fall on deaf ears yet again.
Curve ball … empathy. As I was writing the first part of this post I started thinking.
Immigration is such a huge topic and it’s so deeply dividing (what topic isn’t these days?) An expat is just a temporary immigrant really.
When you leave your family and friends behind, move to a new country to start a “better life” (for whatever reason) it’s pretty bloody hard to start afresh. You have to make new friends, experience different ways of doing things and assimilate into your new world. Take a US Gov class instead of Australian Legal Studies.
Many people say America and Australia aren’t that different–they’re essentially the same right? (Well, my series on the differences between Americans and Australians show just how different they can be lots of times).
So what if you move to a country that’s nothing like your motherland? How much harder must it be then? We experienced it in China as expats but not as immigrants.
Just a thought if you’re down on people for clinging to their motherland. Cut them some slack. They want to be in your country (OK, most of them–don’t get nitpicky on me) and they want to assimilate. But sometimes, when you move away, the bond is stronger and the memories grow fonder and fonder.
xx It Started in LA xx
* Don’t forget to #prayforTori