Sometimes I am blown away by the level of fear people carry around. I have experienced what anxiety feels like and I know it is very, very real for those experiencing it. Yet, I can’t help but scratch my head sometimes at the lengths people are willing to go to bask in their fear. I’m talking truly bathe in its glow.
Recently, in a public forum, a blossoming traveler asked which country would be a good choice for a family instant upon carrying their handguns with them.
Unfortunately for those US citizens, like myself, who see guns as um… dangerous, the US is about the only place on earth where carrying a handgun as a regular habit in constant preparation for tragedy is seen as sane and normal. It is the only place I know of that has actually created laws (generally referred to as “stand your ground” laws) to create space for average citizens to shoot at will if they feel threatened and allows people who kill unarmed children to walk free. The US also happens to be one of a handful of places that most citizens can justifiably say they fear a shooting when they go to the mall, movie theatre, or school.
So, what country is a good place for a family to travel to if they want to carry their arsenal with them? I have no freaking clue though I am willing to bet the answer is- nowhere outside the US.
When confronted with kind but insistant voices saying that they had traveled around the world and never felt they needed a gun for protection and that people are generally good, the original poster insisted that bad guys were everywhere and that they needed to protect themselves.
I nearly fell off my chair.
I am currently writing from Guatemala, a country many US citizens wouldn’t travel to if I paid them. Despite its reputation, Guatemala is actually a wonderful place to explore. I’ve traveled to several countries that fall into this category- Egypt, India, and Jordan to name a few. Places filled with people the US media would deem “bad guys”. Yet I’ve had a wonderful time and connected with kind hearted, if complex, people in each of these places. If there is one thing I have learned in my travels it is that bad guys do not exist.
Let me repeat that: BAD GUYS DO NOT EXIST.
Are there people in the world who do bad things? Yes. Are there people who do horrendous things to other people? Unfortunately, yes. Are there people I do not want to associate with? Yup. Are there people who make horrible life decisions and harm others? Absolutely. Are any of them, any single one of them “bad guys”? Nope.
“Bad guy” is a simplistic term that makes a caricature of a human being. It is used to define anyone who does something “bad” and fails to allow for the complexity of the human existence. It gives permission to ostracize and condemn another and allows anyone on the “good” side to stop grappling with those complexities. When we lose sight of the complexities, we stop having hard conversations and we stop working to achieve a better outcome. We compartmentalize and we walk away, secure in our own ‘goodness”. Perhaps most awful of all, we call for barbaric action against anyone deemed to be a “bad guy”. After all, they are bad so they must deserve what they get, right?
The frightening thing is that we do all of this based on a figment of our imagination. Every “bad guy” thinks he is a “good guy”. Everyone who has yet to do something “bad” is still in the “good guy” category. Every “good guy” as done something “bad” and every “bad guy” has done something “good”. You can’t tell a “bad guy” and a “good guy” apart by looks alone any more than you can lump all people of a certain skin color together. If that is so, and it certainly is, then what the heck do these terms mean?
Nothing. They mean absolutely nothing.
If anything, they signify that we humans have a deep seeded need to categorize and identify the undesirables rather than grapple with the complexities of human beings.
What these terms certainly, and without a doubt, do NOT mean, is that you can carry a deadly weapon on you and use it, without remorse, because the other guy was “a bad guy”. That sentiment may help you sleep at night but that doesn’t make it true.
So, what countries are good options for good guys who want to carry guns in case bad guys materialize to threaten them? None. If you feel you must carry a handgun to protect yourself from the one dimensional “bad guys”, perhaps you should reconsider traveling.
Get off the computer, stop watching the news, and for the love of all that is good, get out of the gun loving USA and explore cultures not hell bent on justifying killing by “good guys”. People are good. People are kind. People will amaze and surprise you in the loveliest of ways if you let them.
Fear is a powerful motivator and I certainly understand the desire to protect one’s self and family from harm. But I also know, with every fiber of my being, that no gun, no level of anxiety, and no amount of energy spent on anticipating tragedy is going to create an environment where bad things don’t happen. Resist the urge to use lazy terms like “good guy” and “bad guy” to make life neat and easy to navigate. It isn’t. No gun is going to change that.