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Maariv, Israel

Not a Political Problem,
But a Cultural One


By Amnon Lord

It is not the free trade of weapons that made Adam Lanza’s mother keep five firearms in her home, but the new, emotionally detached American culture.

Translated By Danielle Morris

16 December 2012

Edited by Kyrstie Lane

 


Israel - Maariv - Original Article (Hebrew)

The first time I visited the U.S. was in the late 1970s. I lived and studied there for around two and a half years. Life in America was humbler in those days. I eventually learned that this was one of America’s biggest periods of recession, in the later days of Ford’s presidency followed by President Carter’s. People, in particular young people, still often wore second hand clothing. They drove cars that were around five or 10 years old. The cinema was wonderful. Men and women were not afraid of each other. Not every desert horse you rode had no name; there were some that even had a name.

After that, I did not visit the U.S. for about a decade. I came over twice in the late 80s and early 90s. This time it was materialism that screamed out at me. America was suddenly very rich, everything was shiny and new, the old cinemas in central New York and Boston had shut down. It was the “yuppie” era.

In the past few years I made a few more visits. The impression I got was different, and not simply because I am older. My experience was similar to that of a relative of mine, a teenager, who had been sent over to the U.S. for a summer camp. We asked him, “What was it like?” And he answered: “Too many rules.”

Wherever you turn in the U.S. you are greeted with guidelines, rules, orders. This may be in an airport, a university campus or a stylish café. Today’s American society represses emotion so thoroughly to the point that you may suspect the Americans have forgotten the meaning of the word. The American establishments wrap you in a blanket of online forms and printed paper to the point of despair and suffocation. It is what feels so foreign to an outsider. Most Americans do not notice it, but there is no knowing how it affects them.

Today’s oh-so-principled America takes its outlook to the extreme borders of the absurd. Americans are full of self-satisfaction about the fact they have voted for a black president twice, and that they live in a new, advanced America. But advanced principles are not necessarily better ones.

America is pushing itself further and further away from the ability to express the truth in a direct and clear manner. This is due to the need to use politically correct phrases, which turn the simple truth into a dance around the huge elephant in the room. The truth, just like emotions, becomes a vacuum that no one dares to fill. The fight for freedom of speech, being carried out in many universities, is not helping overcome the problem.

Is there a link between these impressions and the primary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut? It is difficult to say for sure. But the answer to this massacre, which is highly reminiscent of the shooting five months ago at the Batman premiere in Denver, does not lie where Americans tend to think it does, in the free trade of weapons.

In Connecticut, for example, it is illegal to sell automatic and semi-automatic weapons. It is not the free trade of weapons that made Adam Lanza’s mother keep five firearms in her home. Presumably, if a friend from town had found five packs of cigarettes in her house, it would have shocked them even more than finding five guns. Americans were more interested in the fact that the young man who committed suicide after the massacre did not have a Facebook account and “left few traces” behind. He was a little deranged, shy and socially awkward.

There is a recognition that something terrible has happened. “Evil visited this community,” said the governor of Connecticut. This is like Gehenna in biblical times, claimed one of the publicists, where children are being sacrificed before you.

But what we see here is a cultural, not a political, phenomenon. The fundamental feeling, felt by those who once loved America and saw it as a second homeland, is that this murder has a repeating pattern, and its root is actually in America’s new society – a society that appears to be highly principled, but is detached from any real emotion. A country where movies have become so lenient about the subject of violence. A country that is so friendly to the melting ice caps, but struggles to create family bonds and a community to protect the individual from the huge predatory state. I do not really miss the America I returned from a month ago; I miss the America that was a second home to me 35 years ago.



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