Today I was at a lunch-time happy hour with a few co-workers when the topic of guns came up. One of my co-workers Michael mentioned in passing that he and his family are planning a hunting trip in South Georgia where one of his uncles own several hundred acres.
This statement passed by me without a second thought, but two of my co-workers were intensely curious about the trip. One man from India and the other from China. They were fascinated by the nonchalant way he treated the topic of owning a gun – several guns – in fact.
Wei, a thin man with a thick accent and kind tone, explained he had served two years in the Chinese military during the early 1980s. This was the only time, he explained, he had ever handled a gun. In China only the military may carry a weapon. I got the impression he was not a fan of the Chinese military. Yasir, on the other hand, had never seen a gun outside the movies. I think he pictured Michael’s hunting trip on a horse and with a cowboy hat. Both found the gun culture in America (especially the South) unusual.
Explaining Gun Culture in America
“Guns aren’t a big deal to us because we grew up with them.” Michael explained.
That’s true for me too. I remember when I was a young boy and my Dad and I would go hiking. We would pack a few fishing poles and some lunch. He would bring along our dog and the shotgun in the event we would stumble upon a while boar or if we just wanted to do some target practice for fun.
My Father and Grandfather taught me all about guns: how to safely hold them, how to shoot one, and how to store it. I remember my Father carefully explaining to me that a “gun is not a toy” and to “never point it at anyone” to “aim it at the ground when you’re not using it.”
All of these lessons seemed perfectly natural when I was a child, but looking back now I realize that they were something truly unique to American culture and Southern heritage. Just like some parents probably teach their children to use the subway or cross a busy intersection – mine taught me how to handle a gun.
Guns are kind of like a locally revered cuisine that the rest of the world finds distasteful. Chicken feet or caviar, maybe. And perhaps for that reason alone many Americans, in certain regions, embrace guns even more. It is part of our history, our “rugged and independent” ideology, and upbringing. It’s not bread out of some desire to kill our enemies, some love of conflict, or paranoia – it’s just another tool we were taught to use growing up.
I guess that’s why a lot of people are hesitant to give their guns up and why others don’t understand that logic. Culture can be strange that way.