Dear Harlem Hausfrau Readers,
Due to the horrific events taking place on June 12th in Orlando, Florida, I made the decision to cancel my previously scheduled Wednesday blog post as it rang a little hollow in light of the tragedy. Initially I thought to go dark for the week but as the days past, I came to realize that there still remained a story here, albeit a sobering one. While I will always look to the Harlem Hausfrau blog as a place to share fun and light-hearted cultural insights as I continue to make my way through this adopted land, it is unfortunate that life often makes for a far harsher reality which finds my heart far too heavy for humor.
As it is, I happen to find myself State-side as the news unfolds regarding Orlando, celebrating the graduation of my nephew from high school and to reconnect with old friends. While it continues to be a joyous time, this vacation comes tinged with sadness each time I open the news to read the details surrounding the hate-driven motives of this monster, and truly crest-fallen when I consider the laissez-faire approach with which we appear committed in allowing such open access to guns in our country.
Hard stop readers - guns are illegal in Germany. A fact that I suspect makes many a German sleep better at night and leaves me as an America in Germany wondering what more does it take before we finally answer the call.
The Wild, Wild West
Two years after moving to Germany, I had the rewarding experience of putting on my teacher’s hat for the first time to provide one-on-one Business English language training. It was a great step for me back into the working world and a feeling of profound satisfaction in supporting my students in upgrading their language skills, an exercise that came with the regular reminder "You mastered German - consider that a brilliant accomplishment - English is a cake walk in comparison."
On the first day of class with a new student - as part of my "getting to know you“ process - I very much enjoyed the idea of "free association" regarding our personal insights into each others respective countries. After breaking the ice and sharing my initial expat impressions of Germany with one such student, I then asked the question...
"So tell me, what is the first thing you think of when you think of America."
I assumed I would hear words like McDonald's, large cars, monster food portions...
Without pause she said, "That everyone has a gun."
"What? Seriously? That is the first thing that crosses your mind when you think about America and Americans?“ I asked.
"Yes,“ she said stone-faced. "Didn’t your family have a gun in your house growing up?"
"Absolutely not," I exclaimed. "Please understand that gun ownership and usage is not the standard-norm in America and everyone most certainly does not have a gun in their home!" As I continued to plead my case, the fact that the "Batman movie massacre“ was still fresh in the news did me no favors...her facial expressions clearly questioned the sincerity with which I delivered my "America is not the wild, wild West" message.
While we continued on with that first day’s lesson on a much lighter note, I left class troubled by the conversation and believing my new student had much to learn about America. In fast-forwarding to present day, I now sit looking back on the alarming amount of mass shootings that have since taken place in such little time, from the lives lost in an elementary school in Connecticut, to the black parishioners down in South Carolina...to those before and to those after... it leads me to wonder if this young German was a lot closer to our reality than this American would ever like to think.
"This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub. And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well." President Barack Obama