Yesterday we hiked up to a hillside finca belonging to some friends from Xico (more about this glorious day later, with pictures taken by my stepson and his new camera). As we get to know them, our friends are more and more comfortable asking us about the US -- expressing their anger, in fact, and their amazement at US chutzpah in criticizing violence in Mexico. Ordinary citizens are not allowed to own guns in Mexico. Some noncriminals do illegally. I suspect, but don't know, that people who feel most threatened by drug mafias and kidnappers (the rich and the corrupt) do, for instance. We don't live in a crime-free region, but for the most part, the most part of the most part, it is anything but violent, especially for ordinary citizens. So our friends are amazed that the US press, operating in a country where supposedly there are now more guns than people, can condemn Mexico as an overall violent place. As our friend Don A pointed out, for the most part, (the most part of the most part) it is criminals murdering criminals here, and also, unfortunately, police and soldiers, but not people who are not directly involved in crime. He was especially amazed that Norteamericános could condemn Mexico when in the US, ordinary people kill completely innocent ordinary people, not infrequently children, sometimes in large numbers, and out of the blue, in nursing homes and schools and homes, for instance. How could a country think it is civilized and permit especially automatic weapons to be sold virtually anywhere, and why on earth would people think they should have them?
Today in his NY Times column, Bob Herbert makes exactly the same points. It is an important column to read. It is important to note that since Sept 11, 2001, eight and a half years ago, 120,000 people have been murdered with guns in the US, a rate of about 14,120 a year. Mexico has a third of the population, so the rate of gun deaths is is higher, but as Don A pointed out,ordinary people here haven't been shooting their own families. And of course, the guns doing the shooting here are overwhelmingly guns coming from the US. A significant point to make is that in the US, ordinary Americans buy such guns, and when they go berserk they do terribly damage. It is criminal, not ordinary, Mexicans buying the guns to bring over the border. There is no demand that the government here allow eveyone to arm himself; rather that the guns not be sold and that authorities bring order. Mexico has like most of the world, a history which includes terrible slaughters. Mexico's of course goes back to the 1500s and the arrival of the Spanish. The awareness of history weighs on Mexico's soul as it does on the souls of European countries, of many countries. The US, unlike these other countries, seems only minimally aware of its history, if at all. Perhaps some searing lessons on, among other things, the Civil War; the violence of the anti-labor violence at the turn of the twentieth century; the slaughter of the Indians (Europeans pretty much wiped out Native Americans), prairie wars between ranchers and farmers, and the steady slaughter that our own criminal gangs from the gangs of New York to mafias to bloods and crips, has wrought would help us to understand why our gun laws are so insane and why we seem so crazy and violent and lawless to people in other parts of the world.