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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Leaving America - Part 12

Culture Shock - A
The Laws
My wife is a psychotherapist and I’m helping her get rid of some books she will not be taking with us. Sometimes I scan them out of curiosity.

Core Social Values Among Scandinavians
From: Ethnicity & Family Therapy

“Scandinavia is a law-making society in which a great deal of respect for authority pervades, paradoxically, there is a natural suspicion about it. It is accepted that respect for authority is what maximizes one’s freedoms, and yet there is the typically pragmatic Scandinavian acceptance of the fact that laws are made by humans who or capable of error. So a companion believe is the rules are made to be broken—or at least bent."

            I have noticed this on my visits to Sweden. The people are much the same as we are here, but there is something about respect for the law that I don’t notice here. It’s a very subtle difference and difficult to explain.

            They do not allow guns in Sweden. It’s not impossible to own one, but not easy—requires a lot of paper work, and joining some kind of hunting club or target shooting range. Probably even more difficult for an incoming alien like myself. I’ll have to give up my guns.
             I’m not a collector, but I have a beautiful Browning 16 gauge shotgun. An anniversary model—called ‘Sweet 16’. My dad got if for me on my 16th birthday. I’m 74now. In the last 30 years I’ve used it twice—skeet shooting. It’s in perfect condition, but old and kicks like a horse. The newer shotguns have almost no kick at all, very smooth. If I was a serious skeet shooter or a hunter I would buy a new shotgun. I’ll probably never use the one I have again, but still it’s hard to give it up. I’ve no idea how to sell it . . . to collectors I suppose. I thought I had it sold to a collector who was visiting a neighbor. He came over to look at it.
           “Very nice,” he said. “But I already have 5 of these.”
            I own a 22 Marlin lever action, rifle. Had it since my teens and in my flaming youth could shoot half dollars out of the air with it, not every time, but sometimes. I haven’t fired it in 30 years and doubt I will never use it again. There’s been a serious love affair between me and that gun, but that was a long time ago. It’s in good shape—barrel needs re-bluing. I can give it up . . . . or maybe even give it to a friend.

            But here’s the rub. I’ve got this Colt 45, 1911. And I love it, had it 40 years and fired the thing less than 100 times. It‘s an elegant piece of equipment, flawless design, easy to take apart . . . and big. Using it is not what counts. It doesn’t matter if I ever fire the thing again. It’s there  if I need it. If some weirdo breaks into my house I will have options. This happened once in San Francisco. I was living single in a three room second floor apartment with a frosted glass front door. I had this wonderful easy chair and had fallen asleep in it. Something woke me at around 3 A.M. I looked at the frosted glass door and saw a moving silhouette. The doorknob was turning . . . v e r y slowly.
            I picked up the Colt which was in easy reach and loaded and I sat there with it aimed at the door, wondering if I had remembered to lock it. Sometimes I forgot—not often. It was good to know nothing very bad was going to happen to me. The 45 is big. It’s showy. An intruder would need be nuts to do anything but leave in a hurry, and if he chose to make a move, I had the difference in my hand. As it turned out I had remembered to lock the door. He gave the knob a few more slow twists then gave it up and left.
            I have been walked in on twice in my life, once in Chicago and years later in San Francisco. On that last close encounter I was single again and sleeping on a low bed, just a foot or so off the floor. I woke up looked up at this guy who seemed 7 feet tall. It was hard to tell in the shadows cast by a street light outside. I sat up very fast, not knowing what the hell to do but that whatever it was I knew it would be better to not be lying down.
            The guy says, “Are you the manager?”
            “No. I’m not.”
            “Oh, I’m sorry,” he says walking out. “Must be the wrong apartment.”
            Right. I checked a clock beside my bed, little after 3 A.M. Prime time for big city apartment building browsers, looking for that unlocked door. I bought the colt a few days after that. 

            It feels good to have a gun. I don’t like giving it up. I want protection. Probably I won’t need it, but many people have needed it. I remember a tale my grandmother told me. Her husband was a guard some place, some factory. He was working nights and someone, she thought maybe a drunk, began beating the hell out of  her front door, pounding and kicking it. She stood on the other side of the door and said,        “Mister, I’ve got a gun in my hand and if you come through that door I’ll blow your head off.”
            She did have a gun and she would have shot him. no doubt about it. She was born on a farm and knew how to use one. He left. She had defended herself and her child—my dad. It feels good to know you can defend yourself against someone bigger, younger, stronger . . . meaner.
            Some of you will disagree with what I’ve said. I’ve debated  Swedes about it, a mental bad-mitten of words, and opinions. Pro and con both have merits and I fully understand the other point of view. I read the news. Shit happens all the time and everywhere, not just the big cities. You read about some asshole who shot a bunch of Sikhs because they thought they‘re Taliban or whatever. And the guy who shot up the movie theater . . . some kind or Army rifle—100 round clip. Nobody needs that. I’m not sure anyone needs 5 Browning 16 gauge shotguns, but I don’t mind if they do. When people start buying military grade assault weapons it makes me nervous.
            I am sure their argument—should I dare to suggest someone does not need an assault weapon with a hundred round clip—would be much the same argument I’ve given you—about protection. It’s a matter of how much protection you need. I guess that’s hard to regulate, but this move has solved my problem. Still, I hate to give up this gun. The right to bear arms is an impressive freedom, rare I think. It will not feel good to give that up. Maybe I should Google for a crossbows.

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